Friday, July 03, 2009

Patti Smith/Bob Dylan

I recently bought the new albums of these two great geniuses of rock n' roll. Patti Smith's album is a cover album while Bob Dylan's feels like a very uninspired cover album (though it isn't).

I listened to the Dylan album once and for the life of me can't bring myself to another listen, it was that boring.

The Patti Smith album is in many ways just another cheesy covers albums, full of pretty expected covers of great songs like "Gimme Shelter" (as well as some odd ones like Tears for Fears, "Everybody Wants to Rule the World"), but in difference to the Dylan album I can't stop listening to this one.

It begins with a ludicrously awesome, Blakean, stark version of "Are You Experienced." It also features a fine version of Dylan's "Changing of the Guards" (from one of my favorite Dylan albums, the hysterically underrated Street Legal - in my view a much better album than Blood on the Tracks from a couple of years before), and an absolutely breathtaking version of "Smells like Teen Spirit" which does a much better job of evoking "old weird American" than anything Dylan has done since the 60s, promping one passenger of my car to exclaim "I'm so glad I was a teenager when the death wish was so fully ratified."

11 Comments:

Blogger Amish Trivedi said...

I disagree with you on Blood on the Tracks, but Changing of the Guards is by far one of my favorite Dylan songs. Does Smith keep that awesome horn hook that's in between those stanzas?

11:49 AM  
Blogger Johannes said...

No, she pares the song down. ALso none of the backup singing either. It makes the song strangely moving.

From Street Legal I also love Senor and the New Pony. From Blood on teh Track I mostly just like Idiot Wind. I think Blood on teh Track is probably the most overrated of his records.

Johannes

1:37 PM  
Blogger dcitro said...

New Pony with that raw guitar. Yes, great. It's the son of Meet Me In The Morning. Weird old America and covers: World Gone Wrong, one of the best late Dylan albums.

I tend to agree with you on BOTT, if only because of Tangled UP In Blue. I prefer Planet Waves. The new album is forgettable. No standout numbers.

5:08 PM  
Blogger Ross Brighton said...

I'm definitely interested in the Smith cover of teen spirit, though it's not my favorite Nirvana by a long shot- I love In Utero, but the rest doesn't do it for me. It's the music of my childhood, and the only "grunge" -ish stuff I still listen too is a little early Jane's addiction and Alice in Chains - the low, entropic, hopelessness of their work is amazing. I suppose I don't really agree with your freind, unless they were talking about a wider moment - NY in the 80s, with Lydia Luch still doing her thing, the inhuman deathmascine of SWANS, Clint Ruin's various projects....

10:11 PM  
Blogger Johannes said...

She was talking about teenage culture. Top 40 type of thing. Or maybe she was just talking about this particular song.

Johannes

8:44 AM  
Blogger Ross Brighton said...

I see what you mean - It's hard to see Wolf Eyes bombing it in the charts.

9:01 AM  
Blogger John Gallaher said...

I feel you're too hard on Blood on the Tracks, but spot on with Together Through Life, though I do like "Beyond Here Lies Nothin'".

I can totally hear Patti Smith doing "Everybody Wants to Rule the World." That throaty voice. And she likes ending long lines on words like "world."

9:38 AM  
Blogger Max said...

I'm not sure I've ever understood the adulation for Dylan. I can't think of any living legend more content to just sit back and soak up the millions. Oddly enough, his "sellout" move--strapping on an electric guitar--is the only non-sellout thing he ever did.

I think Dylan should be replaced by Neil Young in the public consciousness. Unlike Dylan, Young continues to display--and has for his entire career--a true excitement for music, and for the new. He is somehow folksy and avant-garde at the same time, making straight-up, old fashioned country records when it couldn't have been any less popular, playing with a vocoder on a nouveau doo-wop album in order to please his cerebral palsy afflicted son. And being brilliant at it.

I think Dylan's legacy should be diminished by the fact that he believes in his own legend, and has, in a lot of ways, become a folk diva as a result.

6:16 PM  
Blogger Amish Trivedi said...

I love Planet Waves. Dirge is amazing. We danced to Wedding Song at my (you guessed it) wedding.

Not entirely appropriate, but we cared not!

10:44 PM  
Blogger Ross Brighton said...

I'm not sure about that at all, much as I love Young. And I think you're way to harsh on Dylan. He never pretended to anything remotely avant-garde, though was groundbreaking to say the least - his first record record being a blues album played by a spotty-faced jewish kid.
The two singer-songwriters that I adore the most are Leonard Cohen and Scott Walker - the latter being a far better example of avant-garde/folk crossover until he threw in everything for avant-garde isolation and became a recluse.

6:05 AM  
Blogger Johannes said...

You know Max I don't find this discussion at all interesting. If you can't understand the adulation for Dylan, there's nothing I'm going to write that's going to change that, nor am I at all interested in doing so.

But you are incredibly ill-read if you view Dylan as "content" with his own myth. Few people in pop music as been more troubled by his own position; and few people who've made worse "career" decisions, frequently in an illconceived attempt to undo exactly the position you wish Young to inhabit.

I like Neil Young, but he hasn't done anything remotely as brilliant and visionary as Dylan's mid-60s work. And as far as selling out, I don't ascribe to that whole conceptual framework. But certainly, Neil Young has commmitted acts of much less problematic selling out - see under "CSNY" for example or "Harvest Moon" or its sequel. But like i said this argument is just not very intereting to me.

Johannes

8:40 AM  

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