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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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Saturday, August 14, 2010

KANSAS CRY A WHILE

I've been sent a new comment by Judas Priest, ever hopeful of convincing me that Bob's current standard of performance is tremendous, concerning the recent Kansas City performance of the "Love and Theft" song 'Cry A While' - but because Judas (aka Garret) sent it to a post long since buried in the archives of June, it's likely to be missed by many readers, so I reprint it here:

Michael, I strongly recommend you have a look and listen to this - Cry A While from the recent Kansas show. The sound quality isn't particularly strong and alas not all of the song is captured but it's safe to say this one is back with a bang. He is absolutely nailing it. Good to see Donnie so prominent in it too. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YA9XDYjUyrk&feature=channel

Having heard it now, my own sense is that yes, he's on top of what he's doing, but what he's doing vocally is still unconvincingly weak and his onstage stance still perfunctory and stiff: essentially ungenerous (no doubt as I am being in response). I drifted on to hearing the same night's 'Workingman's Blues #2', which made me want to hear the album version for the first time in many months, and drifted on from there, soon reaching Roy Orbison's third single for Sun Records in 1957, 'Sweet and Easy to Love'. This was new to me, was indeed sweet and easy, and made me feel, wistfully, that at present Bob and Roy are equally missing, if unequally missed.

12 Comments:

Anonymous Jack Evans said...

I made it to Kansas City. I was there and Bob was anything but "stiff". The band was tight and one of the highlights was a very animated Bob during "Senor".
The band is firing on all cylinders. There is nothing
standing down there at 12th street and Vine by the way...
a sweet memory...

7:32 pm  
Blogger joe butler said...

Michae...l these utube postings are some of the best Iv'e heard,you can actually hear the organ on working man's blues and Hollis Brown borders on the acoustic.
lucky for Kansas, the last time I heard Dylan live in Birmingham most of the set melled into an indistinct blur.
I do think you are being somewhat ungenerous, is the onstage stiffness just age? even Tom Jones has slowed down!

On another tack? have you seen the interview where Dylan says he made a pact with Devil/God ? At what point in his career do you think he made this pact?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IqvvOD4bdRs

regards

joe

11:39 am  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

Hollis Brown: I listened to it all the way through, feeling after the awful uprasping at the start that it was getting better - that he might even have been paying the song some attention, though clearly the hall was full of people who weren't - they're milling about and talking throughout - and I was close to enjoying it, until the disastrous repeat-the-last-line-to-make-it sound-profound ploy. The young Bob Dylan who wrote the song, and who had a more mature sense of discretion, would never have done that. Indeed it used to be one of his many, many admirable qualities that he'd reach the end of a song without trumpeting it. As for example with the stinging last line of 'Positively 4th Street'. Other people used the obvious showbiz tool of signalling that a song's last line was coming up and then hitting you over the head with it. Bob had more taste back then.

But 'Senor', yes: I was sorry it finished in the middle. He was alive and doing some singing and sounding as if he was glad to be doing that song in the moment. Best thing I've heard from him in a while. (So we can agree about that at least, Jack...)

3:38 pm  
Blogger joe butler said...

michael
can i recommend a new book, which you may have heard of,
"Penetrating Aether: The Beat Generation and Allen Ginsberg’s America"
by Sean Wilentz

just read the first chapter and await publication.
didn't dylan say to Bonnie Beecher that she should hold on to some scribble of his because one day the Library of Congress would want it?

Read more http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2010/08/sean-wilentz-bob-dylan-in-america.html#ixzz0wqaJNre6

regards joe

9:52 am  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

Thank you for sending me to this. He writes enviably well, and through his mix of new detail and cogent connecting, makes fresh again a history we thought we knew.

12:03 pm  
Blogger jimmy said...

Missouri is where the concert was taken place Kansas City, MISSOURI!

2:48 pm  
Blogger Jen said...

Joe, the book is called "Bob Dylan's America." "Penetrating Aether" is the title of the excerpt in The New Yorker.

10:17 pm  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

I knew that...

10:44 pm  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

And that...

10:46 pm  
Anonymous Jack Evans said...

oh yes, Missouri... they would not let me be...
I had to leave there in a hurry...
I had to get to Lincoln for the next show...
Naturally, I got lost and ended up in industrial
Kansas(the state of)...
I think it is difficult to get a true feel for a show by watching you tube. Those are some good quality videos though and you can tell Bob is good, I met a couple in Kansas
City(Missouri) at the hotel bar and asked them what they thought of Bob. Mark said he was "amazingly engaging" . I think Bob is very pleased and proud of his band right now and his performances are reflecting this.
yeah, that "Senor" was something special. It is too bad they don't have a video of the full song. I got
to get the bootleg...
hey jimmy~ do they teach English in Missouri or do you have to go to Kansas to learn proper grammar?

2:12 pm  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

To go back to Sean Wilentz's book "Bob Dylan's America" (a very canny, commercial title, now that Bob is the personification of Olde Americana), I don't think it's breaking any confidences to say that I was able to read the draft of another chapter some months ago, because the author asked me to make any comments and suggestions I might have on the chapter concerning Blind Willie McTell. Which I duly did, while thinking that it was, again, very readable and used the material ingeniously and with real flair. Then after being thanked for my very minor help, the next thing I saw was a promo sheet for the book, bearing a few famous people's endorsement quotes, including one from my old friend Al Kooper, who wrote something about how Mr Wilentz's book felt as if he'd really been there, not like some of those other Dylan books he could name...

6:51 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with Clinton that the Dylan vocal on the 'Someday Baby' outtake is a far greater achievement than the vocal on 'Blind Willie McTell or 'Every Grain Of Sand' because of the age at which Dylan recorded Modern Times.

Presley,Sinatra and Pavarotti suffered considerable vocal decline in their later years.

The Kansas City 'Workingmans Blue's'is a great vocal performance in the same way his performances of 'Forgetful Heart' have been( and have nothing at all to do with " being lost in the boogie ").

The University Tour ( California ) 2004 with Campbell and Kimball on guitars has some of the most inspired harmonica playing Dylan has ever given us...again a far greater achievement than 1966 or 1981 because he was 63 years old. This tour has some great performances including 'Girl Of The North Country', It Ain't Me ,Babe', 'Blind Willie McTell' Man in the Long Black Coat' and a great (new words ) 'If You See Her say Hello'. They are great because he is in the moment,he is singing with real care and feeling and playing the piano as though he was discovering it for the first time.

I recently came across a review of the House of Blues concert 2008from a 19 year old man at his first Dylan concert... he said that his favourite album is 'Blonde on Blonde ' and went on to describe the concert as being a moving experience with great Dylan singing.

I am aware of his vocal mannerisms when he tries too hard to do something with his voice he can no longer achieve or when he performs so often that at the end of the tour his voice becomes at times something resembling a growl....November 2008, in contrast to House of Blues, is quite painful to listen to.

I still stand by my view that his old man voice is still a great voice.

Paul

3:55 pm  

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