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 Post subject: Dylan's shit albums
PostPosted: Fri Apr 14, 2006 11:23 am 
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I'm giving two notorious Dylan albums a second try, "Self-Portrait" and "Budokan." I couldn't stand them before, but these are two albums diehard Dylan fans claim to be 'underrated.' BULL, SHIT.

I stuck them out, listening to these start-to-finish, and the reward never came, it was just more and more of the same crap. These really are SHITTY albums. You want your work day to seem longer and miserable? Try listening to these.

"Self-Portrait" was supposed to be conceptual, getting people off his back, etc. A lot of it reeks of bullshit - these claims were made after the fact, and accounts from those involved in the recording suggest something more mundane, not to mention low ambitions, no clear plan, and surprisingly little pressure...Dylan was clearly affected and surprised by the harsh reviews, so much it made him indecisive when finishing "New Morning."

Besides, Dylan already deflated expectations with "Nashville Skyline," and for most of 1968 and 1969, he was virtually MIA...late 1967's "John Wesley Harding" was a masterpiece, but still very low-key. People were very aware of Dylan, but the spotlight had already passed him by.

Even if it WAS all true (again, Dylan repeated those claims much later, after changing his story a dozen times), it wasn't executed with much imagination. You want to see a critically acclaimed artist deflate expectations? Watch Andy Warhol's old movies. "Self Portrait" isn't bad in a good way, you can't even laugh at how bad it is. It's merely bland... weak, weak stuff. Dylan's singing is mostly indifferent, not terrible. Much is made of the bad covers, but they're just amateurish and indifferent, not a demolition job.

Two tracks have their charms and make a nice single. Not a great single, but a nice single. "Copper Kettle" (a folk cover) and "Wigwam" (featured in The Royal Tenenbaums). They're heavily orchestrated, but the arrangements actually fit pretty well and the performances are nice and laidback. The singing on "Copper Kettle" is actually good. But buried inside two LP's of junk, they don't register.

"Budokan" is complete shit, there's NOTHING good about this. Inventive arrangements my ass, even Barry Manilow would've been embarassed. This phase of his career, the "Vegas" years, began when Dylan split with his wife, and as he was writing the songs for "Street-Legal," he was crushed by Elvis's death. When Dylan hit the road, his players thought he was emulating Elvis's stage act, sans intro and cape, of course. Check out Elvis's 70's box set, it's your best chance at 'getting' Elvis's stage act. A lot of it is syrupy and hokey, but even in that context, Elvis was a powerful interpreter. If you stick with it long enough, you'll even appreciate his band a lot.

With "Budokan," everything sucked. The arrangements were TERRIBLE, not inventive, more like hack work, with mediocre musical ideas (choice of instruments, cheesy-ass riffs that are at best pedestrian...) and Dylan's singing ain't good either. Dylan's great at reinterpreting his work, but everything here is a misfire.

Dylan's got more crap I haven't gotten to. Anybody hear "Down In The Groove"?

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PostPosted: Fri Apr 14, 2006 11:56 am 
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Next to Self-Portrait and Budokan, Down in the Groove is a triumph. That's not to say it's any good, but its failures of inspiration and perspiration aren't on the same seismic scale.

I think Under The Red Sky is probably worse than Groove, and Knocked Out Loaded fits in there somewhere (though it's somewhat redeemed by the sheer weirdness of "Brownsville Girl"). But trying to distinguish between those records is too depressing to expend actual effort. ("Ugliest Girl In The World" vs. "Wiggle Wiggle"? I choose the sweet release of death.)

I will admit that "I'm Only Bleeding" on Budokan is entertaining in a giggle-worthy way. But that's about it. And the stage patter is even worse.

Ryan

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PostPosted: Fri Apr 14, 2006 12:00 pm 
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Self-Portrait's not that bad, IMO. Budokan does indeed suck. There was much better performances later on on the tour. Hopefully Bootleg Series will take care of those at some point.

Now, if you really wanna hear a shit Dylan album try Dylan & the Dead. And yes, Down in the Groove isn't good either.


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 14, 2006 1:11 pm 
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When I saw the thread title, I thought you were going to dissect Dylan's real shit albums like Saved. There's nothing scarier than his born-again Christian phase.

I haven't listened to Self-Portrait in years, because frankly I've had no desire (no pun intended). I picked up a used copy of the CD for about five bucks a few years ago and listened to it once. It's certainly not one of the worst albums I've ever heard, but even compared to the so-low-key-it's-barely-there Nashville Skyline, it sucks. That whole "I was tired of being the spokesman for my generation, so I deliberately alienated my audience" line is indeed bullshit, pure and simple.

I downloaded Budokan at Pedro's a few months ago for shits'n'giggles, but I haven't had the courage to actually listen to it yet. A quick listen to the reggae version of "Don't Think Twice" was enough to make me run away screaming.

If it weren't for the quality of The Basement Tapes and John Wesley Harding, I'd say that the infamous motorcycle accident must have left him borderline retarded. Perhaps he suffered an even more severe head trauma in late-'69/early-'70.


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 14, 2006 1:39 pm 
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Listening to the live boots, the "born again" period could've been good, but man, there was some miserable shit.

The cranky, crackpot preaching ruins most of it. Musically, I actually like some of the concerts, like the Nov. 1978 Warfield shows and the April 1980 shows, they're good shows. But lyrically, this isn't illuminating stuff, it's more like "worship Jesus or go to hell." Take "Ain't Gonna Go To Hell For Anybody," an unreleased song that was a concert favorite. The title says it all, but if you block out the words, it was pretty good music.

It was WORSE in the studio. The first album sounded nice, good vintage production, but "Saved" SUCKED. He should've released that scrapped concert album instead of "Saved."

The worst was "Shot of Love." Lots of potential, but a failure on so many levels. I think the crappy El Lay production RUINED most of it. "Caribbean Wind" could've been a great song (you wouldn't know it from the shitty version on "Biograph"), "Angelina" would've been nice, "Groom's Still Waiting At The Altar" was excellent but added after-the-fact, "Heart of Mine" was always lightweight but the original version was a lot better...the only brilliant move on the released LP was "Every Grain of Sand." "Trouble" really sucked, "Lenny Bruce" is another terrible tribute (hell, swap out the name with anybody...it's so non-descript, it'll still 'work').

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PostPosted: Fri Apr 14, 2006 4:53 pm 
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Only Dylan (and Jebus ... and George W, if you're a Republican) is blessed (pun intended) with a fanbase that will jump through any ridiculous, logic-defying hoop in order to make ludicrous excuses for their god. Either it's the typical yuppie fan claiming that the likes of Self Portrait is in fact a brilliant conceptual self-deconstruction of tired old Bob's burdensome baggage, or Greil Marcus writing reams of bullshit on how the Basement Tapes are not merely some slapdash informal recordings, but rather the Most Important Music Ever Made In This World Or Any Other (yeah, Bobo and the Band were Plugged Into the Occult World-Historical What's-It, according to Greil).

I can't wait for Greil Marcus to write a 500-page book that trawls the hidden depths and socio-political importance of Street Legal.

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PostPosted: Fri Apr 14, 2006 5:35 pm 
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Another 'underrated' album. I gave "Street-Legal" another chance...I suppose it's mediocre in the moderate sense.

Dylan should thank his bootleggers for propping up his post-"Desire" rep. Rolling Stone may have greeted "Infidels" and "Oh Mercy" as comebacks, but those albums haven't aged well, thanks to some crappy songs. Whenever I listen to those albums, I put on a CD-R.

Christgau nailed it on "Infidels": 'Worse than his equation of Jews with Zionists with the Likud or his utterly muddled disquisition on international labor is the ital Hasidism that inspires no less than three superstitious attacks on space travel. God knows (and I use that phrase advisedly) how far off the deep end he'll go if John Glenn becomes president.' Kick those out, reinstate 'Foot of Pride,' an electrified 'Blind Willie McTell,' and a harder version of 'Someone's Got A Hold Of My Heart.'

I don't need to hear a sneering hypocrisy like "Disease of Conceit," or cheap cynicism like "Political World," or a sappy, drippy song like "Where Teardrops Fall." "Series of Dreams," "Dignity," and "Born In Time" would've been far better.

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PostPosted: Fri Apr 14, 2006 6:02 pm 
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Yeah, what was "Born In Time" doing on Under The Red Sky? Somehow, having one halfway-decent song buried on "Side Two" makes the album even more infuriating.

Ryan

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PostPosted: Fri Apr 14, 2006 6:28 pm 
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Yeah, Street-Legal sucks donkey dick too. "Changing of the Guards" is the only song I can stomach on that one, and it's not even that great.

Infidels was produced by Mark Knopfler. 'Nuff said.

And yes, COLA, Greil Marcus is the undisputed king of bullshit. I'm still amazed that he managed to write a whole fucking book about The Basement Tapes. The only thing scarier is reading some of Paul Williams' fanatical Dylan fanboy drivel (or Greg Kot's borderline-homoerotic odes to Wilco).


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 14, 2006 7:57 pm 
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The "Oh Mercy" version of 'Born In Time' is better.

BTW, check out Clinton Heylin's bio of Dylan. He tries to make a case for UTRS. He really DIGS that shit. He's not alone, Christgau gave it an A-. I don't know what they've been smoking, but it's got to be heavenly shit to make UTRS sound good.

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PostPosted: Fri Apr 14, 2006 9:51 pm 
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I think that just about everything Dylan has done since Desire is awful. I just can't stomach his singing post Desire at all. I can't reconcile the Dylan that is in Don't Look Back and Eat the Document with the guy that wrote Slow Train Comin', Saved and Shot of Love. I mean what the fuck happened to that guy?? I'll concede that Time Out of Mind has it's moments..


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 14, 2006 10:02 pm 
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I have to admit "Time Out Of Mind" was an acquired taste. I love it now, but I was only familiar with his 60's peak before I heard it..."WTF happened to his voice???"

Once you grow accustomed to that rasp, that album grows on you. Well, almost, 'Make You Feel My Love' still sucks. I swapped it out with 'Things Have Changed,' which seems to fit pretty well. (Also swapped out 'Cold Irons Bound' with the "Masked & Anonymous" version. Much more rockin'.)

It still has its problems, but if you have the material, try arranging "Shot of Love" like this:

1. Shot of Love
2. Heart of Mine (original version)
3. Property of Jesus
4. Caribbean Wind (from Genuine Bootleg Series, Vol. One)
5. The Groom's Still Waiting At The Altar
6. Dead Man, Dead Man
7. In The Summertime
8. Angelina
9. Every Grain of Sand

The original LP had 9 tracks, so I stuck with that number. "Angelina" was originally sequenced as a penultimate track. but dropped at the last minute (no idea why). "Heart of Mine" was re-recorded at the last second, a move Dylan soon regretted. Dylan wanted to use "Caribbean Wind," but couldn't do it justice...each new recording/arrangement got worse and worse and he finally trashed it in frustration. "The Groom" was originally a B-side but generated so much buzz, it was later added to the CD.

You still get angry crackpot lyrics on some songs, but musically, I think it holds together.

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"When people speak to you about a preventive war, you tell them to go and fight it. After my experience, I have come to hate war." – Dwight D. Eisenhower

"Neither slave nor tyrant." - Basque motto


Last edited by MK on Fri Apr 14, 2006 10:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Fri Apr 14, 2006 10:08 pm 
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Twenty Ideas That Dylan Should Have Thrown in the Garbage
by Jimmy Guterman (published in 1992)

1. Self-Portrait
2. Christianity
3. Judaism
4. Joan Baez
5. the Grateful Dead
6. Tarantula
7. ‘Tight Connection to my Heart’ Video
8. Renaldo and Clara
9. tarot cards
10. talking to reporters (1968 to present)
11. live albums (1975 to present)
12. Jacques Levy
13. Pete Hamill’s liner notes to Blood on the Tracks
14. Steve Douglas
15. Scarlet Rivera
16. Dave Stewart
17. acting
18. Ramblin’ Jack Elliott
19. Allen Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti
20. female backup singers

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PostPosted: Fri Apr 14, 2006 11:49 pm 
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When I first started really *seriously* attempting to get into Dylan, I was shocked at how many albums there were that were simply never spoken of. I soon found out why.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Apr 15, 2006 8:00 am 
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MK wrote:
The "Oh Mercy" version of 'Born In Time' is better.

BTW, check out Clinton Heylin's bio of Dylan. He tries to make a case for UTRS. He really DIGS that shit. He's not alone, Christgau gave it an A-. I don't know what they've been smoking, but it's got to be heavenly shit to make UTRS sound good.


The important question is whether Gabby Goo Goo liked it.

Ryan

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