Mojo Reviews Challenge #002 – World Gone Wrong – Bob Dylan

MOJO2_KDLangWhere I dig into something I’ve not heard before, from the reviews section of old Mojo Magazines, on an irregular basis.

#002 – World Gone Wrong – Bob Dylan

In the often rattled out argument between the Beatles and the Stones, my go-to 60s legend is usually Bob Dylan. He released 400 albums in the 60s, the least of which means more to me than the entire Stones and Beatles catalogue combined.

Which is odd that I have never ever heard World Gone Wrong.

Truth be told, I’ve probably known about this album almost as long as any other. It was the first Dylan album to be released in a time when I was aware he was still going. I remember one especially hip girl listening to it in school (I thought she was talking about The Screaming Jets album World Gone Crazy).

I followed Dylan happily into the late 70s but I lose track after Slow Train Coming. I have various compilations that cover off the 80s and onwards. I have a couple of the records, and since the groundbreaking Time Out Of Mind I have bought every Dylan since. I also have hundreds of bootleg recordings and other things.

It’s odd that I’ve avoided this one. First, it’s old timey songs and I love old timey songs. Second, it’s reputation is still pretty good. But I was always tracking down another love bootleg from 67 and ignoring all his late 80s and early 90s.

MOJO deemed it worthy enough to give it the lead, double page album review in their second issue. Dylan, even before Time Out Of Mind, was a big deal in their world. And the album before this one – Good As I Been To You – is the same as this album – old folk songs of just Dylan and guitar. It got pretty good acclaim.

This album is good – very good. If you hate the voice then there is little for you here. But it’s just Bob and a guitar and it’s such a lovely sound. The song choice is full of gentle, dark songs. Lots of murder and crime afoot. Lots of broken hearts. It feels like those strange puzzle songs he would write (and cover) in the 60s and 70s.

The title track which opens the record deserves to be placed on those Very Best Of Bob Dylan Volume 4 or something. It’s as good and as direct as anything he’s ever done. He’s still rocking out the blues guitar on things like ‘Broke Down Engine’, but it’s the sweetness of ‘Love Henry’ or ‘Delia’ that really hit home..

It’s also a nice short 10 track record. Every Dylan album since this one is 20 minutes (and sometimes 40) too long. It’s my one big complaint about recent Dylan. Just make 40 minute records, dude. This is like another version of Nashville Skyline. A lovely collection of traditional tunes from a man who knows his traditional tunes.

It’s odd to think of Dylan if Time Out Of Mind had not happened. Would he be just making albums like this every few years? Filed under folk and sitting with Loudon Wainwright III albums or something? I don’t know if that would be such a bad thing.

Now, to get Good As I Been To You.

Bob_Dylan_-_World_Gone_Wrong

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Top 10 Albums of 2012 So Far….Part 1

Here’s 10-6. The rest later.

10. Loudon Wainwright III – Older Than My Old Man Now

I have loved the last two LW3 albums – (“High Wide And Handsome” and “Songs For the New Depression”). In his later years, he has made thematic albums, and this time, to honour him being older than his father when he died, it’s about age. 15 songs all about getting older – either wanting life to last twice as long (‘Double Lifetime’), being nostalgic for sex (‘I Remember Sex’) or time travel (‘Date Line’) – it’s amazing that he picked a theme this time that gives and gives.

It’s his usual mix. A couple of witty and clever numbers, then a couple of jaw dropping songs of stark directness. ‘FCC – in C’ is my favourite of the lot. He even rocks out a little on ‘The Here And Now’. But mainly it’s his love of folk, bluegrass and since ‘High Wide And Handsome’ that banjo.

9. Lightships – Electric Cables

Lightships is Gerald Love of Teenage Fanclub. It’s his first solo record, and on his own, it’s pretty clear what he brings to his day job. It’s VERY pretty. Very twinkly. It’s close to Belle & Sebastian in many moments – or Real Estate. It’s dreamy, jangly pop or the Sarah Records variety. It sounds a little like a throwback to the British jangly 80s, but it’s warm and lovely in a modern way.

It’s a confident debut. Every note, every guitar line, every harmony is perfectly placed. It takes it time. On first listen it sounds a bit samey (it’s broken up nicely on vinyl) – but go for a walk in the sun with it. Especially by the water. It’s quiet and medative, bit it’s deep and interesting too. The vocals are lightly buried in the wall of jangly guitars – it’s an album about sound.

But some moments do threaten to break free of it’s relaxed mood – the stunning ‘Sweetness In Her Spark’ is a sure bet for the end of year playlist.

8. Regina Spektor – What We Saw From The Cheap Seats

This is at 8 because I feel like I’m still getting to know this album. And maybe because it’s not the knock-out Regina Spektor album that I keep waiting for. The single ‘All The Rowboats’ was a bit of a dummy pass. That restless, relentless single is unlike the rest of the album. Stripping away the production excesses of “Far”, there are plenty of Regina and piano moments here. She lets her voice and her songs shine through.

Pretty moments shine through on first listens. ‘How’ is breathtaking – the kind of ballad that would have probably been boring in other hands. There’s some touching intimacy, such as ‘Firewood’. And then just when it all gets a bit serious and well crafted, there’s ‘Rowboats’ and the brilliant, brilliant ‘Don’t Leave Me (Ne Me Quitte Pas)’. I mean, just calling a song that is a risky move – how could anything beat the Brel song? But it’s a bit of pure pop bliss.

It’s not as good as Begin To Hope – something has been lost. But it’s a solid yet eclectic album. I can’t wait to get to know it better.

7. Bruce Springsteen – Wrecking Ball

This album has like 7 or 8 of the best songs I’ve heard all year. None of them sound like they’re from the same album. And then a couple of the worse songs I’ve heard all year as well. And that’s Springsteen for ya. He attempts to reach the heights few others do – and he’s willing to risk failing by doing it. So, we have another late era, wildly inconsistent album by the boss. But still full of lyrical fire and rock ‘n’ roll power.

I find this album rattling around in my head all the time. Those thundering moments – the chorus of ‘Shackled And Drawn’, the cry of ‘Easy Money’ and the title track itself. There’s a folky feel to the rockers – like a strng band giving it all. He’s lost little of his fire over the years

Then there’s a couple of wonderful songs about spooky suburbia. ‘Jack Of All Trades’ is probably his best character study since ‘Devils And Dust’. ‘You’ve Got It’ is a man that is not afraid to look you in the eye and tell it to you straight. Great songs by a man who is still pumping out great songs, 40 years into his career.

Then why the fuck is there crap like the hip hop fusion of ‘Rocky Ground’? This album is all over the place. But hey, great in the iPod era – great when you shuffle through a 2012 playlist. Can you fault the man for trying? Maybe just 6 places you can.

6. Alabama Shakes – Boys & Girls

OK, so first of all, terrible album title. And cover. It’s enough to put me off trying this band out, despite all the great notices they’ve been getting from folks I respect. But I’m glad I did. This is a soulful rock record. I’ve been obsessed by the Stones of late, and the Alabama Shakes have been occupying the same place in my ears and heart.

Brittany Howard’s voice. What an instrument. You just know this voice will be with us for a couple of decades. But it’s not just Brittany’s show. The band are firing on all cylinders here. Tasteful but all over the place. Simple but rocking hard. It’s one for the riff heads – the guitar playing is extraordinary.

The band have some sort of hazy ‘save me’ sort of thing going on. It’s very gospel – which suits their sound. It’s not the most lyrically compelling moment – but hopefully that will come. But it’s rock ‘n’ soul – and something new as well. Finally some swing is back – and for once, I’m not alone in thinking this is a good thing.

100 for 2000 – #98. Loudon Wainwright III – High Wide & Handsome, The Charlie Poole Project

To end another wonderful decade of great music, I’m going to write about ten albums from each of the last ten years, that are either great, or hold some sort of personal significance. A musical kiss off to 00s.

2009 – #8. Loudon Wainwright III – High Wide And Handsome, The Charlie Poole Project
(Proper)

Funny what a few weeks can do. At the end of 2009, Loudon Wainwright III’s double album High Wide And Handsome was something I liked but barely had time to get to know. After a string of events, I gave it some time and I’m in love. Barely 8 weeks into the new year and I’m already rewriting history.

Some fact. This album is a tribute to Charlie Poole, and old timey rambler who you can find on the Harry Smith Anthology. As well as well known Poole songs, Wainwright wrote a couple of songs in his honour, and then a couple that taps into his spirit.

What’s great about this record though, is that you don’t have to know anything about Charlie Poole. It’s a proper modern Americana album, with eternal themes of good times, hard liquor, sentimentality and sadness. And at 30 songs, it never sounds samey – going from Brill Building pop to Gospel, bluegrass, honky tonk and quite a few other stops in between.

Terry Gross’s awesome radio program, Fresh Air (on NPR) did a long feature on this album. It was a great interview, which is what made me go out and pick this record up. More surprisingly, it topped Fresh Air’s best albums of the year list (along with, amazingly, Taylor Swift). Finally, the sad passing of Kate McGarrigle spurred me on yet again to give this album a few spins.

So yeah – if you like old timey stuff, you’ll like this. Wainwright‘s cheeky wit is still there. But it’s a bit more of a collaboration. And it’s sometimes a little odd how stright he plays it in some songs. But hey, he’s getting old and aging gracefully.

Here’s some songs I love, if you feel like checking them out. Ramblin’ Blues, Old and Only In the Way, The Man In the Moon, I’m the Man Who Rode the Mule Around the World. Then there’s the title track, written affectionately for Poole, but can apply to Wainwright as well. Both men lived life to the fullest.

So Wainwright won a Grammy for this old album. And he’s sounding really great on here. Maybe it’s a new chapter for him. I hope so.

No videos sadly, but this is a little trailer about the album, with some great insight.