Monthly Archives: October 2010

Clowntime is over

The headline on Drudge says it all.


It is naturally in reference to the so-called “Rally to Restore Sanity” in Washinton D.C. today, led by comedians Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. Three days before the midterm elections, a rally dedicated to nothing — at best dedicated to an abstraction, to irony — is getting more attention and achieving more resonance (albeit pointless resonance) than anything that the Democratic Party has managed to come up with. Strange days indeed.

The song Send in the Clowns is kind of strange and interesting, or so I think. The tune — by Stephen Sondheim, from his 1973 musical “A Little Night Music” — has been done very often, by everyone from Sinatra to Grace Jones to Van Morrison. Continue reading “Clowntime is over” »

It looks like things are gonna change now …

Two years ago some people thought that it was a brand new time, an age of light. But no politician has ever brought an age of light, and none ever will.

For all the focus on Barack Obama’s message of “hope and change” and his allegedly inspirational rhetoric, the reasons for his election were more pedestrian. The voters who like to think of themselves as independent and non-ideological — the “swing” voters who are crucial in every presidential election — were won over by the image of Obama as a pragmatic, post-partisan type of figure who would work with both sides in Congress to tackle problems; the greatest problem by far being the frightening collapse of the economy which was going on at that very moment.

Obama didn’t turn out to be that figure. This quote from Continue reading “It looks like things are gonna change now …” »

Bob Dylan: The Mono Recordings

I haven’t yet acquired the newly released box set, Bob Dylan: The Original Mono Recordings, but I’ve been listening to the single CD The Best of The Original Mono Recordings. I’ve been a little out of the usual circulation lately, so I don’t even know what other people are saying about these releases, but I’ll offer my reaction based on what I’ve heard. Continue reading “Bob Dylan: The Mono Recordings” »

Montague Street

The second-ever issue of the Bob Dylan-relate print journal called Montague Street has been published. It includes an article by Yours Truly titled “Songs of Freedom.” I wrote it not too long after Dylan’s appearance at the White House and his performance there of The Times They Are A-Changin’, and so it reflects on that and on how his songs generally tend to rise above their perceived context and even above the particular “true-life” stories which they sometimes tell. It draws on something I previously wrote about the album Desire.

But you needn’t worry: the magazine as a whole is not quite as boring as all that, as it also includes an interesting article by John Gibbens on Brownsville Girl and the film “The Gunfighter,” a reflection by Stephen Scobie on Dylan and doors (especially the one that “has closed for evermore”), and an interview with the producer Jerry Wexler (now of blessed memory) conducted by Scott Marshall. And a bunch of other interesting articles to boot. If for some reason it’s not on a newsstand near you, you can order the magazine via the Montague Street website.

Shooting Star

I’m a little behind on various things, but I’ll be catching up. From the MTV Unplugged show, there is a clip below of Bob Dylan and his band performing Shooting Star.

I’ll admit this much, even if it makes me sound like some kind of lunatic barbarian: When Oh Mercy came out in 1989, the song Shooting Star didn’t grab me very much. It seemed too obvious to my jaded self (perhaps I’m younger than that now), and just a toss-off for Bob. But with each year that has passed, the song has grown a little more poignant, kinda been sneaking up on me, like many of Bob’s song are wont to do. By now it pretty much tears me up with just the first couple of lines.

Barack Obama crosses the borderline

President Barack Obama has been been leading the charge to accuse those who oppose him politically — in particular, at the moment, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is running ads critical of Democratic Party policy — of illegally using foreign donations to finance their campaigns. Cheri Jacobus at The Hill comments:

The Democrats’ unsubstantiated, unproven, false and desperate charges that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is funding its independent-expenditure political ads with foreign donations has backfired on the party. President Obama has had to walk back his comments making the charge. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) has been forced to admit that nothing illegal occurred. With secret, anonymous, untraceable donations flowing into the Obama campaign in 2008 (remember those untraceable prepaid credit card donations?) and unions receiving foreign money contributing to Democrats and running ads, will Obama and the Democratic National Committee now pledge to end those practices?

It’s no secret that I would disagree with President Obama on just about every area of policy, but I think that what he himself is doing in leading these accusations reveals a new and almost incredibly brazen character of political cynicism and thuggery. (And this from the “post-partisan” President!) By accusing Continue reading “Barack Obama crosses the borderline” »

Coming to a theater near you

Bob Dylan and his band have kicked off their autumn tour, with two dates so far in Florida. The tour is set to finish up in Mashantucket, Connecticut, on November 27th. The fan reviews at Bill Pagel’s site speak of Bob being in fighting trim and good voice. I also note this from a review of last night’s show:

How many concerts have you been to where there was no pre-recorded music played before the show? None? Same here. How many have you been to where 20 minutes of a silent film (Intolerance, from 1916) was played (silently) before the show? None! Welcome to the current Bob Dylan tour. The usual pre-party atmosphere of a big arena filled with concertgoers was deftly subverted by this simple dashing of expectations. Then, at the appointed hour, the house lights dimmed and the band strode onto the stage. Dylan waited 5 seconds, then sauntered out, too. Classy!

The film “Intolerance” (subtitle: “Love’s Struggle Throughout the Ages),” directed by D.W. Griffith, can be viewed or downloaded at (I guess maybe you could watch the first twenty minutes and then listen to a Bob bootleg to get the full intended effect … )

More on the mono

Whether you’d yet decided about buying Bob Dylan: The Original Mono Recordings or not, Steve Guttenberg’s piece on them at CNET makes for interesting reading, I think.

I spoke with reissue producer Steve Berkowitz to get more details about how the transfers were done. He assured me the 96/kHz-24-bit resolution digital masters were made from the original analog master tapes, played on vintage mono tape machines, and that the LPs were cut directly from the analog masters. I was relieved to hear that; most, no, nearly all newly recorded or remastered old analog music that comes out on LP is sourced from digital masters. “The Original Mono Recordings” on LP are pure analog discs, with no digital conversions whatsoever in the mastering process. The LPs were cut here in NYC at Sterling Sound by George Marino, a true master of the record-cutting lathe.

The above is a testimony to the care taken with the vinyl version of this release. One thing that doesn’t come up, however, is the notion of excessive dynamic range compression, or loudness, which has afflicted most of the Bob Dylan CD releases of the 21st century so far, and which I’ve previously raged about at length. One would like to assume that CD releases issued solely with the aim of recreating the sound of the original mono LPs would not be touched with any such modern barbarity, but I suppose the final proof will have to be in the pudding.