Saturday, 29 November 2008

Bob Dylan>Saved

I fear I've been duped. Actually I'm a little annoyed because I was stupid enough to listen to others without checking it out myself - I should have known better than that. The word 'out there' was that Saved - one of only 3 Dylan albums I don't have (others are Knocked Out Loaded and Down in the Groove) - was a terrible album. I'd heard it wasn't worthy of the great man, it was far too full of evangelical zeal to bear listening to - simply it was as bad as Self Portrait and I already knew that was a disaster. So I never bothered with it. I even didn't consider any Saved track for my 'Dylanity'.

Well, let me tell you right now, having spent time with this album myself - this is a great album - it's better than New Morning, Street Legal, Planet Waves, Infidels, Nashville Skyline and Another Side without a shadow of a doubt. It's certainly as good as Desire, Oh Mercy and Slow Train. It's a fine piece of work and I know why it's so good - because it's great gospel.

For me, it's all about context with Dylan. The context for Saved is that Dylan is doing gospel and he does it like the genius he is - stunningly. It appears that most Dylan connoisseurs admit that his so called 'Christian phase' was a time when he was really on top of his game during live performances. YouTube clips like the one below would bear that out. This hit home again in the film 'I'm Not There' with 'Pressing On' proving to be a real high point.

So I ask myself why Saved has got such a bad reputation - why it's slandered and written off as a waste of time? I'd like to think it was more than narrow-mindedness on the part of so called 'liberal' atheists. That it actually had something to do with the songs! But now I've seen the light I'm just not sure what to think. Instead I'll slip Saved into the CD player and 'press on to the higher calling of my Lord.'

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Tom Waits>In the Neighbourhood

I first discovered the joy of Tom Waits amazingly scary voice about 10 years ago. A friend of mine used Gavin Bryars 'Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me yet' (featuring Waits) in a church service. After that I realised that it would be a complete travisty on my part if I were to ignore more music featuring a man who sang like that. It took me a few years to follow it up and I was re-acquainted with Waits after Bob Dylan played the magnificent 'On the Nickel' on his theme-time radio hour. Now that is a stunning song - just the earthiness of it and when his voice gets going it ties you up inside.

A year later I bought my first Waits' album - Swordfishtrombones (1983). The stand out track for me on this album apart from the blackly amusing 'Frank's Wild Years' is 'In the Neighbourhood'. As someone who hails from The Salvation Army the backing interested me because it wouldn't be out of place in a traditional worship meeting. Also, the trials and tribulations of the neighbourhood in the song sound like something that the SA would aspire to work in. Weirdly the next track and title track of the album actually mentions the Salvation Army - that's another one to add to my playlist. I don't know what it is about this song but the sadness of the neighbourhood and the brass sound produce a bleak yet strangely uplifting experience. It made me wonder whether we could introduce images from our neighbourhood into the songs we sing at church. It would certainly bring some reality to what is generally too heavenly for any earthly good. Perhaps I need to give it a go.