Saturday, 18 October 2008

Bob Dylan>Red River Shore

I've been feeling a reluctant blogger for the last month - however, Dylan's latest release Tell Tale Signs has forced me back to the keyboard. Almost everybody has received this album enthusiastically - seems like his Bobness can do little wrong at the moment. The only grumble is the extortionate price for the 3 disc set. I only got the double album edition, I simply can't afford £80 for an extra 12 songs, most of which I already own in a different version!

However, the previously unreleased 'Red River Shore' from the Time Out of Mind sessions (1997) is worth the £12 price alone. It's magnificent. How it didn't make it on to the original album I will never know. For a long time I've been sure that Dylan is mad - and this is just another reason to trust that theory. But the song - what a song! It brought tears to my eyes on the first listen.

I have a theory about this song - it's in some way a 'parable' about his faith - the girl is a symbol of his relationship with God. The writer of Song of Songs does this, too. And, for me this is why Jesus turns up in the last verse. This song was written at the same time as the equally brilliant 'Not Dark Yet', which suggests similiar sentiments. The struggling faith that Dylan expresses is a real one - a costly one not a cheap one. Just listen to the song and you'll see what I mean. This is certainly one to add to any DYLANitany. God bless ya Bob!

11 comments:

Scott Ralston said...

I have been utterly smitten by this magnificent work of art...I too have been in tears as I listen in stunned awe to the lyrics and masterful use of the instruments. One question for now - where did you get this version of Red River Shore...it is different from the one on Disc 1 of the Tell Tale Signs release?
-Scott (Iowa, USA)

Mauro said...

this version is on Disc 3 ...

Nick Coke said...

Yep - it's the Disc 3 version - someone sneakily uploaded it onto Youtube! I actually prefer the version on disc one though.

Cosmo said...

What a wonderfully poigniant song and, if your idea is right, Nick, then not just poigniant, but kind of sad.

And yet, along with the wish (hope) for second chances hinted at in the last verse, Dylan also reminds himself that he will always be in the memory of his lover.

(Looking forward to seeing you all next week)

Scott Ralston said...

Let me say right now, that I was so blessed to run across your BLOG, Nick. Keep up the wonderful writing regarding the journey of faith - and how it is portrayed in music...

Nick, thanks for pointing out that the version on YouTube is from Disc 3...I agree that the Disc 1 version is better. The Tex-Mex accordian that opens up the Disc 3 version lacks the sequential "building" of the instrumentation that is present on the Disc 1 version. Note the description of this song in the Tell Tale Signs booklet:

"In interviews after the album was released, session musician Jim Dickinson complained that in leaving “Red River Shore” on the cutting room floor, they left the best song off the record. He has a point. This is one of those amazing gems that make the whole Bootleg Series so worthwhile. Beginning with just a soulful guitar riff and a subtle base line, Dylan’s opening lines are an elegant summation of his artistic credo: “Some of us turn off the lights and we live/In the moonlight shooting by/Some of us scare ourselves to death in the dark/To be where the angels fly.” From here it just gets better, with organs, drums, and a haunting Tex-Mex accordion floating like somber witnesses to the singer’s regret. This song is a perfect example of how Dylan can take traditional songs and give them his own stamp of genius. Compare this to the Kingston’s Trio’s take on “Red River Shore.” There, the protagonist gets a letter from the girl, imploring him to come back and marry. But her father gets drift of it and gets a posse of 24 men to blow that poor cowboy away. Dylan’s narrative is so much richer and puts the responsibility for the star-crossed love affair right back where it belongs. And this song features one of the greatest closing verses Dylan’s ever written, wondering what kind of language Jesus used to resurrect the dead and if “they do that kind of thing anymore.” Chilling, anthemic stuff."

I appreciate Nick's interpretation that the beautiful story line in this song could be a metaphor of the journey of faith for the narrator - fully embodied with the doubt, angst, and fear that pervades that journey.
-Scott

Nick Coke said...

Thanks for the comments Cosmo and Scott.

All of this makes you wonder if there are other Dylan 'epics' hidden in some archive somewhere waiting to find the light of day. I can understand why sometimes he doesn't include certain songs on albums if they don't quite seem to fit, but why they then disappear for years is another matter. Oh Mercy, Infidels and Time Out of Mind (all good albums) would be even better if he'd included songs that have since emerged.

Regarding Dylan and faith, it's all conjecture of course - and I'm first to admit I might be way off the mark. Dylan has always used Biblical imagery in his songs so we shouldn't be surprised that Jesus makes an appearance in the last verse. However, put this song together with 'Not Dark Yet' and I think it's all a kind of lament. Of course, as Dylan will be aware, that is in itself Biblical - think of the Psalms. I find his Modern Times stuff, however, a little more hopeful, so perhaps he's emerging from his 'dark night of the soul'.

THOMAS GRASTY said...

Glad Bob brought you out of semi-retirement.

No question, this is a great collection of songs. Mysterious, elusive, enigmatic...just like the man himself. Songs with color and character.

And if you love the characters Bob's created here, you should (shameless plug alert) take look at my new novel, BLOOD ON THE TRACKS, a murder mystery set in the rock world in which all the suspects are characters in Bob's songs.

An entire book built around Bob's creations? That's just the kind of depth this man has. Intrigued? You can get a copy on Amazon.com or go "behind the tracks" at www.bloodonthetracksnovel.com to learn more about the book.

RJ said...

It is so clear, my brother, that people have missed your blogs. I am blessed to see you are back in the groove - and with our man Bob, too, how kewel is that? Please keep on when you can because you help us all stay grounded in that great love that brings healing and hope.

zimmiefan said...

This is Bob's sequel to Girl From the North Country, though 46 years and many miles later, wiser, jaded, and told from a road-weary voice of unrequited love.

You Brits use the language wonderfully. Protect that.

Nick Coke said...

Good stuff - thanks for the comments. Please see the new post - by 'daddio' - that gives another perspective.

Ole5anddimer said...

I too was floored by this. I went in blind when I listened to Tell Tale Signs with no hyperbole, I git to Red River Shore, and simply hit repeat again and again and again and again. Certain times Dylan comes back around on you and you are reminded that you are alive at the same time as a once in 500 years type of artist...

Stunning...

Check out my Top Ten Albums on my blog if you are interested in further Dylan blogging...