‘Rough And Rowdy Ways’ is already here, Bob Dylan He has returned, or it would be better to say that the multiple Dylan have returned, and that is that, as he says in one of his new songs, this guy contains crowds. He is a false prophet and Dr. Frankenstein (pronounced Fronkonstin, wink, wink, nudge, nudge), a pirate and Calliope’s lover, an old bluesman and a voiceless crooner. Robert Allen Zimmerman He looks at death face to face and winks at someone who knows that he has achieved immortality, although he also knows that his appointment with the Grim Reaper, that black rider, is near.
At first let me remove the mask, I am not partial here, Dylan is my particular weakness, I can not count the hours, days, months of my life that I will have dedicated to listening to his work, to analyze his texts as an imbecile, to let me seduce by its melodies. Even so, the criticism that came from this ‘Rough and Rowdy Ways’ had me intrigued, many compliments and tens (although media such as the NME distribute tens as if they were free), much expectation. I liked the three advances, but wouldn’t we be going over with the papal bull that Dylan has? Well, it seems that no, obviously this is not a 10, the bad thing about being Dylan is that, first of all, you have to face your own work, that means with colossal albums that have changed the course of popular music like ‘ Highway 61 ‘,’ Blonde On Blonde ‘or’ Blood On The Tracks’. Is ‘Rough And Rowdy Ways’ at that level? No, these are monumental records without blemish, a small group in which to enter you must have marked a before and after.
But let’s go to the next question: is it an excellent album? Yes, it is, this work can look the two best albums of his mature work, ‘Time Out Of Mind’ and ‘Love & Theft’ in the face, and only time will tell if he is even better than them. What is evident is that we are facing a huge album by one of the most important references of the 20th century, which, at 79 years old, continues to make totally relevant music. Never before, since in ‘Time Out Of Mind’ did he joke about the fact that he thought he was going to see Elvis soon, Dylan had made an album in which death was so present. Who knows if he is saying goodbye in advance or teasing us … Here is a review song by song of the album:
I Contain Crowds
Dylan has not been through the bush since the beginning: “Today, tomorrow, and yesterday, too / The flowers are dyin ‘like all things do” (“Today, tomorrow and yesterday too, the flowers are dying like all things do “), in a song that has attracted attention for its comparisons with Anna FrankIndiana Jones or those English bad boys called the Rolling Stones. The first is evident, Dylan recognizes what we all knew, that there is not a single Dylan but a multitude, as he correctly interjected Todd Haynes in ‘I’m not there’, a movie played by six different actors, Cate Blanchett included. The thing about the comparison with Anne Frank and Indiana Jones has more chic than it seems, and it is Dylan recognizing two totally different things in himself and in his art, the deepest tragedy and the purest entertainment. It’s one thing that led me back to 1965, when asked about those lyrics that had everyone solving puzzles, Dylan laughed and replied that he considered himself “a man who sings and dances”, entertainment and high culture, the singer for honky tonks and the Nobel Prize.
Then he goes on to propose “I have a telltale heart, like Mr. Poe / I have skeletons on the walls of people you know / I toast to the truth and the things we said / I toast to the man you share a bed with / I paint landscapes, and I paint nudes / I contain crowds. ” It is a true toast to his polyhedral self, from Dylan to Zimmerman, from the Jew and the Christian, from the man who has already seen everything to whom he continues to be moved by a sunset and a dawn. Does not forget the fallen and winks at Bowie acknowledging his own age: “Oh, while I cannot frolic with all the young dudes / I contain multitudes (Oh, even though I can’t have fun with young people anymore / I contain multitudes”). The band provides a minimal accompaniment that their broken, but expressive, voice leaves the absolute foreground, it is that voice that alerts us: “I sleep with life and death in the same bed”
‘False Prophet’ is one of those appropriations that Dylan, and the Zeppelin, they are so fans, the song on which it is based is’ If Lovin ‘Is Believing’ by Billy “The Kid” Emerson but Dylan seems to agree with Tarantino, “the great artists steal, they do not pay tributes”. There is no doubt that it is a spectacular (re) interpretation, blessed be you Charlie SextonAnd then, as always, there is the lyrics, Dylan sounds full of confidence “I’m first among equals / Second to none / The last of the best / You can bury the rest / Bury ’em naked with their silver and gold / Put them six feet under and pray for their souls (I am the first to be the same / Second to nobody / the last of the best / You can bury the rest / Bury them naked with their silver and gold / Put them three meters underground and pray for their souls) “. Dylan seems to throw the mike as a rapper, and makes you wonder if he says it seriously or if he does it with a lopsided smile, what is clear is that if there is only one person on the rock planet who can say that, it is him Or was it them? Remember, this is just another face of Bob Dylan.
The raspy voice is in top form, the band can’t sound more compact, Sexton colors with class without needing to search for the spotlights for himself. And Dylan finishes with class: “I ain’t no false prophet / No I’m nobody’s bride / Can’t remember when I was born / And I forgot when I died (I am not a false prophet / I am nobody’s girlfriend / I don’t remember when I was born / And I forgot when I died) “. Sounds like what he said in the documentary Scorsese On the Rolling Thunder Revue, “This happened so long ago that I wasn’t even born!” What is not clear this time is whether or not he is wearing the mask.
My Own Version Of You
In ‘My Own Version You’ Dylan dresses as Doctor Frankenstein and shows that his sense of humor remains intact, in this case with a macabre point. The singer wants to bring someone back to life “so they feel the same way I feel.” And Dylan seems to say that to feel what he feels, you have to take parts from many bodies, from Pacino in ‘Scarface’ or Brando in ‘The Godfather’, by Liberate and of Leon Russell. Remember, he contains multitudes and has lived more lives than one can remember, he has been a tramp and folk troubadour, voice of a generation and electric poet, this man has been God and Judas in the same person. When all this happens it is normal for Dylan to ask himself about Hamlet’s immortal phrase: “Can you tell me what it means, to be or not to be?” Musically it has an air of mystery, of macabre waltz, with those slight touches of pedal steel. A song with a lot of class.
I’ve made up my mind to give myself to you
And if this is Dylan’s farewell album, he continues to acknowledge that he doesn’t have all the answers but, in the end, it doesn’t take a sage to know that love is the only thing that matters, what moves the world, “If I had the wings of a snow white dove / I’d preach the gospel, the gospel of love / A love so real, a love so true / I’ve made up my mind to give myself to you (If I had the wings of a snow white dove would preach the gospel, the gospel of love, such a real love, such a true love, I have decided to give myself completely to you. “
He is the most romantic Dylan, looking at himself in the music of the 50s, the time of the great ballads, the doo wop and the great Sinatra records. You can see her recent immersion in the American Songbook, listen to how she caresses the words with that sawdust voice, and understand that you can be a great singer without having a great voice, something that you will never know in Operación Triunfo.
At 79 Dylan knows that one can be eternally young, but even so, the shadow of death grows ever larger. With immortality already achieved, Dylan knows that the visit of the Grim Reaper cannot be avoided, whether you are the most humble person in the world or Bob Dylan, and he seems perfectly prepared for his visit: “Some enchanted evening I’ll sing you a song / Black rider, black rider, you’ve been on the job too long (Some enchanted night I’ll sing you a song, black rider, black rider you’ve been doing the job too long) “. It is the most spartan song on the record, a full-blown regret that sounds like a warning and puts all the focus on Dylan’s voice.
Goodbye Jimmy Reed
Another impeccable blues in which, hallelujah, we can also hear him playing the harmonica. Once again, he highlights his incredible way of singing, listen to how “give me that old time religion, it’s all that I need” attacks, Dylan likes his crude and dirty blues, and his prophets made a pact with the devil in a Highway 61 crossroads. A perfect song to dance in the joint that appears on the cover of the album.
Mother of Muses
Here the revolutions go down again, also the games and the winks appear again, Dylan becomes patriotic and praises the generals Sherman and Pattonbut don’t forget to Montgomery and ZhukovAt this point, Anne Frank and Indiana Jones are very clear about who the bad guys are (fuck Nazis). When he talks about Elvis and Martin Luther King it does it with the confidence of the colleague. He falls in love with Calliope, the greatest of the muses, and one knows that she reciprocated in sentiment, and that is why she was able to write ‘Desolation Row’, or ‘Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands’, or (put one of the , at least, 100 great songs that he has left us).
Crossing The Rubicon
Blues returns, this time a little calmer, more tight to the formula. It says a lot about the album that this good song is the least memorable of it. Dylan crosses the Rubicon once again, but he doesn’t sound as inspired as other times.
Key West (Philospher Pirate)
But it didn’t take us long to forgive him, specifically as soon as ‘Key West’ started playing and the magic gushed out again, it seems that Calliope gave him a hand again, there are loves that never die. That Key West is a real place and we know that Dylan has already been there, because he recognizes that “is the place to be, If you’re looking for immortality (it is the place to go, if you are looking for immortality)” . It sounds goodbye, it sounds sweet goodbye, is this the end? The endless tour ended? Is Dylan prepared to go to the place where those born on the wrong side of the train tracks go? Will he meet his beloved beat generation there? Will they be Louis Armstrong, Hendrix and Buddy Holly? Will be Otis singing ‘Try A Little Tenderness’? Many questions for a song in which his band stands out again. By God, you have to put a statue to Donnie Herron for his precious accordion, with which he does for this song what Charlie McCoy he was doing with his guitar for ‘Desolation Row’.
Dylan says that critics never look at our own mortality in their songs, that whenever they talk about death they do so in terms of the fragility of the human race, but never before has a song made it clear to me that Dylan doesn’t see his far meeting with Elvis, “if you lose your mind, you will find it here, Key West is on the horizon”. If it sounds like the final song it is because in a way it is, Dylan has placed the first nine songs on one album and has left ‘Murder Most Foul’ elsewhere.
Murder Most Foul
And is that this gigantic (in every way) song is a world by itself. It is Dylan’s reappearance at the right time, like in a movie, the (false?) Prophet returns when he is most needed, after years of hiding. In the midst of a global pandemic, with half humanity locked in his home, Dylan delivered his first song of his own in eight years. Not just any song, the longest of his career, a song that contains crowds, to a certain extent his own version of ‘American Pie’ (a song from 1971 in which he was already one of the most important characters), with the Kennedy’s death replacing Buddy Holly’s, and a journey through US history and the music that has accompanied it. Everything so 20th century, so folk, so jazz, so blues, so country, so rock & roll, myths of a time that no longer exists. Dylan once again shows the fragility of everything, of every human being, if they killed so easily the supposedly most powerful man on the planet, how ephemeral is life? And then, in the middle of a moment when the world was going crazy sharing playlists and so on, he asks Wolfman Jack for the biggest song list ever recited in a song. Songs of experience, songs that heal, songs of myths like Charlie parker, Elvis, Little Richard, Beethoven… myths like Bob Dylan. The music is a light cloak on which Dylan recites rather than sings this enormity that ends with a new request: “Put ‘Murder Most Foul'”. And you can not ignore it and go back to play thinking that it has done it again. Let’s toast that her romance with Calliope continues for a long time.