on September 3, 2006
The more I listen to this CD, the more I want to. Musically, it's superb, and lyrically it's even better. Dylan's sense of humor shines through constantly, even in the darkest songs. If I couldn't understand a word of English, I'd still want to hear this album again and again. There's very little about it that's not catchy, and catchy isn't an adjective you often hear connected to Dylan.
on August 31, 2006
"I got the porkchops, she got the pie
She ain't no angel and neither am I
Shame on your greed, shame on your wicked schemes
I'll say this, I don't give a damn about your dreams"
Who else but Dylan can write stuff like this? The man who gave us "the ghost of electricity howls in the bones of her face" 40 years ago continues to amaze.
Modern Times is Dylan's best work since Infidels, and that's saying a lot. This is a great band, producing a new version of "that thin, that wild mercury sound" that is characteristic of Dylan at his best. Here it is polished, tracing a razor's edge, at times seductive, at times raising the hair on the back of your neck.
It is remarkable what Dylan, at age 65, is able to do with his voice. To me it never sounded better. Yeah, I know his range is shot and that it's raspy and raw. But the phrasing is complex and precise, it hits every time, and the range of emotion that's conveyed is without compare. Nobody ever said that Dylan is an operatic singer, but he's an incredible vocalist, and Modern Times sets a new standard for this greatness.
The songs flow together, contrast with, and build off one another. This is an "album" in the classic sense; buying individual songs or shuffling them will lose a lot.
So for instance when the funky twelve bar rhythm of The Levee's Gonna Break transitions into the stark, haunting, slow chords of Ain't Talkin', you almost get weak in the knees, and the hair really does stand up on the back of your neck.
And Dylan sings,
"Ain't talkin', just walkin'
Up the road, around the bend.
Heart burnin', still yearnin'
In the last outback at the world's end."
Who else but Dylan does stuff like this?
on September 5, 2006
There will be people who still believe Bob Dylan is over-rated. Younger audiences may be somewhat oblivious of the debt popular music owes this man. Rock and roll was child's play until Dylan, a folk singer indebted, in his own way, to the legendary Woody Guthrie, went electric. His folkie fans may have heckled him of the stage and called him a traitor to what they believed was, by virtue of its history and earnestness, the only adult music, but something magic happened: rock and roll grew up.
With Dylan leading the way forward, rock and roll didn't only absorb political and social comment, it became capable, at last, of articulating, often with inspirational lyricism, the full gamut of emotions in the human condition. Those that came before Dylan gave the spirit its flesh, but Dylan was the father of an animal capable of consciousness.
As with the excellent "Love and Theft", "Modern Times" returns to the heart of rock and roll: the blues. Dylan, though a scholar and a poet, presents himself as a babe yet again, before the seemingly unfathomable depths of the pulminary palate. As such, the album is somewhat of a lithmus test of intelligence. The album will possibly sound naive to the naive. Where is the insight into our times? Where are the songs as topical as "Hurricane" once was? The album's title is, of course, ironic. It is ineviatable that some will forget "The Chimes Of Freedom" wasn't exactly topical either, when it was released, but it definitely sounded that way. So it is with "Modern Times". Dylan has, again, crafted a timeless record that is among the best of his impressive career.
Before the first four notes of "Thunder On The Mountain" have finished playing, you know you are listening to a masterpiece. These notes, grand as they are in their simplicity, boldly announce this is Dylan with something important to say. The song then proceeds to chug along as swinging full-tilt boogie and drops a wicked quip about Alicia Keys, "I've been looking for her even clear through Tenessee". It's an amusing way of saying that, while "things have changed", Dylan still cares about music, particularly the way it empowers and unites people, emanicating all of us from slavery. At one point, Dylan even says he wants to stop thinking only about himself and see "what others need". Those who have accused him over the years of being some kind of fraud should take note that he quickly abandons all pretence about being any kind of voice of a generation by simply stating, "I've aleady confessed, I don't need to confess again."
Not dissimilar to "Moonlight" on "Love and Theft", "Spirit On The Water" is delightfully antique in its composition, yet, strangely, it is imbibed with surprising youthful exuberance. It could have been written for a wallflower waltz. Dylan doesn't pull any punches when he sings, "You think I'm over the hill / You think I'm past my prime / Let me see what you've got / We could have a whoppin' good time."
"Rollin' and tumblin" thumps hard and evokes the same level of seminal rage against the establishment as "Maggie's Farm". Dylan growls, "I aint nobody's houseboy." But this isn't coming from an angry man; it's coming from a sage-like, lived-in librettist.
"When The Deal Goes Down" actually has the audacity to thieve the words and melody of "In the still of the night ...", but that it's only part of its genius. Essentially a song about facing death with love in your heart, even the cliches ("we live and we die / And we know not why") still resonate as contemporary insights, especially when they are dressed with Dylan's trademark talent for expressing the most intimate details of the past as if they were happening immediately. I found myself a bit teary hearing his account of picking up a rose and feeling "transient joys".
"Someday Baby" is a raunchy I-aint-dead-yet-but-I-will-be-someday-and-you'll-be-haunted-by-absence anthem. Dylan scrutinizes his own inscrutable persona, singing, "I keep recycling the same thoughts" - only to further illuminate his legacy; "I don't wanna brag / I wanna ring your neck."
In his book, "Chronicles", Dylan wrote at length about his own frustration over not being able, at the time, to give producer, Daniel Lanios, songs as great as "Chimes of Freedom". Well, that problem is solved in Dylan's 65th year with the breathtaking "Working Man's Blues 2". If this is not one of the greatest songs ever written, the earth is still flat. The lyrics are some Dylan's finest and they as relevant to the world under the rule of Bush's evil empire as they might have been to the time of the crusades. The words "The firepower of the proletariat's gone down / Money's gettin' shallow and weak ..." are crooned in honeyed voice to the dripping delicacies of piano-driven melody. Unlike lesser protest songs, it's the humility of the song that makes it so moving. Dylan wants to be remembered as a team player, "My crude weapons have been put on the shelf / Come sit on my knee ..." Nevertheless, how could anyone with a heart and any empathy whatsoever for other human beings refuse the following call to arms: "You can hang back or fight you best on the frontline..."
The slyly romantic Dylan tips his cowboy hat, once more, the power of love with "Beyond The Horizon". His most romantic visions are of a particularly modern time when we are all on "the same side", a time which he predicts will fittingly be "'round about midnight".
The name "Nettie Moore" is synonymous symbolically with triumph over slavery. Dylan crafts a song of the same name that is an ode to defiance and rebellion as a matter of conscience. When Dylan sings "The world has gone black before eyes", he singing about his own mortality of course, but surely he is also still struggling against a world that makes laws to silence protest under the guise of fighting terrorism.
"The Levee Gonna Break" is another example of the brilliant breath of new life in ancient wisdom. Perhaps, the most deceptively simple of all the blues-boogie tunes on the album, it effortlessly carries what Dylan, hiimself, might call "big medicine" for our times, concluding with the ominous words, "Some people still sleeping / Some people are wide awake ..."
"Aint Talkin" ends the album with glorious compassion for the broken and forgotten. In the tradition of his best narrative songs, Dylan assumes the persona of an accident victim casually reporting "Someone hit from behind". It's a sad song, to be sure, mirroring a "world mysterious and vague": "The whole world is filled with speculation / The whole wide world which people say is round / They will tear your mind away from contemplation / They will jump on your misfortune when you're down ..." However, when Dylan says "no one will ever know" he is really convincing you of how important, how holy and divine it is to tell the tale. Even the cynics and the doubters have to agree when he sings, "Someday you'll be glad to have me around."
This is easily the best album of 2006, every bit as urgent and important as those recordings that will still sound as good decades, even centuries from now.
on August 29, 2006
I cannot believe some the other reviews here - this is one outstanding recording - both sonically and musically. Just superb. Every song is a winner - not a bad track on the album at all - some of it just so deep and evocative - certainly the best new album for the last few years from anyone at all - beautiful melodies and excellent band and production - no one will be disapoointed by getting this album - a true work of beauty by a genius. Get it.
on September 27, 2007
The music for Modern Times, although a little ragged around the edges and not as tight as it could be, is really very pleasant and quite enjoyable. I must say that I was extremely disapponted that the CD insert did not contain the words to the songs. I have listened to it numerous times, as has my family, and there are just a whole bunch of places that we can't even begin to figure out the lyrics. I'm sure Dylan has lots to say, and we've certainly tried to figure out what that might be, but just exactly how much of a treasure hunt do we have to go on here?
on September 12, 2006
Modern Times is Bob Dylan's first album in nearly five years, the longest he has ever gone without releasing a record. Last fall, though, Dylan did release a new song, "Tell Ol' Bill," on the North Country soundtrack, a song that is emblematic of Dylan's new style of songwriting, which is everywhere apparent on Modern Times. "Tell Ol' Bill" evokes the cold, grey landscape of the northwest through its topographical details and employs spare observations to delineate the desperate world-weariness of the speaker. In some sense, "Tell Ol' Bill" is an exercise in redundancy, both musically and lyrically, that evokes a mood rather than tells a story. Even though most of Dylan's songs post-1964 are evocative rather than narrative, his earlier style was more playful and allusive, whereas the later style, as seen in "Tell Ol' Bill," is sparer and more observational. On Modern Times, the song that comes closest to "Tell Ol' Bill," which regrettably does not appear on the album, is "Ain't Talkin'." Like "Tell Ol' Bill," "Ain't Talkin'" uses simple, unadorned language to evoke the speaker's cynical world-view and his desperate mental state.
Much will be made of the relationship of Modern Times to its predecessors, and yes, the album does feel like a natural progression from Dylan's previous two releases, Time Out of Mind and Love and Theft. Of course, musically, Modern Times is closer to Love and Theft, for both serve as something of an odyssey through American music that embraces several different musical styles. Yet, whereas the songs on Love and Theft are humorous and playful, those on Modern Times are dark and often elegiac, and its melancholy and introspective mood more closely resembles Time Out of Mind.
However, Modern Times is not unrelentingly dark, but is filled with lighter moments, from the bouncy rock of "Thunder on the Mountain" to the blues romp of "Rollin' and Tumblin'." As on Love and Theft, Dylan creates an amalgamation of American music on Modern Times from the jazz croonings of "Spirit on the Water" to the swinging blues of "Someday Baby." Indeed, the influence of the blues is pervasive on Modern Times: "Rollin' and Tumblin'" is a reworking of the Muddy Waters song; "Someday Baby" evokes Slim Harpo and Elmore James; "Workingman's Blues No. 2" was inspired by the Merle Haggard song; "The Levee's Gonna Break" borrows from the Memphis Minnie tune; and "Nettie Moore" is Dylan's revamping of an old folk ballad.
Of course, Dylan isn't doing anything different on Modern Times than he has been doing throughout his career, e.g. on Love and Theft. After all, Dylan is a folk musician, in the sense that he is tapping into the history of American music and adapting it to our own modern times, which do not differ as much as we'd like to think from olden days. Indeed, according to Dylan in his liner notes to World Gone Wrong, we are living in the "New Dark Ages." Thus, Dylan's borrowing of blues tropes is appropriate to his musical ideology, and he appropriates these sources with authority. Dylan even sounds like an old bluesman on many of these songs, which seems to be what he always wanted to sound like. Dylan also plays the roles of folk balladeer and jazz crooner with vocal conviction, and his vocals are strong throughout the album, clearly enunciated, precisely phrased, and always carrying the appropriate emotional weight. In a sense, then, Modern Times represents the culmination of Dylan's career, in that he has made a record that fits seamlessly into the fabric of American music, creating a sound and vision that rivals that of his musical heroes in its depth and urgency.
on August 29, 2006
No one will ever confuse Bob Dylan's voice with that of Pavorotti or even the voice of his Traveling Wilbury "brother," Roy Orbison. But, like another Wilbury "brother," Tom Petty, the brilliant Dylan just keeps on getting better with age, as proven by his latest release, MODERN TIMES. Please allow me to briefly elucidate....
The past few months have seen some amazing new music from some of our finest and most seasoned musicians. Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris served up the sweet ALL THE ROADRUNNING while Bruce Springsteen got folky with WE SHALL OVERCOME: THE SEEGER SESSIONS. Then, the late Johnny Cash's AMERICAN V: A HUNDRED HIGHWAYS reminded us once more of the titanic loss we experienced at his passing, while songwriter supreme Paul Simon served up a fresh batch of electronica/folk with SURPRISE. Most recently, there is the stellar aforementioned Tom Petty project, HIGHWAY COMPANION. Now comes the maestro, Bob Dylan, with a set of songs that rivals his finest work. This is a good time to be a music fan!
This Dylan album is a trip through many various musical styles and eras, but it is not a sentimental journey by any means. Bob Dylan covers a little bit of rockabilly, some jazzy folk, bluesy country, and even some ragtime...perhaps inventing a whole new genre of music in the process--call it "Gypsy Cowboy" or "Punk Jazz"--whatever it is, it is moving and revelatory; and, behind some pointed observations, there is more than a hint of Dylan's trademark wry humor.
As he has on his most recent two studio albums, TIME OUT OF MIND and LOVE AND THEFT, Dylan cooks up a batch of rich stories, vignettes, and vibes that rank near or at the top of his rich canon of material. "Thunder on the Mountain" comes out of the gate rocking and swinging, name dropping Alicia Keys and covering the gamut of human emotions. "Spirit on the Water" is a shuffle featuring Dylan's croaky crooning to fine effect. Bob gets fiesty and colorful in the rollicking "Rollin' and Tumblin,'" which introduces us to a somewhat crazy cast of characters.
"When the Deal Goes Down" is a touching waltz, while "Someday Baby" is a blues workout. Few, if any, can do authentic "Dust Bowl" folk/blues better than Dylan does on "Workingman's Blues #2," although Merle Haggard (a clear inspiration for this song) might come close. "Beyond the Horizon" is a very smooth, hopeful jazz number (given added poignancy when paired with Dylan's rustic voice).
The closing troika of tunes is breathtaking. First up is "Nettie Moore," is absolute vintage Dylan with it's wildly off-kilter-yet-perfect phrasing over the top of a lovely melody. Then, just in time for the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, Bob serves up the stream of consciousness blues meditation, "The Levee's Gonna Break," which is about so much more than floods or politics. The album closes with Dylan growling on "Ain't Talkin'," which is both spooky and bracing...one can't blame him for sounding cranky, given that he claims to have "a toothache in my heel"--truly a bane to one given to wandering!
If you haven't yet picked up this CD, don't waste any more time. A new Bob Dylan album is always an event, and this one is truly special. It's both timeless and timely, standing up proud and tall next to his finest works such as BLONDE ON BLONDE, HIGHWAY 61 REVISITED, OH MERCY, and his most recent albums TIME OUT OF MIND and LOVE AND THEFT.
This DELUXE EDITION WITH BONUS DVD is really the edition you want to own, thanks to fine packaging and a topnotch, highly interesting collection of music videos and performances by Bob Dylan.
CLOSING THOUGHT FROM THE MAN HIMSELF
Bob Dylan recently made this powerful observation about the current state of radio music: "The beat stuff people play, that's about as far away from real rythmn as the sun is from the moon. Those beats make people pose, but they don't make people move or change their lives." Bob Dylan is still a man on the move, with the power to move his listeners--more than 40 years after bursting onto the scene in Greenwich Village. Check it out!
Bob Dylan continues his late Renaissance with his newest effort 'Modern Times'. It is another remarkable, but slightly uneven, representative in his long stretch of late career classics. He and his very able band deliver a wonderful blues repertoire. His voice is aging, just like everything delivered since at least 'Oh, Mercy'. If you've never loved his voice, you won't like it here. (Then, again, if you didn't at least tolerate his voice, you wouldn't have bothered to tumble into this review.) But, if you've never disliked the gruffness (except when he falters or becomes lackadaisical--on other projects), it should remind you of Leon Redbone. And how appropriately it fits into this fine album! ("It is the Ragtime of the season," he sings, afterall.) The production and sound give one the impression we are at a night club enjoying dinner with Dylan and his band entertaining us and our dates. The intimacy is accentuated by, again--it can't be said enough--by his very excellent band, whose support is heard by the crystal clear production of very able producer, Jack Frost. The jazz/blues-for-a-nightclub act is never formula, and becomes more ecclectic with other marvelous songs, like the rollicking vintage country of "Rollin' and Tumblin'".
Seldom do the songs clock in less than five minutes. Sometimes the timing is a mixed blessing: The glorious opening, "Thunder on the Mountain" is worth every precious second that goes over five minutes, but "Nettie Moore" and the finale "Ain't Talkin'" are worthy, but long-winded. At least lyrically, he arrives at his destinations sooner. His celebrated lyrics are good to great throughout. He's enjoyed being more spare and direct with words in his maturity (less overflowing and surreal, like his early years). However, there is much he has retained: He can still meld political and existential images even in his love songs. Most of the songs are loving engagements, but he mixes imagery of sin, redemption, and chaos as well.
Specifically, "Workingman's Blues" delivers Dylan's concrete words in a fluid fashion. It is a ripplingly beautiful classic. As typical with Dylan's best work, every song is mesmerizing. "The Levee's Gonna Break" is a fabulous piece of rhythm and blues. Significantly, to match the song and music, the album--if not recorded like 'Oh, Mercy' in New Orleans--at least absorbs its spirit. And, here, Dylan's worthy gift is delivered to the stores on the one-year anniversary of Katrina's wake. "Someday Baby" and "Beyond the Horizon" are hypnotic and beautiful, certainly enough to make this C.D. 'The Tempest' for "The Bard of Hibbing".
Aging baby-boomers and fans of all ages can't help to be enthralled by the latest work by what 'Rolling Stone' magazine called "The Big Three". Paul McCartney [of the Beatles] gave us 'Chaos and Creation in the Back Yard,' one of his very best solo albums. The 'Stones recently delivered 'A Bigger Bang,' their best in years. Now Dylan finds great support and assembles 'Modern Times'. The only difference is that 'Love and Theft' and 'Time Out of Mind' demonstrate that Dylan has been on a hot streak for a while. This album brings no comparisons. Some of the elements of 'Oh, Mercy' and 'Under a Red Sky' come to mind. Lyrically, it often matches the former; musically it scotches both. Vive the Dylan Renaissance! (4 1/2*'s)
*Singular or plural, depending if you count it as the C.D. title or the phrasing.
on October 15, 2006
at first, your impression of how Dylan sings nowadays can be cringe-worthy. it's not his fault, it's just age that robs him of the ability to turn on a dime that any young person can do without thinking about it.
so here's what you do...you take into consideration that mr. D can't sing as he'd like to and you listen and see just how he handles the situation.
but i'll tell you, by the conclusion of this cd, i think you'd agree that mr. Dylan does just fine with the abilities he has with his aged voice muscles. for he doesn't just 'get by' with what he has to work with.......he works it and plays with it coming just damn near how he'd like to be anyway! it's a masterful feat how he bends and weaves his way around the melody.
i no longer have a fear of going into a modern Dylan album now, afraid of his hatcheted and scrawny voice. i welcome the opportunity to listen to how one of our greats delivers his songs with what he has to work with.
i come away far from disappointed. as always, Dylan is an inspiration.
and that's just discussing his SINGING style!
as to the songs from this new album. well, track one-thunder on the mountain is just a rollicking good time.
Dylan's strong suit-his lyrics-are as witty and sharp as ever.the album is just crawling with great lines..."all the ladies in Washington scrambling to get out of town"...."i'll recruit my army from the orphanages"..."feel like my soul is beginning to expand-look into my heart and you will sort of understand"...."i've sucked the milk out of a thousand cows".....and on, and on. and combined with the one/two punch of enjoying how he sings them is a real fun time.
add to that his band. oh my they are good. smooth as velvet and gritty as salt.
rollin and tumblin as many people have pointed out is not a song Dylan wrote and yet is credited to him on the album. i think this is due to what i think are lyrics dylan has added of his own. but still, the original writer should get credited.
and it is a fun song to listen to.
there were a couple songs on the album i was not so keen on such as beyond the horizon and when the deal goes down but i still give it a thumbs up because of the majority of songs that i do like: thunder on the mountain/rollin and tumblin/the levee's gonna break and the closing song Ain't Talkin which is saturated in mist and mood and spooky foreboding.
and oh my gracious, what a glorious album closing chord the band all strike......wait till you hear.
the dvd portion of this limited edition is a definate treat and in my opinion worth the extra cash.
there are 4 video's on the dvd.
cold iron bounds is my favorite. it is riveting to watch Dylan poised before his band looking straight into the camera as calm and cool as the day sherman marched into vicksberg(factually inaccurate but added for effect)
the video for things have changed is a treat with scenes from the movie the Wonder Boys interspersed with Dylan himself superimposed into the action. oh katie. heart be still.
his performance at the grammy's excellent
and the first video 'blood in my eyes' is a black and white mini-documentary of the man as he spends an afternoon strolling through his old stomping grounds-greenwich village-with passersby and fans asking for his autograph and snapping pictures.
my advise...spend the extra money for the limited edition of modern times that includes the 4-song dvd.
on June 5, 2010
Finding myself groggy in adulthood, still surprised I cannot believe how fast college went by, I recall a time before I was a fan of Bob Dylan. I knew less in those days. Sheltered in my childhood born of the Protestant persuasion, most of the music I listened to was blatantly Christian for the better part of my life. I had never given much thought back then to the world outside of my innate esoteric mindset, listening mostly to bands I had no idea were usually cheap imitations of "the real thing." After all, such strict religious confines placed around art certainly seems in hindsight to hinder creative output. Of course, to digress a bit, there are plenty of exceptions to this statement, like the band Starflyer 59 for example and early Pedro the Lion before Dave became agnostic (he is better now, check him out). At some point around the age of 18, after giving my parents the first shot of separation anxiety when I went to live at Louisiana State University, I started looking around for something more - some new musical adventure.
Of course, Bob Dylan is a natural segue way from the world of exclusively Christian music to the realm where rock and roll happens in all of its manic apparitions. And the girl who had recently taken my innocence away was a Dylan fan herself. Her favorite album was Nashville Skyline, and she was cute - too cute for me but I got lucky as college schmucks sometimes do. Anyway, most people get into Dylan by route of the early protest songs which are all wonderful and indispensable to any songwriter or poet living today. I love those albums. I have learned from them, spending weeks listening to one over the others on rotation in a span of time which can only be called my Dylan phase, with lyrics out and dictionary open. But my path to Bob was paved by Modern Times because I had never much listened to the man before and this was the album which was coming out in stores when I finally started thinking about taking the plunge. In this way, Modern Times is my gateway drug into the universe of this man who I try not to overly lionize because being worshiped is not what Bob Dylan is all about. He's too cool to be worshiped.
Sure, I have heard the complaint that he swiped lyrics from some Civil War poet, that he credited himself behind "Rollin' and Tumblin'." These things do not really bother me. I am more big picture in my thinking, choosing to acknowledge that excellent Jean-Luc Godard quote: "It's not where you take things from - it's where you take them to." Nothing is original anymore, not even Bob Dylan, but this does not imply that brilliance has died. In some ways, brilliance has never been in better shape.
Here we have a man with something to say about our era by way of pre-rock musical accompaniment and lyrics in the thoughtful tradition of Dylan - which is to say sometimes prophetic, other times cautionary, regretful, or provocative. Something here seems new to me every time I listen to this album, even now that it is a few years old. While the album rolls on without a single clunker, favorites for me come from the latter half of the album with my favorite being "Nettie Moore" for the beautiful sorrow I hear in it. I get the impression that however strained his voice may sound on this album old Zimmy has a way of convincing the listener there is a good reason for it being so worn. And it is not simply because he is now an old man or because when he was younger he smoked "eighty cigarettes a day." This album convinced me in my innocent musical mind that Bob Dylan was the poet seer just as much now as he ever was. Every song is excellent, and in spite of an occasional apocalyptic premonition (especially on "Ain't Talkin'") which should be welcomed by those of us skeptical of contemporary progress, Modern Times manages to create a whimsical nostalgic mood on "When the Deal Goes Down" after such a guttural rocker as the classic "Rollin' and Tumblin'" (which everybody knows Bob didn't write, including himself I'm sure). And "Workingman's Blues" captures a sympathy for the working man which truly represents Dylan's songwriting talent because he hasn't been in the shoes of blue collar toilers in some time. Decades, actually, since he was the only living boy in New York. But what Dylan has done with his career is perhaps just as necessary and timeless as the archetype of the hard-working man who never gives up. And who else could throw the word proletariat in a song and have it sound unpretentious?
Modern Times, to me, is an album about not giving up even if, in the end, there's nothing new to say that hasn't been said before by Dylan or Shakespeare.