Beautiful Melodies telling you Terrible Things vol. New Tune Tuesday: 1.24.12
It's a new year. I could say something witty or mind-blowing about it, but in the end, who cares? Another new number here, another memory blown there. The beauty of it all? Fresh ear bud is always in season, thus we tackle the first new tune tuesday of the year. Best of all? We tackle it a day late and a few dollars short...
RELEASE OF THE WEEK: (1.24.12): Chimes of Freedom: the Songs of Bob Dylan, Amnesty International, various artists
"Through the wild cathedral evening, the rain unraveled tales,
For the disrobed faceless forms of no position.
Tolling for the tongues with no place to bring their thoughts,
All down in taken-for-granted situations.
Tolling for the deaf an' blind, tolling for the mute,
Tolling for the mistreated, mateless mother, the mis-titled prostitute,
For the misdemeanor outlaw, chase an' cheated by pursuit,
An' we gazed upon the Chimes of Freedom flashing..."
I'm a sucker for cover compilations, just because I enjoy hearing different and unique artists tackle songs, good or bad, trying to make it their own. There are enough Dylan compilations to sink a battleship, and very few that I personal would recommend. 'Chimes of Freedom,' in all it's over-packed 4-CD set of good, bad and ugly, is one of them. Covering Dylan has been big business in it's day, there was a time in the mid-60's in which 24% of the top 40 was made of Dylan penned tunes. So much so that Columbia's main marketing strategy for Dylan was a "nobody sings Dylan like Dylan" campaign. True enough, most people who say Dylan is a great writer divide into two camps: the (to recall a John Lennon quote) ones who know "you don't even have to hear the words to know what the man is saying with that voice," and those who think his words are best covered. I'll leave the opinion up to you...This release takes into account the 50th anniversary of both Dylan's career and Amnesty International, which is rather coincidental since more often than not Amnesty is using a Dylan song as their theme. The man has written more songs about the various underdogs of life than any other, so why not?
Record executive Jeff Ayeroff was one of the main people in charge of this project, and he has the best way to describe it, Ayeroff said "Whatever I learned in the evolution of the album, I know people who pay $20 for this are not going to like every song...there are several records inside this album: a country record, rock, pop, there's an all female record of women interpreting Bob Dylan songs, which is probably the most significant part of the album for me. It shows that Bob speaks with many voices for many people." Indeed. From recent record mainstays such as Adele, Maroon 5, My Morning Jacket, Cage the Elephant, The Avett Brothers, Gaslight Anthem to artists from all throughout the years - Flogging Molly, Lucinda Williams, Eric Burdon, Joan Baez, Kris Kristofferson, Johnny Cash, Jackson Brown, Patti Smith, Steve Earle, Tom Morello, the list goes on and on. Over 70 songs are represented on this 4-disc set, and the shocker? Kesha (who left off the pretentiously stupid $ of her name for the track listing) and Miley Cyrus not only aren't the worst ones (in my opinion), but you almost believe that they, you know, sort of meant it. I roll the dice behind my shades every time I hear Kesha mention her Dylan fanship, yet here she strips away her trash-pop sound and gives it her all on "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right." I wouldn't say it's a favorite track on the set, as I'll be listening to, say, Lucinda Williams take on "Tryin' to get to Heaven," or Flogging Molly tackling "The Times they are a-changin'" more often, but, it was a surprise nonetheless. It's certainly not even the strangest track on the disc, another surprise.
The album appropriately opens with the version of "One too Many Mornings" from the 1969 Dylan/Cash sessions, with Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan (obviously), but with the Avett Brothers dubbed in (and yes, it works) and closes with Dylan's own version of "Chimes of Freedom," in between? A little bit of everything. Where are else are you going to find a bluegrass take on "Political World," a hardcore punk take on "Ballad of Hollis Brown," a mariachi flavored "Love Sick" or Evan Rachel Wood going almost old school jazz on "I'd have you Anytime" with a song that would make Zooey "Douche"-enel jealous? Right here...All in all I recommend this album, you're going to find some things you absolutely loathe, I know I did. But my opinion of trash maybe your treasure. There's something for everyone on this LP, and through the good, the bad and the ugly, you'll find some great covers of Dylan's material, while giving a few bucks to Amnesty International as that's where the proceeds go.
AVAILABLE ON: 4-CD Digipack including liner notes by Sean Wilentz, 2-CD condensed set at Starbucks, MP3 Download
Other Notable Releases (1.24.12)
Clear Heart, Full Eyes, Craig Finn
On break from his band The Hold Steady, Finn found himself in Austin, Texas making a record, and here it is. Portemaus' own Manny will love the title, referencing Texas based football show "Friday Night Lights," but this album isn't one that just any old fan of the Hold Steady will like. The Texas brewed songs certainly have their own style and own influences, and in my opinion it's an up and down title, songwriting is solid throughout but sometimes the production and sound falter. Not a bad album, and perfect for a winter release.
Available on: Vinyl, CD, MP3 Download
Hard Knocks, Joe Cocker
429 Records has built a reputation of grabbing well known artists who are perhaps now in their most famous period of career, grabbing them, and getting them to release some solid work. "Hard Knocks" will appeal to Cocker fans, as the classic Cocker sound, that mixture of soulful pop with the right amount of blues, is here in spades. Though I like the more bluesy less pop Cocker and also preferred his last effort, "Hymn for my Soul," fans should enjoy this one.
Available on: CD, MP3 Download
Tank Full of Blues, Dion
Bob Dylan (he appeared in some way earlier in this article I believe) once said Dion (who has opened for Dylan on tour many times) is a great singer, and even beyond that, is someone who's "genius has never deserted him." That's a big quote from a man who knows all to well the the way the muse can seem to come and go as it pleases. Continuing on from his bluesy and Grammy Award nominated return to form in 2006, "Bronx in Blue," we find Dion tackling an almost ragtime version of Chicago blues, and it's mixture of influences from Robert Johnson to Muddy Waters sets the stage for, as far as straight up "new records from a singular artist" go, my favorite release of the week. Study and full of the blues, the title hits the nail on the head. The opening title track, "Tank full of Blues," goes along with "Rides' Blues (for Robert Johnson)" and the spoken work "Bronx Poem" might be my favorite tracks on the disc.
Available on: CD, MP3 Download
That's it. See you next week as Leonard Cohen drops his first new record in almost a decade...