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the pioneer of Dylan Studies; writer, public speaker, critic; became a Doctor of Letters in 2015 (awarded by the University of York, UK)

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Monday, April 13, 2009


If you want to, you can hear short excerpts from every track on Together Through Life at

I have done... and I wish I'd been strong enough not to. Not so much because they all sound mediocre or worse as because it's preposterous to even begin to judge an album like this.

I have now listened to the whole of ‘Beyond Here Lies Nothing’ - which isn’t quite as bad as I’d feared, though to hear him singing new words to ‘Black Magic Woman’ is a bit depressing - and ‘I Feel A Change Coming On’ - which I quite like. There are pleasant vocal moments (moments where he bothers to do other than just rasp with disgruntlement), and there is something about the smooth echo in the studio, and the structure of the melody, that on a first hearing reminded me somehow of Arthur Alexander. And that's high praise.

But I’m not re-listening. I’m going to wait for the album now. And though I welcome the comments posted on the subject already from three or four people (see a post or two further down) it’s absurdly premature to be writing a critique.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Michael, As to your comments re. BHLN and Black and Magic Woman. I had the same feeling when I first heard Woody Guthrie sing This Land Is Your Land knowing he was singing You Are My Sunshine. Pat Ford

3:03 am  
Anonymous Lee Morgan said...

Well Michael - cynic in me be damned - I have started to warm slightly to the first two tracks from the album. I also regret an earlier comment, where I referred to Beyond Here Lies Nothin’ as an “accordion-flavoured Someday Baby”.

Really, as minor as these songs are, I think the reason I have stuck with them is that there is a clarity in the recordings, a lack of ersatz solemnity, that actually distances them from Modern Times.

The audio is a lot less murky, hoisted by the accordion, and while the lyrics might be throwaway, it could be argued that their simplicity gives a vague sense of cohesion.

Saying they are more pleasing to the ear than Modern Times is probably damning them with faint praise; but they are far breezier than anything on that album, the sound of Dylan and his band doodling in the studio. For that reason alone, I imagine I will listen to this a lot more.

It is impossible to form an opinion on the rest of the songs based on 30 second clips, but they all seem to be cut from a similar cloth: Sketchy, insubstantial lyrics, loose fitting instrumentation and melodies with a heard-before feel.

Like you, I will now sit back and wait for the full release. In the meantime, it hopefully bodes well that the first two tracks have grown on me.

5:00 pm  
Anonymous John Carvill said...

What's the matter with me? I don't have much urge to listen to the online snippets of the new album.

Then again, I just read this:

"Dylan Rep confirms Robert Hunter co-wrote Together Through Life Lyrics"

Well, why not? Didn't they do a great job on 'Silvio'? Oh, mercy!

10:16 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, now we find out that all the songs on the new album, except one, were co-written with Robert Hunter (co-writer of the wretched Silvio). As the people at Isis, who broke the news, said : somewhat strange, that this hadn't been mentioned before among the avalanche of pre-release hype. How does this news strike you? I can't help but feel this is a letdown from an artist who's always been such a singular, idiosyncratic voice. Maybe it will be just a fun, throwaway bunch of songs, but I can feel my anticipation of the album ebbing away. If the publicity had played on this as a feature, perhaps it would have been easier to warm to the idea. Instead, they seem to have avoided it, possibly knowing what a dampener it would be on the enthusiasm of the "target market". Will the album itself be rewarding enough to dispel these feelings?

3:46 pm  
Anonymous Carl said...

hi michael! i have to say i am looking forward to the new album.the two songs that have been given to us in full so far seem to have more character than anything on "modern times", which might not be saying much.i fear that the sincerity we heard on "time out of mind" could be a thing of the past.songs that sounded like they came from real experiences and feelings dwindled on "love and theft" and were totally absent, i feel, on "modern times".But these songs,however minor,have some nice qualities.
although im not too sure if i like the sound of dylan croaking "you're as whorish as ever" as if it were a chat up line .it reminds me of his use of the word "slut"on "modern times", or "a woman like you should be at home, thats where you belong" from "infidels". i read an interview with Bob recently, where he says woman are always symbols of power in his songs.with that in mind, lines like these disappoint, dont you think?
Anyway,i cant wait for the new album.... roll on april 28th!!!!

10:32 pm  

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