Song of the day: Bob Dylan

This will be a new feature, not necessarily daily. Just getting back to what I wanted to do most on this blog — talk about great music. The links will go to Rhapsody, where you can usually get one free listen.

Most Of The Time by Bob Dylan

(In this case, you can get lyrics and a free listen at bobdylan.com. I guess his catalog is a little too deep for a four-song burst at MySpace.)

I’m no Dylan historian, but I know enough to know that 1989’s Oh Mercy stands out among his post-70s output. He rambled about the recording process in his recent autobiography, so it apparently meant something special to him as well. It’s one of many fine Daniel Lanois productions, unfathomable Stephen Thomas Erlewine objections notwithstanding. (Seriously, Stephen, did you forget how important The Joshua Tree really was … and is? Listened to Emmylou Harris’ Wrecking Ball lately? Lanois wasn’t some trendoid, flavor-of-the-decade producer.)

Back to the song at hand — Erlewine’s AllMusic cohort Thomas Ward does it justice: “Most of the Time is a hugely affecting, emotional song which displays all the hallmarks of Dylan’s genius of understatement and subtlety.”

The concept is the blues standard of suffering with dignity. With a gruff vocal that’s equal parts resolute and resigned, Dylan describes an ex-lover — perhaps recent, perhaps long-ago — and insists in various ways that he’s over her … most of the time.

It’s a typically sparse Lanois production. The bass line chimes in with a melodic counterpoint, then fades into the mix. An electric guitar noodles some country-blues leads over soft acoustic guitar. Chord changes come from nowhere, shifting so subtly that I can’t even name the instrument that sounds the change. It’s almost as if the mood changes, not the chord.

Together, it’s almost as if Dylan is winking at you as he sings. “Shhh, don’t tell anyone about this. But yeah, I still think about her.”

I can smile in the face of mankind.
Don’t even remember what her lips felt like on mine

Sure he does. And it’s not necessarily a bad memory. Maybe bittersweet. Maybe wistful.

Bottom line — it’s a memory, one that’s fading fast in Dylan’s rear view on a long, long road.

Song for a sad day

The NCAA Tournament is bloody unfair when you get right down to it. On the men’s side, my team has had some good luck (especially my senior year) and bad luck. On the women’s side … geez.

I can’t actually talk about it. So instead, I’m offering a video full of humorously overstated melancholy.

If anything is getting you down today, this will help. Enjoy.

Reasons why I’m becoming less and less enamored of the Web

1. Less information-sharing, more shouting at each other. That’s the big one. I could and probably should write a book on the subject. But I’d have to call it something like “A$$holes: How Special Interests Are Hijacking Your Freedom” to get anyone to read it.

2. When I do a Technorati search on my work blog, I get a bunch of automated aggregators pulling in anything that mentions a keyword — soccer, Andy Roddick, HGH, etc. I think I’ll work in the word “nudity” tomorrow just to see what happens. (Because I mention a lot of Olympic athletes, I do get the occasional search for “gretchen bleiler nude” and so forth.)

If you go by sheer readership, I write a very successful blog, but I get far less feedback on it and have far less impact than I did when I was scratching out a column for a mid-sized paper almost 15 years ago.

3. The waves of the future are (A) blogs that harness all the shouting and (B) multimedia projects that will undoubtedly win all sorts of awards but tell me nothing and give me no narrative cues.

If you could go back in time and tell the 14-year-old computer geek I once was that the future would revolve around a giant information-sharing network in which skill with words and programming would be highly valued, I would have been thrilled. “Geek” as a compliment? That’ll be great!

I’m venting a little here, but the optimist in me has a question. What can we do to reclaim the Web? Should we just hang out in outposts of sanity like the music blogs I’m frequenting more and more these days? Or do we need some sort of grass-roots movement to change the whole bloody thing?

Live-blogging VH1 Classic, revisited

Another morning with the TV …

Blondie, Call MeLooks like one of those “videos” compiled from various bits of home movies years after the fact for purposes of fleshing out a DVD release. It’s basically a love letter to Debbie Harry. She’s on stage, she’s walking around New York, she’s goofing off at a photo shoot, she’s at the beach. Even those of us who grew up with a crush on her (in other words, all men between age 34 and 80) might find it a little tedious. And it cuts off just as Jimmy Destri is getting into the synth solo. Poor Jimmy. I remember seeing a live Blondie video in which his keyboards had some sort of sound problem, cutting off the first few seconds of the solo while he looked perplexed.

John Fogerty, The Old Man Down the Road — To fully appreciate this video, you have to remember the air of mystery around Fogerty at this time. He had been hiding out from the public for years. So a video in which he makes brief, curious appearances was perfect. Great concept, too — a guitar cord snakes for miles through a bunch of incongruous scenes. There’s a man on a dilapidated porch, then a jaded woman in a limo, then a married couple dancing on a lonely road. Good stuff, though tech geeks will wonder if they at least gave Fogerty a monitor. He’s miles away from his amp, for crying out loud.

Phil Collins, You Can’t Hurry Love — One of those early Collins videos in which the “concept” is that he is both the lead singer and two backup singers. To avoid distraction, the director puts nothing else in any frame. We think that’s what Phil would’ve wanted.

Romantics, What I Like About You — Four guys playing on stage, likely unaware that they were recording a rock standard. The drummer/singer flirts with the camera, oblivious to the fact that he’s not exactly a good-looking guy. And his technique is unconventional, to say the least. Left hand on the hi-hat, right arm pinched against his body as he barely clears the rim on the snare. Charming stuff.

Ashford and Simpson, Solid — Strange song. Unforgettable pop hook, dropped into an odd key-shifting morass of synths and drum machines like a piece of filet mignon dropped into a Hardee’s cheeseburger. The video features the two of them singing uncomfortably toward each other.

A “plot” floats in and out. Oh, she’s scared? She’s looking around at the approaching gang of toughs. Oh no! But he’s reassuring her. And here they come — oh, they’re the backup singers! What a relief.

Patti LaBelle, New Attitude –The director clearly didn’t know how to deal with the way LaBelle’s hair filled the whole frame. So it’s LaBelle’s hair, cut to dancers, cut back to the hair, back to the dancers. Hair, dancers, hair, dancers, fingernails. Thank goodness for the fingernails. Without them, the video might have been boring or something.

Peter Gabriel, Superstition … er … Sledgehammer — Such an original video for such an unoriginal song.

Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush, Don’t Give Up — The entire video is a hug between the two singers, with one of those fake “sun” backdrops so common in the ’80s. It’s a sweet song, though I was never all that enamored with the complex rhythms of the verses.

Roger Waters, Hello (I Love You) — Waters has apparently done a spinoff of Is There Anybody in There? for a new film called The Last Mimzy. VH1 Classic just happened to have an ad for that film, which appears to be about a couple of kids getting telekinetic, interdimensional power of some kind. Seemed like fun, but then add Waters wailing like he’s recording a sequel to The Wall, and I don’t know what to think. IMDB says the kids are going to a “strange and sometimes terrifying world,” but with Rainn Wilson in the cast, could it be that terrifying? The video had a few clips from the movie and a couple of the kids in the studio with Waters while he goes over the orchestral score and lays down the tracks. Wikipedia has a quote from Waters — something about the clash of man’s best and worst instincts and a child’s innocence winning the day. It’s no wonder our kids are under such pressure these days — all our films demand that they save the world with their innocence. That has to get tedious.

(Interesting ad for Tommy Shaw and Jack Blades — separately of Styx and Night Rangers but together of Damn Yankees — doing an acoustic tour and singing Yes’ I’ve Seen All Good People.)

Then we shift into “Classic/Current,” in which they pair old and new videos by the same artist.

U2, One — The least interesting of the videos for this song — the one with Bono sitting with a drink while dull scenes unfold elsewhere. My favorite was the running buffalo, which was a beautiful image of fragile but enduring life.

U2, Window in the Skies — Gotta have a montage! This one splices together footage of a bunch of Hall of Famers performing. A lot of Elvis, a bit of Beatles, some Stevie, the Ramones, Nirvana.

Filter, Hey Man Nice Shot —
Might not hear it much on the radio these days, but this is one of those songs that’ll stick in your brain for a while. The brooding synth-bass verses give way to a classic-rock guitar cascade in a screaming chorus. And it’s a memorable topic for a rock song — the press-conference suicide of a scandal-plagued politician. Lyrically, the semi-ironic detachment doesn’t seem to work these days, but it’s still powerful musically.

Army of Anyone, Goodbye — I didn’t think Filter was still around, and this is indeed frontman Richard Patrick’s new project with a couple of former Stone Temple Pilots. It sounds … exactly like an STP song with Richard Patrick singing instead of Weiland. It’s riff-driven rock with a change in tone for the chorus, almost the opposite of Nirvana’s typical “soft verse, loud chorus” approach. The video is mostly a performance clip, particularly when drummer Ray Luzier cuts loose at the end. This could be put to effective use in a dramatic TV or movie scene, but I can’t imagine putting it in heavy rotation on the iPod.

Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson, Folsom Prison Blues — Classic tune, but I can’t hear this without thinking of Krusty the Klown singing, “I’m just visiting Springfield Prison, I get to sleep at home toniiiiiight.” Willie plays a little acoustic solo.

Johnny Cash, God’s Gonna Cut You Down — Obviously, “Classic/Current” stretches the definition of “current.”

Red Hot Chili Peppers, Give It Away — I wish they’d follow this with the Weird Al parody instead of some dreary, de-funked meditation on California. Oh well. I’ll just bob my head to this one for a bit and then get to work.

Good morning to all.