Friday, October 15, 2010

Classic Dylan, for the first time.

Five days from now, on October 19, Columbia Records will release a "Bootleg Series" two CD set of early Bob Dylan recordings, The Witmark Demos 1962-1964. The set's title comes from these having been "demo" recordings Dylan made during the first two years of his recording career, mostly for the publisher Witmark Music, but a few of the earliest for another house. These recordings were not made for publication, but rather for the publisher to play for other recording artists who migiht be interested in covering them. Consequently, Dylan's approach to them is relaxed. Most of these songs were also recorded by Dylan for publication, and included on his early albums, from Bob Dylan (1962; follow the link and scroll down for some interesting commentary that appeared on the liner of this, Dylan's first album, then scroll down further for videos of earlier performances of some of the songs he covered on this album) through Bringing It All Back Home (1965), and a few on later albums. Some were never included in official Dylan albums, but only on bootlegs, and some others were never released by Dylan. As Michael Simmons noted in MOJO:
In addition to the obvious classics, there are renditions of little-known Bobtunes that in hindsight stand with his best from this time (15 of the songs here have never been officially released by Bob in any form). Long Time Gone is a powerful refutation of any attempt to tame the drifting protagonist. It includes the line "But I know I ain't no prophet / An' I ain't no prophet's son" - that predates the spokesman-for-a-generation furore (he may be more prophetic than he knows). With a sprightly rhythm, engaging melody and offbeat chord changes for the folk idiom, Guess I'm Doing Fine is another anthem of determination.
You can listen to 22 of the 47 tracks in this collection on the NPR website. The demo of "Blowin' in the Wind" struck me as better than the version released on The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, but this may just have been a "shock of the new" reaction. "Long Ago, Far Away", which I previously knew only from the Brothers Four Sing of Our Times album (you can play a sample here), seems badly recorded; Dylan's voice on "far away" sounding very screechy. The anthemic "When the Ship Comes In"--my favorite version has long been that of The Hillmen, Chris Hillman's pre-Byrds bluegrass group (listen here)--is here done by Dylan accompanying himself on piano, and done splendidly. Other songs I'd never heard, like the aforementioned "I'm Doing Fine", were especially pleasant surprises.

As Michael Simmons sums it up:
I'm betting a lot of young people of the 21st century will find comfort listening to this young man of the 20th as he begins his odyssey. All eras set challenges for young minds - and Lord knows everyone gets the blues. True artists make their own mistakes and learn their own lessons, but it never hurts to know where giants have trod before embarking on a journey of your own.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Amygdaloids, "Brainstorm", with Lenny Kaye and Steve Wynn

I've posted before about the Amygdaloids, a band consisting of New York University science professors and graduate students whose repertoire is made up of songs about the wonders of the human brain. The clip above shows them doing "Brainstorm" at the CD launch party for their new release, Theory of My Mind, at Don Hill's in New York City on October 8. Joining them for this song are guitarists Lenny Kaye, of the Patti Smith Group, and Steve Wynn, of The Dream Syndicate, Steve Wynn and the Miracle 3, and The Baseball Project.

Another song done by the group at Don Hill's (and also on the new CD) is "Fearing". The music video above, featuring lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist Joseph LeDoux and drummer Danielle Schiller, was directed by Noah Hutton.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Rays are gone.

It appears I really did manage to curse both the Twins and the Rays by supporting them in their respective division series. At least I'm now relieved of having to support a Designated Hitter League team for the championship.

Braves are out, and I'm sort of sad.

Yes, I know: not quite a month and a half ago I wrote here that a Yankees-Braves series would leave me with the vain hope that both could lose. To me, the Braves have seemed, despite their struggles in the postseason, the National League's version of the Yanks: swaggering, beloved of the pundits, and, most importantly, frequent nemesis of the Mets. How I came to hate the tomahawk chant they stole from Florida State! As with the Yanks, my dislike of the team did not extend to individual players (with the fortunately brief exception of the noxious John Rocker); in particular, I've admired the two unrelated Joneses, Andruw and Chipper, and am glad to see that the latter hasn't played his last game. As I've said, I'm now committed to the Rays (a commitment that may be extinguished tomorrow), but I'd have liked to see Bobby Cox, a rare genius of the game, at least get a league pennant in his final year.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Va fa Napoli, hipster.

I've posted before about culture war in Brooklyn, focusing on the fight between middle income car drivers who live in the outer parts of the borough and mostly affluent Park Slope bike riders. David Castillo, of Blue Barn Pictures, directed the photography for the video above; a clever take on the clash between older Brooklynites and recently arrived hipsters. Note that this also involves bikes.