modern times revisited

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1 jan. 2008, 15h18m

Bob Dylan's Modern Times was probably the one album release i looked forward to the most. i knew three of his last four albums containing original music (Oh Mercy, Time Out of Mind, "Love and Theft") were masterpieces, and in the five years since his last album he had made some of his best live music, with probably his best-ever touring band. i could hardly wait to see what his bob-ness would bless us with next, and yet i patiently abstained from downloading the leak and bought it on the release date right after school. and was profoundly underwhelmed. as i listened the first time, i kept thinking, "this is like a crappy remake of 'love and theft'." but i made no public declaration of my disappointment, because i knew that, of anyone's, dylan's required time and repeated listening to grow on someone. whether or not i actually believed i would come to like these boring, long, oldy moldy 30's crooner songs, i honestly can't remember.

and now, more than a year on? it's grown quite a bit on me. while it's not even the best dylan album of the decade, i can now see how it has an identity distinct from "love and theft", with certain qualities that even surpass its sublime predecessor. Rollin' and Tumblin', Beyond the Horizon, and The Levee's Gonna Break have not yet grown on me. furthermore, the music in these songs has been stolen wholesale from "rollin' and tumblin'", "red sails in the sunset", and "when the levee breaks". of the other songs, Thunder on the Mountain and Someday Baby are enjoyable but hardly substantial. which leaves us with only five great tracks.

although i didn't realize it until i had heard both these tracks on bootlegs from the amazing 2007 tour, Spirit on the Water and Ain't Talkin' rank up there with dylan's other great, mysteriously majestic, weird epics (if you disagree, might i recommend "spirit on the water" 6/30/07 bethel, NY and "ain't talkin'" 4/9/07 amsterdam). Working Man's Blues #2 and Nettie Moore are almost as good. and When the Deal Goes Down is his best straight love song since 97's Make You Feel My Love. here's hoping Garth Brooks doesn't cover it.

in my mind, this album has been indelibly linked with the incredibly inspired 2007 chapter of the never-ending tour. what makes the never-ending tour so special for me is the complete lack of reverence he has for his own catalog, the ways in which he exploits his own songs, at times destroying them to find new means of expression. he may have destroyed the digital recordings found on the "modern times" CD i waited so long for, but he opened my mind to secret worlds hidden here―some of his best, in a career full of hidden secrets.

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