With Just A Hint Of Mayhem

Music trivia, useless info, extra added random stuff and the odd rant from me

‘Rough And Rowdy Ways’ – Bob Dylan July 2, 2020

Filed under: Review — justwilliam1959 @ 10:37 pm
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“Today and tomorrow and yesterday, too
The flowers are dying like all things do”

Thus begins Bob Dylan’s 39th studio album. His first of new material since 2012.

Bob is in a biblical mood on ‘Rough And Rowdy Ways’. He comes across like some kind of preacher. Each song an atmospheric sermon delivered over a melancholically minimalist sonic architecture. That minimalism is the main theme here, sonically. Many tunes eschew percussion completely, leaving a kind of softly strummed, string-drenched soundscape. Structurally, ‘Rough And Rowdy Ways’, seems to straddle two genres in the main: Blues and a kind of spiritual gospel, which fits perfectly the preacher/sermon comparisons.

Lyrically, this is a radically different album for Dylan. Where his past works wove an entirely original literary landscape (or universe) of fictional characters with roots in American folklore, ‘Rough And Rowdy Ways’ features real people and their literary creations. Gone are the Jokers, thieves and Sad Eyed Ladies Of The Lowlands. In their place you’ll find Anne Frank, Indiana Jones, JFK and all manner of other significant personalities from the last 60 years of Western culture. “I Contain Multitudes” is named for a line in Walt Whitman poem, for example.

Dylan of old was awash with metaphors and similes. Abstract imagery and far out concepts which Dylan absorbed from the worlds of art, music and literature. When he talked about “Ezra Pound & T.S. Eliot fighting in the captain’s tower” in “Desolation Row”, this was obviously used as a metaphor for the differences between their styles and for a young Bob Dylan to signal his literary love and knowledge. When he sings, on “Mother Of Muses”: “Sing of Sherman, Montgomery, and Scott/And of Zhukov, and Patton, and the battles they fought/who cleared the path for Presley to sing/who carved the path for Martin Luther King,” he really means, literally, to thank these generals and that Elvis and MLK couldn’t have done what they did without them. There’s no artifice or alternative interpretation. On ‘Rough And Rowdy Ways’, Bob says exactly what he means and means exactly what he says.

I don’t know if anyone would agree with this interpretation, but I get a feeling of encroaching mortality and tying up of loose ends from ‘Rough And Rowdy Ways’. It’s fair to say that Dylan is no spring chicken, and he’s not getting any younger, so I think it would be more surprising if he didn’t think about his own mortality. I already wrote, in my review of “Murder Most Foul”, that I thought Dylan was singing about things which had been occupying his thoughts for some time. I imagine when JFK was assassinated, Dylan thought to himself: ”I should write about that.” “Murder Most Foul” was, in my interpretation of the Dylan mythology, the old man finally achieving the ambitions of the young man.

This review has taken me longer than it should have because I have a had a hard time getting my thoughts in order about it, but in a display of serendipity, ‘Rough And Rowdy Ways’ made the news today, Friday 26th June, one week on from release. Today the BBC reported that Dylan has broken/set the record for oldest artist to have a number one album in the UK. This only a couple of short months on from Murder Most Foul becoming his first Billboard chart number one. We might all be having a rough year, but Bob Dylan seems to be having a great year. Career-wise. And where serendipity comes into this: if I had being able to write this review quicker, I would have missed this incredibly exciting news. <and if I had published it quicker you, dear reader, would have been reading this excellent piece from Tom in June! – Bill -Editor>

Written by Tom Ray.

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“False Prophet” – Bob Dylan May 9, 2020

Filed under: Review — justwilliam1959 @ 12:00 pm
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Despite late-night speculation over on my Blog a couple of nights ago, Dylan today released a new single, not an album. He did, however, confirm via a Tweet that his new album, Rough and Rowdy Ways, will be released on 19th June.

“False Prophet” follows Dylan’s current trend for sparse, minimal arrangements but the sound palette is very different. Consisting of a snarling, overdriven guitar and more rock-style drumming, “False Prophet” has a sleazy, blues-rock vibe, calling to mind smoke-filled pool halls and bourbon on the rocks.

Lyrically, Dylan seems to be denying that he is the titular false prophet while framing himself as a kind of underdog hero. He declares himself “the enemy of treason” and boldly declares “you girls mean business and I do too”. He’s “first among equals/second to none/last of the best/you can bury the rest”. A sliver of the carefully choreographed arrogance of the early days of his career shines through here.

The back-half of the song seems to be an apology for dragging his loved ones into the kind of life he lives. The kind of life the lyrics to his music appear to suggest he lives, anyway. It’s unlikely that Bob is really out on the streets at nights fighting the man and righting wrongs, but that seems to be the image of himself he’s trying to project in these lyrics. This isn’t necessarily a criticism from me. Dylan, after all, is an actor who has played many parts and created many characters across his career. His latest one is particularly well written and vivid.

Written by Tom Ray

False Prophet is out now on all digital distribution platforms. Rough and Rowdy Ways is available on 19th June.

“False Prophet” – Bob Dylan – Lyrics

Another day that don’t end
Another ship goin’ out
Another day of anger, bitterness, and doubt
I know how it happened
I saw it begin
I opened my heart to the world and the world came in

Hello Mary Lou
Hello Miss Pearl
My fleet-footed guides from the underworld
No stars in the sky shine brighter than you
You girls mean business and I do too

Well I’m the enemy of treason
Enemy of strife
Enemy of the unlived meaningless life
I ain’t no false prophet
I just know what I know
I go where only the lonely can go

I’m first among equals
Second to none
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

What are you lookin’ at
There’s nothing to see
Just a cool breeze that’s encircling me
Let’s go for a walk in the garden
So far and so wide
We can sit in the shade by the fountain-side

I search the world over
For the Holy Grail
I sing songs of love
I sing songs of betrayal
Don’t care what I drink
Don’t care what I eat
I climbed the mountains of swords on my bare feet

You don’t know me darlin’
You never would guess
I’m nothing like my ghostly appearance would suggest
I ain’t no false prophet
I just said what I said
I’m just here to bring vengeance on somebody’s head

Put out your hand
There’s nothing to hold
Open your mouth
I’ll stuff it with gold
Oh you poor devil look up if you will
The city of God is there on the hill

Hello stranger
A long goodbye
You ruled the land
But so do I
You lost your mule
You got a poison brain
I’ll marry you to a ball and chain

You know darlin’
The kind of life that I live
When your smile meets my smile something’s got to give
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


The pictures were found via Google if one of them is yours and you would like it removed or would like a credit please let me know. The lyrics were sourced from Far Out Magazine.

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