News for the ‘Bob Dylan’ Category

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Buckets Of Rain” by Bette Midler with Bob Dylan

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Buckets Of Rain” by Bette Midler with Bob Dylan

Here’s one for Bob Dylan’s birthday…

Today’s Song of the Day is a great Bette Midler/Bob Dylan duet from Midler’s 1976 album Songs For The New Depression. The session came about because Dylan had hoped Midler would join him on the 1975 Rolling Thunder Revue tour with an eye towards her being a part of his four-hour Renaldo and Clara movie which was filmed on the tour.

The duo’s original intention was to cut a new version of Moogy Klingman’s song “Friends” that Midler had recorded on her The Divine Miss M album several years earlier. When that didn’t work out, they worked up this rough and ready version of a song that was from Dylan’s then-current Blood on the Tracks album.

While there’s no topping Dylan’s own version of the song, I’ve always thought this one had a lot of personality and it sounds like they were both having a hoot recording it. Dylan and Midler would find themselves together in the studio one more during the USA For Africa sessions in the 1980s for the charity record of “We Are The World.”

Edited: May 25th, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #22 – Bob Dylan: “Lay Lady Lay” b/w “I Threw It All Away” – Columbia 45 RPM Single 13-33178 (C3/D3)

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #22 – Bob Dylan: “Lay Lady Lay” b/w “I Threw It All Away” – Columbia 45 RPM Single 13-33178 (C3/D3)

The late 1960s introduced a new Bob Dylan to the world. With his motorcycle accident and requisite seclusion in Woodstock behind him, he emerged with John Wesley Harding, a rootsy, back-to-basics album in 1968 that flew in the face of the flamboyant psychedelic music that was currently all the rage at the time.

However, nothing could prepare Dylan fans for what followed in 1969: A content Dylan who was seemingly happy with his lot in life, complete with a new soulful, melodic croon of a voice that replaced the nasal monotone of the past. Most crucially, the 1969 model Dylan marked another shift in musical direction away from the mainstream, with an album of country influenced tunes called Nashville Skyline that was quite simply, unlike anything else he had recorded up to that point.

The album was recorded with a who’s who of Nashville’s finest session musicians including Norman Blake on guitar and dobro, Kenny Buttrey on drums, Fred Carter, Jr. on guitar, Charlie Daniels on bass, Pete Drake on pedal steel guitar, Charlie McCoy on guitar and harmonica, Bob Wilson on piano and organ and several others including Johnny Cash who provided duet vocals on “Girl From The North Country.”

“Lay Lady Lay,” the A-side of today’s jukebox classic was originally intended for the soundtrack of the movie Midnight Cowboy, but it was submitted too late to make the film and Nilsson’s cover of Fred Neil’s “Everybody’s Talking” was used in its place. Dylan then offered the song to the Everly Brothers backstage at a concert. When Dylan played “Lay Lady Lay” for them, they thought he was singing “lay across my big breasts, babe” instead of “lay across my big brass bed” and didn’t’ think that the song was appropriate for them to record. When they finally heard the correct lyrics in Dylan’s recording, they realized what a mistake they had made. They finally got around to recording the song for their EB 84 album in 1984. (songfacts.com)

“Lay Lady Lay” became one of Dylan’s biggest singles climbing all the way to #7 on the Billboard pop charts. According to Johnny Cash, Dylan introduced the song in a circle of song writers who congregated at Cash’s house that included Shel Silverstein who played “A Boy Named Sue,” Joni Mitchell who broke out “The Circle Game,” Graham Nash who performed “Marrakesh Express” and Kris Kristofferson who played “Me And Bobby McGee.” (songfacts.com)

Over the years, “Lay Lady Lay” has been covered by the likes of Cher, The Byrds, The Everly Brothers, Melanie, The Isley Brothers, Keith Jarrett, Neil Diamond, Isaac Hayes, Richie Havens, Steve Howe, Booker T. & the MGs, Buddy Guy, Duran Duran and Ministry.

The flip of today’s single was the first single release from Nashville Skyline, although it only charted at #85 on the Billboard pop charts. After writing the song, Dylan shared it with George Harrison who brought it to The Beatles’ Let It Be recording sessions. Session tapes reveal that George took the song out for a spin during The Beatles’ session for a performance . The song was also covered by Cher, Elvis Costello, Graham Parker, Lambchop and Yo La Tengo.

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had my jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little over 14 years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

Edited: April 27th, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “No Time to Think” by Bob Dylan

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “No Time to Think” by Bob Dylan

Street Legal is one of the most underrated records in Bob Dylan’s canon.

Before proper recording of the album ensued, Dylan began rehearsing his band for a tour of the Far East that resulted in the release of the Live at Budokan. The tour was dubbed “The Vegas Tour” by the time the live album surfaced because of Dylan’s copious use of background vocals and the garish outfits he wore on the road.

Street Legal was recorded in a warehouse space Dylan rented in Santa Monica, California which was dubbed Rundown Studios. The album was recorded entirely live in the studio with only minor overdubs during the break between the Far East and U.S. tour stops and featured some of Dylan’s most impassioned vocals.

When Street Legal came out in 1978 before the Live at Budokan album, it had the tough task of following both Desire and Blood on the Tracks, two of Dylan’s most respected studio albums and comparatively speaking, it did not fare so well only climbing to #11 on the U.S. album charts.

In retrospect, the album features some of Dylan’s greatest songs including “Senor (Tales Of Yankee Power)” (which the Jerry Garcia Band regularly performed), “Changing Of The Guard,” “New Pony” (later covered by Jack White with Dead Weather), “Is Your Love In Vain?” and today’s Song of the Day by Eric Berman. Dylan’s band on the album included Billy Cross on lead electric guitar, Stevens Soles on rhythm guitar, Jerry Scheff (from Elvis Presley’s band) on bass guitar, Alan Pasqua on keyboards, Ian Wallace on drums, Bobbye Hall on percussion, David Mansfield on violin and mandolin, Steve Douglas on saxophone, Steve Madaio on trumpet and Jo Ann Harris, Helena Springs and Carolyn Dennis on background vocals.

Dylan would later secretly marry Carolyn Dennis, one of his background singers on the album and the tour, in 1986.br>

Edited: November 19th, 2014

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “One Too Many Mornings” by Bob Dylan & Johnny Cash

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “One Too Many Mornings” by Bob Dylan & Johnny Cash

Still a mystery to me why these recordings have never been officially released…and now that The Complete Basement Tapes have finally seen the light of day, maybe their time has come…

The Dylan-Cash Sessions took place in Nashville’s Columbia Studio A on February 17-18, 1969 at the tail end of the Nashville Skyline recording sessions. During the same week that Dylan turned in such indelible recordings as “I Threw It All Away,” “Lay Lady Lay,” “To Be Alone With You” and “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You,” Johnny Cash, who had been recording in an adjoining studio, turned up for some recording fun.

What transpired were several days of session in which the two traded songs and laid some duets down on tape with an eye toward making a record together. In the studio with Dylan and Cash were the cream of the Nashville session elite including Norman Blake on guitar and dobro, Kenny Buttrey on drums, Fred Carter, Jr. on guitar, Charlie Daniels on bass, Pete Drake on pedal steel, Marshall Grant on bass, W.S. Holland on drums, Charlie McCoy on guitar and harmonica, Bob Wilson on the crucial organ and piano work and Bob Wootton on electric guitar.

The fifteen selections that have been widely circulated include jovial run-throughs of Cash standards like “Big River,” “I Walk The Line,” “Ring Of Fire,” “Guess Things Happen That Way” and “I Still Miss Someone,” plus Dylan’s “Girl From The North Country” and today’s Song Of The Day by Eric Berman, “One Too Many Mornings,” plus versions the rock and roll classics “Matchbox,” “That’s All Right Mama” and “Mystery Train.”

Not enough music came out of the loose sessions deemed worthy of release at the time except “Girl from the North Country,” which opened Nashville Skyline. So the rest sat on the shelves at Columbia and in the hands of lucky collectors.

It totally knocks me out that footage exists of these sessions at all, but here is a YouTube clip of the two in the studio. Cash handles the lion share of the lead vocals here and on most of the recordings, and Dylan seem somewhat out of his element with his vocals. That said, you can hear the mutual respect the two artists have for each other in every note of the joyful music they made.

Nashville Skyline went on to be a big success, giving Dylan his biggest hit to date with “Lay Lady Lay.”

Edited: November 13th, 2014

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Buckets Of Rain” by Bette Midler with Bob Dylan

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Buckets Of Rain” by Bette Midler with Bob Dylan

Today’s Song Of The Day by Eric Berman is a great Bette Midler/Bob Dylan duet from Midler’s 1976 album Songs For The New Depression. The session came about because Dylan had hoped Midler would join him on the 1975 Rolling Thunder Revue tour with an eye towards her being a part of his Renaldo And Clara movie which was filmed on the tour.

The duo’s original intention was to cut a new version of the Moogy Klingman song “Friends” that Midler had recorded on her The Divine Miss M album several years earlier. When that didn’t work out, they worked up this rough and ready version of a song that was from Dylan’s then-current Blood On The Tracks album.

While there’s no topping Dylan’s own version of the song, I’ve always thought this one had a lot of personality and it sounds like they were both having a hoot recording it. Dylan and Midler would find themselves together in the studio one more during the USA For Africa sessions in the 1980s for the charity record of “We Are The World.”

Edited: August 11th, 2014

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #22 – Bob Dylan: “Lay Lady Lay” b/w “I Threw It All Away” – Columbia 45 RPM Single 13-33178 (C3/D3)

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #22 – Bob Dylan: “Lay Lady Lay” b/w “I Threw It All Away” – Columbia 45 RPM Single 13-33178 (C3/D3)

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had my jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little over twelve years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

The late 1960s introduced a new Bob Dylan to the world. With his motorcycle accident and requisite seclusion in Woodstock behind him, he emerged with John Wesley Harding, a rootsy, back-to-basics album in 1968 that flew in the face of the flamboyant psychedelic music that was currently all the rage at the time.

However, nothing could prepare Dylan fans for what followed in 1969: A content Dylan who was seemingly happy with his lot in life, complete with a new soulful, melodic croon of a voice that replaced the nasal monotone of the past.  Most crucially, the 1969 Dylan model marked another shift in musical direction away from the mainstream, with an album of country influenced tunes called Nashville Skyline that was quite simply, unlike anything else he had recorded up to that point.

The album was recorded with a who’s who of Nashville’s finest session musicians including Norman Blake on guitar and dobro, Kenny Buttrey on drums, Fred Carter, Jr. on guitar, Charlie Daniels on bass, Pete Drake on pedal steel guitar, Charlie McCoy on guitar and harmonica, Bob Wilson on piano and organ and several others including Johnny Cash who provided duet vocals on “Girl From The North Country.”

“Lay Lady Lay,” the A-side of today’s jukebox classic was originally intended for the soundtrack of the movie Midnight Cowboy, but it was submitted too late to make the film and Nilsson’s cover of Fred Neil’s “Everybody’s Talking” was used in its place. Dylan then offered the song to the Everly Brothers backstage at a concert. When Dylan played “Lay Lady Lay” for them, they thought he was singing “lay across my big breasts, babe” instead of “lay across my big brass bed” and didn’t’ think that the song was appropriate for them to record. When they finally heard the correct lyrics in Dylan’s recording, they realized what a mistake they had made. They finally got around to recording the song for their EB 84 album in 1984.

“Lay Lady Lay” became one of Dylan’s biggest singles climbing all the way to #7 on the Billboard pop charts. According to Johnny Cash, Dylan introduced the song in a song circle of writers who congregated at Cash’s house that included Shel Silverstein who played “A Boy Named Sue,” Joni Mitchell who broke out “The Circle Game,” Graham Nash who performed “Marrakesh Express” and Kris Kristofferson who played “Me And Bobby McGee.”

Over the years, “Lay Lady Lay” has been covered by the likes of Cher, The Byrds, The Everly Brothers, Melanie, The Isley Brothers, Keith Jarrett, Neil Diamond, Isaac Hayes, Richie Havens, Steve Howe, Booker T. & The MGs, Buddy Guy, Duran Duran and Ministry.

The flip of today’s single was the first single release from Nashville Skyline, although it only charted at #85 on the Billboard pop charts. After writing the song, Dylan shared it with George Harrison who brought it to The Beatles’ Let It Be recording sessions. Session tapes reveal that George took the song out for a spin during The Beatles’ session and performed it . The song has also been covered by Cher, Elvis Costello, Graham Parker, Lambchop and Yo La Tengo.

Looking for classic Dylan recordings on YouTube is somewhat of a lost cause, so today’s audio clips feature Cher’s version of “Lay Lady Lay” under the title “Lay Baby Lay” recorded for her 1969 album 3614 Jackson Highway, and George Harrison’s bootleg take of “I Threw It All Away” from The Beatles’ Let It Be sessions in January of 1969.

Edited: November 5th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 7/14/13

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall” by Bob Dylan and his Band from the “Americanarama Festival” 2013

We live in the day and age of festivals. For music fans, festivals offer bang for the buck providing the opportunity to see numerous bands that you might not ever get to see otherwise at one time and in one place. For musicians, they open up the possibility of gaining a wider audience, particularly with festivals like the annual Pitchfork Music Festival that will be taking place here in Chicago next weekend.

With a roster consisting of mostly up and coming artists, Pitchfork provides a bonanza for inquiring fans who want to discover music they’ve never heard before.  However, problems arise when a festival offers a group of well established artists who can fill smaller venues by regularly touring and playing to their fan base. With that in mind, the Americanarama Festival rolled into the Chicago market last night with a made-for-aging-rock-fans bill consisting of Bob Dylan, Wilco, My Morning Jacket and Richard Thompson.

While it was indeed a dream lineup, problems arise when the artists are forced to truncate their normal set lists to fit the schedule, resulting in not enough time afforded to acts that deserve it. Case in point was Richard Thompson’s criminally short (30 minute) opening set. Thompson and his Electric Trio consisting of Taras Prodaniuk on bass and Michael Jerome on drums took the stage to a sparse audience, and made the best of his time by performing several tracks from his latest album Electric including “Sally B” and “Stuck On A Treadmill,” plus his classic “Tear Stained Letter.” And while his set was performed well and well received by those in attendance, an artist of Thompson’s stature surely deserves better than a perfunctory 30-minute slot with no encore.

Almost immediately after Thompson exited the stage, My Morning Jacket’s set began. Although I’ve been a fan of My Morning Jacket since their first record, they were the only band on the bill that I’d never seen before. ..and of the four bands tonight, they put on the most satisfying set. Jim James was in fine voice as he caterwauled around the stage, and their 75-minute set included fan favorites like “Circuital,” “The Dark” and “Masterplan.” But when they launched into “I’m Amazed” and followed it with “Victory Dance” their set really took off, making them the band to beat on this night.

Wilco took the stage next to the enthusiastic cheers of a hometown crowd.  And what a treat it was to see them generously share the stage with the opening acts by bringing Richard Thompson out for a guitar-laden extended version of the Fairport Convention classic “Sloth,” as well as the Wilco tracks “That’s Not The Issue” and “California Stars.” Several tunes later, My Morning Jacket joined them for a stomping version of Neil Young’s “Cinnamon Girl.”

As usual, Wilco’s set started out very subdued and on this night really didn’t’ begin to catch fire until several songs in with “The Art Of Almost” from their latest album, The Whole Love.  Nels Cline was at his usual manic greatness adding the element of Krautrock feedback to “Misunderstood” and playing an extended lyrical solo during a great version of “Impossible Germany” from Sky Blue Sky.

We also got Wilco classics like “Hummingbird” and “Misunderstood,” plus two more songs from their latest album, “Born Alone,” and “Dawned On Me,” that will probably become stalwarts of their set for years to come. While Wilco’s set was immensely enjoyable, by adding the cameos and pairing down their usual two and a half hour stage time to 75 minutes, the flow of their set seemed a little disjointed.

Dylan came out next and was enigmatic as ever as he barked the lyrics to a somewhat bewildered audience. As a result, the crowd began to disperse early his set which is a shame because he was far better than I thought he would be, and let’s face it, he’s Bob Fucking Dylan!

It’s been at least seven years since I’ve seen Dylan in concert and while it’s true his voice is pretty much shredded to pieces, his crack band featuring Tony Garnier (bass), Charlie Sexton (guitar), Stu Kimball (guitar), Donnie Herron (pedal steel) and George Receli (drums) more than compensate. Dylan was animated throughout and stuck to singing, playing the piano and harmonica. Unlike his late 1980s shows where his vocals were an unintelligible jumble, this night found him enunciating the lyrics clearly on such classics as “You Belong To Me,” “Tangled Up In Blue,” “Simple Twist Of Fate” and today’s Song Of The Day, “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall” (The video shown here from an earlier date of the tour is dark, but provides an idea of how he’s singing these days).

Dylan dipped into his latest record several times with credible versions of “Duquesne Whistle,” “Early Roman Kings” and “Soon After Midnight,” and pretty much focused on late-period classics for the rest of his set including “Love Sick” from Time Out Of Mind, “Beyond Here Lies Nothin’” from Together Through Life, “Thunder On The Mountain” from Modern Times and “High Water (For Charley Patton)” from Love and Theft.

While Dylan has been playing the exact same set on every date of this tour, on this night he changed his encore from “Blowin’ In The Wind” to “Ballad Of A Thin Man,” sending the faithful who stayed to the end home on a high note.

 

My Morning Jacket Setlist:

1. The Dark

2. Circuital

3. Magheeta

4. Golden

5. Slow Slow Tune

6. Masterplan

7. I’m Amazed

8. Victory Dance

9. Wordless Chorus

10. Phone Went West

11. One Big Holliday

 

Wilco Setlist:

1. At the Window, Sad and Lonely

2. When the Roses Bloom Again

3. What Light

4. Misunderstood

5. Poor Places

6. Art of Almost

7. Sloth (with Richard Thompson)

8. California Stars (with Richard Thompson)

9. That’s Not the Issue (with Richard Thompson)

10. Hummingbird

11. Impossible Germany

12. Cinnamon Girl (with My Morning Jacket)

13. Born Alone

14. Dawned on Me

 

Bob Dylan Setlist:

1. Things Have Changed

2. Love Sick

3. High Water (For Charley Patton)

4. Soon after Midnight

5. Early Roman Kings

6. Tangled Up in Blue

7. Duquesne Whistle

8. She Belongs to Me

9. Beyond Here Lies Nothin’

10. A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall

11. Blind Willie McTell

12. Simple Twist of Fate

13. Thunder on the Mountain

14. All Along the Watchtower

Encore:

15. Ballad Of A Thin Man

Edited: July 13th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 2/26/13

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “One Too Many Mornings” by Bob Dylan & Johnny Cash

Still a mystery to me why these recordings have never been officially released…

The Dylan-Cash Sessions took place in Nashville’s Columbia Studio A on February 17-18, 1969 at the tail end of the Nashville Skyline recording sessions. During the same week that Dylan turned in such indelible recordings as “I Threw It All Away,” “Lay Lady Lay,” “To Be Alone With You” and “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You,” Johnny Cash, who had been recording in an adjoining  studio turned up for some recording fun.

What transpired was several days of session in which the two traded songs and laid some duets down on tape with an eye toward making a record together. In the studio with Dylan and Cash were the cream of the Nashville session elite including Norman Blake on guitar and dobro, Kenny Buttrey on drums, Fred Carter, Jr. on guitar, Charlie Daniels on bass, Pete Drake on pedal steel, Marshall Grant on bass, W.S. Holland on drums,  Charlie McCoy on guitar and harmonica, Bob Wilson (crucially) on the organ and piano and Bob Wootton on electric guitar.

The fifteen selections that have been widely circulated include jovial run-throughs of Cash standards like “Big River,” “I Walk The Line,” “Ring Of Fire,” “Guess Things Happen That Way” and “I Still Miss Someone,” plus Dylan’s “Girl From The North Country” and today’s Song Of The Day, “One Too Many Mornings,” and versions the rock and roll classics “Matchbox,” “That’s All Right Mama” and “Mystery Train.”

Not enough music came out of the loose sessions deemed worthy of release at the time except “Girl From The North Country,” which opened Nashville Skyline. So the rest sat on the shelves at Columbia and in the hands of lucky collectors.

It totally knocks me out that footage exists of these sessions at all, but here is a YouTube clip of the two in the studio. Cash handles the lion share of the lead vocals here and on most of the recordings, and Dylan seem somewhat out of his element with his vocals. That said, you can hear the mutual respect the two artists have for each other in every note of the joyful music they made.

Nashville Skyline  went on to be a big success, giving Dylan his biggest hit to date with “Lay Lady Lay.”

Edited: February 25th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 12/19/12 – Top Albums Of 2012 by Eric Berman

1. Deerhoof: Breakup Song (Polyvinyl)
Emanating from San Francisco (Greg Saunier & John Dieterich) by way of Japan (Satomi Matsuzaki), Deerhoof have released 12 albums of unpredictable music with a sound that would have made Yoko Ono proud and John Lennon jump for joy. It has finally come to pass that the ingredients of Yoko Ono’s recordings circa “Double Fantasy” that were championed by John Lennon have somewhat reached the mainstream with Deerhoof and their brand new release Breakup Song. Part electro-crunch, part sing-song melodies, part twee vocals and completely infectious in the dance rhythm department.

 

 

2. Divine Fits: A Thing Called Divine Fits (Merge)
When I first started playing Divine Fits’ debut album, I immediately gravitated to the songs that featured Britt Daniels on lead vocals. Daniels formed the band with Dan Boeckner of Wolf Parade and Sam Brown of New Bomb Turks while on hiatus from his band Spoon. In fact, it was Britt Daniels and the Spoon connection that led me to this album in the first place. What I found was that this record is chock full of terrific glam-infused tunes written by each band member with a heaping helping of ‘80s synth-pop and punk rock thrown in for good measure.

 

 

 

3. Ian Hunter: When I’m President (Slimstyle)
Ian Hunter is making records today that stand ever so tall in a catalog that includes classics by Mott The Hoople and solo staples like his eponymously titled debut album from 1975 and 1979’s classic You’re Never Alone With A Schizophrenic. The 73-year old and his current Rant Band have been on a roll, releasing several killer albums in a row, culminating in this year’s When I’m President. Hunter is supplied with pliant backing by the Rant Band featuring James Mastro (of Bongos fame) on guitar, Steve Holley (Elton John, Paul McCartney) on drums, Paul Page on bass, Mark Bosch on guitar, Andy Burton (Tiny Lights) on piano, Mark Rivera on sax and Andy York (Jason & The Scorchers) on backing vocals. Together they make a MOTTly sound on this solid collection packed with full-on Mott rockers with the brand of Dylanesque wordplay we’ve come to expect from Ian Hunter.

 

 

4. Japandroids: Celebration Rock (Polyvinyl)
Two Guys! No, not the department store from the 1960s, and not The White Stripes or Black Keys either. I’m talkin’ about two Canadian guys, Brian King on guitar and vocals and David Prowse on drums, who brought a firestorm of fury onto these shores with their aptly titled second full-length record Celebration Rock. Having seen these guys in action, I’m here to tell you that once they leave the stage, they leave a cadre of spent bodies with bleeding ears in their wake. And that’s a good thing, if your thing is high-powered, adrenaline producing walls of sound (think Husker Du) with the kind of chant-along hooks that haven’t been heard since U2 last fired up stadiums around the world.

 

 

 

5. Alabama Shakes: Boys And Girls (ATO)
Not your garden variety genre exercise. The Alabama Shakes’ debut record is a fine old-school, STAX-inspired soul record with sturdy songs sung by newcomer powerhouse vocalist Brittany Howard. They’re not just emulating a sound here, it’s totally genuine.

 

 
 

6. Bettye LaVette: Thankful N’ Thoughtful (Anti)
After over 40 years of obscurity, Bettye LaVette has come back, and since 2005 she’s recorded four excellent albums for the Anti record label, mostly consisting of well-chosen covers by her and her producer Craig Street. Her latest, and greatest, features inventive takes of Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy,” Bob Dylan’s “Everything Is Broken,” The Pogues’ Dirty Old Town” and Neil Young’s “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere.” It takes a big set of pipes to take on a song like Gnarls’ “Crazy,” but like the other tracks on this record, LaVette makes them all her own.

 

 

 

7. Jimmy Cliff: Rebirth (UME)
It would be easy to report that Rebirth is a return to form for Jimmy Cliff, but A. Cliff never left for me to proclaim he’s returned, and B. since you could always count on Cliff for the kind of sturdy Reggae album he released this year, he remains in very fine form. That said, the state of Reggae is alive and well in the hands of Jimmy Cliff who released one for the ages this year.

 

 

 

 
8. Jack White: Blunderbuss (Third Man)
He may have changed his color schemes from red and white to blue for his first solo record, but this album isn’t a White of a different color musically…and that’s a good thing! Mr. White looks at love from all sides now on Blunderbuss and has come up with a collection featuring biting lyrics and songs that get under your skin and stay there. With a tune stack that includes the White Stripe-ean bluster of “Sixteen Saltines,” the Led Zep folk of “Love Interruption” and the loosey-goosey rockabilly of “I’m Shakin’,” a new color scheme and not one, but two backing bands (one female one male), White has proven that even though he likes to lean on visual themes and shticks, his music speaks the loudest.

 

 

 

9. Frank Ocean: channel Orange (Def Jam)
I saw OFWGKTA perform at the Pitchfork Music Festival several years ago and utterly disliked their set. So when I began hearing the pre-release hype surrounding the album channel Orange by one of the members of Odd Future, I pretty much dismissed it in turn. That, my friends, was a big mistake. Upon finally hearing this record, my ears weren’t prepared for the pure soulful sounds (think Talking Book era Stevie Wonder or the “Superfly” sound of Curtis Mayfield) packed into superb tracks like “Sweet Life,” “Thinkin’ ‘Bout You,” “Super Rich Kids,” and “Crack Rock” which is both ethereal and gritty at the same time. Like too many of the hip hop records that come out today, the songs are surrounded by brief skits that, if anything, take away from the blissful experience of Ocean’s performances throughout this essential record. There’s a reason why this album is on everyone’s top albums of the year list this year (including mine), and the proof surely is in the grooves!

10. Animal Collective: Centipede Hz (Domino)
In a musical world where little is truly ever new, Animal Collective consistently tap into the past to create a sound that’s wholly their own. Like a wigged out Yes or a Beach Boys on acid, the sound of Animal Collective is like nothing else you’ve ever heard. Coming in on the heels of their breakthrough record, Merriweather Post Pavilion, Animal Collective took a left turn away from the bright lights of fame and has offered up a far denser platter that gives it up in spades upon repeated listening.

 

 

 

Runners Up
11. Dr. John: Locked Down (Nonesuch)
12. Ravi Coltrane: Spirit Fiction (Blue Note)
13. dBs: Falling Off The Sky (Bar None)
14. G.O.O.D. Music: Cruel Summer (Kanye West) (Island/Def Jam)
15. Branford Marsalis: 4 MF’s Playin’ Tunes (Marsalis Music)
16. Bob Dylan: Tempest (Columbia)
17. Aimee Mann: Charmer (Superego)
18. Neil Young & Crazy Horse: Americana (Reprise)
19. Leonard Cohen: Old Ideas (Columbia)
20. Grimes: Visions (4AD)

Best Of The Rest
21. Bela Fleck/Marcus Roberts Trio: Across The Imaginary Divide (Rounder)
22. Green Day: Dos (Reprise)
23. Flaming Lips: Flaming Lips & Heady Fwends (Warner Bros.)
24. Redd Kross: Researching The Blues (Merge)
25. Dwight Yoakam: 3 Pears (Reprise)
26. Kelly Hogan: I Like To Keep Myself In Pain (Anti)
27. Rhianna: Unapologetic (Island/Def Jam)
28. M. Ward: A Wasteland Companion (Merge)
29. Various Artists: Chimes Of Freedom – The Songs Of Bob Dylan (Amnesty International)
30. Beach Boys: That’s Why God Made The Radio (Capitol)

Reissues
1. Merle Saunders/Jerry Garcia: Keystone Companions – Complete 1973 Fantasy Recordings (Fantasy)
2. Johnny Cash: The Complete Albums Collection (Columbia)
3. Billy Bragg & Wilco: Mermaid Avenue – The Complete Sessions (Nonesuch)
4. Velvet Underground: Scepter Acetate LP (UME)/Velvet Underground: Verve/MGM Albums (Sundazed)
5. Captain Beefheart: Bat Chain Puller (Zappa Family Trust)
6. Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros – Catalog Reissues (Hellcat)
7. Carole King: Legendary Demos (Hear Music)
8. The English Beat: Complete Beat (Shout Factory)
9. The Who: Live At Hull
10. Paul McCartney: RAM (Hear Music)

Edited: December 18th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 10/29/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Buckets Of Rain” by Bette Midler with Bob Dylan

Here’s one from those of us who are watching Sandy from afar…good luck to you all! This great duet/cover comes to you from Bette Midler’s 1976 album “Songs For The New Depression.” The session came about because Dylan had hoped Midler would join him on the Rolling Thunder Revue with an eye towards her being a part of his film “Renaldo And Clara” which was filmed on the tour. The duo’s original intention was to cut a new version of the Moogy Klingman (later a founding member of Todd Rundgren’s Utopia) song “Friends,” that Midler had recorded on her debut album several years earlier. When that didn’t work out, they worked up this rough and ready version of a song that was from Dylan’s then-current album “Blood On The Tracks.” While there’s no topping Dylan’s own version of the song, I’ve always thought this one had a lot of personality and it sounds like they were both having a hoot recording it. Dylan and Midler would find themselves together in the studio one more time in the 1980s during the USA For Africa sessions for “We Are The World.”

Edited: October 28th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 10/15/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Crazy Love” by Van Morrison and Bob Dylan

Van Morrison is one of the few musicians who can breathe the same rarified air as Bob Dylan…and in my book, he is right up there on the Mt. Rushmore of rock. So here’s a clip of the Belfast bard and his royal Bobness performing one of Van’s classics from the “Moondance” album. The clip was filmed in Greece at the tail end of Dylan’s 1989 tour. On a beautiful, sunny day, the two climbed up the Hill of the Muses in Athens and performed a four-song set in front of BBC cameras including this song, “And It Stoned Me,” “One Irish Rover” and “Foreign Windows.” The footage was captured for the BBC documentary “Arena: One Irish Rover – Van Morrison in Performances.” Oh, to have been one of those cameramen…

Edited: October 14th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 9/21/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Scarlet Town” by Bob Dylan

I’ve spent a little time with the new Dylan album and while many of the songs still need to get under my skin both lyrically and musically, I’m here to say that It would be hard to justify the 5-Star accolades that are being heaped upon the record especially when there are three songs, encompassing close to 30 minutes of music, that are far less than compelling. Sure some of the tracks here are good including this one, the old-timey “Duquesne Whistle” (co-written with Jerry Garcia collaborator Robert Hunter), the rocking “Narrow Way,” the ballad “Soon After Midnight,” the sinister “Pay In Blood” and the long violent parable “Tin Angel” all featuring some of Dylan’s most violent and at times funniest lyrics…and not a note of harmonica to be found…anywhere. It is a dark album indeed, but I just don’t see how the record can be getting 5-star reviews when the rest of the record is stuffed with overlong songs that kind of meander along, like the tedious 14-minute title track which is a fictional account of the Titanic disaster, “Early Roman Kings” that contains laugh-out-loud lyrical couplets but comes musically wrapped in a rehash of Muddy Waters’ “Mannish Boy” and “Roll On John” a plodding tribute to John Lennon 32 years after his death. Dylan is in fine late-period growl here and the band is mostly made up of his top-notch touring unit, including the venerable Tony Garnier on bass, George G. Receli on drums, Donnie Herron on steel guitar, banjo, violin and mandolin, Stu Kimball on guitar, Dave Hidalgo (of Los Lobos) on guitar, accordion and violin, and one of Dylan’s greatest guitar foils, Charlie Sexton on guitar. With sturdy production courtesy of Jack Frost (Dylan) himself, it’s great to see Dylan still at it after all these years, and this record is a big improvement over his last one. Five stars? Hardly…perhaps three!

Edited: September 20th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 9/4/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Duquesne Whistle” by Bob Dylan

In a little over a week, the world will be graced with Bob Dylan’s 35th studio album. While his croak is (and always was) an acquired taste, I love the old-timey feel of the records he’s released in the last decade, and judging by this track the new record should musically be in the same vein. The “Tempest” album will release on 9/11, which was the release date of his “Love And Theft” album in 2001. While Dylan’s penchant for “borrowing” has led some to believe he is creatively spent, his “borrowing” has been a significant trait of the folk tradition from whence he came. The definition of Duquesne is: “A Suffren class frigate of the French Navy, designed to protect a fleet against air threats, surface ships, submarines, and, to a lesser extent, provide fire power against land objectives. She is the sister-ship of the Suffren.” I’m not exactly sure what to make of the video that accompanies this song…

Edited: September 3rd, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 5/3/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “No Time To Think” by Bob Dylan

“Street Legal” is one of the most underrated records in Bob Dylan’s canon. When it came out in 1978, it had the tough task of following both “Desire” and “Blood On The Tracks,” two of Dylan’s most respected studio albums and comparatively speaking, it did not fare so well. It was then followed by the 1978 “Vegas” tour dubbed so because of the female vocalists he brought along and the garish outfits Dylan chose to wear on stage. In retrospect, the tour featured some of Dylan’s most impassioned vocals ever, and the record included some of his greatest songs including “Senor (Tales Of Yankee Power),” “Changing Of The Guard,” “New Pony” (recently covered by Jack White with Dead Weather), “Is Your Love In Vain?” and this amazing track. Dylan would secretly marry Carolyn Dennis, one of his background singers on the album and the tour in 1986.

Edited: May 2nd, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 4/30/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Love Sick” by Mariachi El Bronx

This choice cover comes from the exceptional multi-artist 3-CD set called “Chimes Of Freedom – The Songs Of Bob Dylan” released this past January to benefit Amnesty International. I love what Mariachi El Bronx do with this song, completely recasting it to fit their sound. Actually Mariachi El Bronx is the alter ego of the Los Angeles hardcore band called The Bronx who has released three hardcore punk albums under their real name and two mariachi albums under their alias. Many probably remember Dylan’s own televised live version of this song from the Grammy Awards many years ago when an unwanted audience member jumped on stage with the words “Soy Bomb” printed on his chest and spastically gyrated along to the music until security had him removed from the stage. Meanwhile, Dylan seemingly unfazed didn’t miss a beat.

Edited: April 29th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 3/10/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Man In The Long Black Coat” by Bob Dylan

Selected later songs like this one by Bob Dylan are a slam dunk. Going to see him in concert is total a crap shoot…you never know what you’re gonna get, but if you go with low expectations, you should be fine. Albums by Dylan fall somewhere in between from the sublime like “Love And Theft,” “Blood On The Tracks,” “Street Legal,” “Blonde On Blonde,” “Highway 61 Revisited” and “Freewheelin’” to name a few…to the ridiculous like “Down In The Groove,” “Under The Red Sky” and “Knocked Out Loaded.” Some would put “Self Portrait” in the latter category; by I think it’s a masterpiece! Fortunately, 1989 was a great year for Dylan records with the release of “Oh Mercy” and the pairing of his royal Bobness with producer Daniel Lanois. Lanois gave Dylan the perfect settings for his songs, and on this record the set of songs was exemplary featuring now-Dylan classics like “Most Of The Time,” “What Was It You Wanted,” (later expertly covered by Willie Nelson), “Ring Them Bells” and “Political World.”

Edited: March 10th, 2012

Song Of The Day – 9/11/11

Song Of The Day – “Cry A While” by Bob Dylan

10 Years After…9/11/01 also marked the day that Bob Dylan’s late-period classic “Love And Theft” album was released. I had an advance copy and was happily listening to it on my way to work that day. Little did I know that the whole world would change when I walked through the office doors and found everyone huddled around the TV. My memories of the day are forever linked with this record…”Cry A While…”

Edited: September 11th, 2011

Song Of The Day – 12/19/10

Song Of The Day – “Must Be Santa” by Bob Dylan from the album “Christmas In The Heart” 

I thought it was a joke last year when I heard that Bob Dylan was releasing a Christmas album. But lo and behold it was true…and while it wasn’t one of his royal Bobness’ greatest albums, it does stand up on its own merits in the cannon of holiday offerings. The highlight is this quasi-Klezmer flavored offering with a great video to match.  Must be a joke?  Must Be Santa!

Edited: December 19th, 2010