Evi Vine’s “BLACK​/​/​LIGHT​/​/​WHITE​/​/​DARK”: album review

Evi Vine’s 2019 record, “BLACK​/​/​LIGHT​/​/​WHITE​/​/​DARK,” distills her moody drone-goth sound into a finely tuned emotionally magnetic essence. Playing this record over and over is less like listening to ethereal darkwave songs and more like being immersed in a liquid texture, an organic inhaling and exhaling of the feelings evoked by her spacious and highly contoured arrangements.

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Evi Vine’s “The Musical Boxtleg”: live album review

Evi Vine included this bootleg live CD as a bonus extra when she shipped me the albums I’d ordered. It’s a fantastic listen after hearing her first two spacious moody ethereal darkwave records, adding so much more depth and context to her music. The performance sounds so direct and intimate, and the live versions really heighten the intensity, demonstrating how much emotional openness and vulnerability Evi brings to each song. These arrangements feel a touch longer and dronier, leaning into a kind of stoner doom goth vibe that also draws on organic math rock a-la early Mogwai. The blend is effective, with what sounds like a minimal set of instruments producing quite a sonic landscape.

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Evi Vine’s “Give Your Heart To The Hawks”: album review

Evi Vine’s 2019 record “Give Your Heart To The Hawks” continues the dreamy sombre ethereal darkwave sound of 2011’s “.​.​.​and so the morning comes,” with her Tori Amos-meets-Love Spirals Downwards vibe taking one some echoes of Massive Attack, Portishead, and Silver Mt Zion. This is emotionally and sonically rich music, pensive and moody, introspective and spacious.

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Evi Vine’s “.​.​.​and so the morning comes”

If not for the press around Wayne Hussey and Simon Gallup joining forces in a kind of super group / collective project called Beauty in Chaos, I may not have come across Evi Vine. But of all the tracks on those records, hers stood out and stuck in my head because of her unique blend of elements from ethereal darkwave, goth and shoegaze, and her Tori Amos meets Love Spirals Downwards voice. I’ve acquired most of the catalogue and am enjoying it immensely so far.
2011’s’ “…and so the morning goes” makes use of the instrumentation you’d expect in this genre – such as guitar and bass – but the arrangements demonstrate a wider range and depth, featuring harp, cello, violin and keys. The overall sound is less on the heavier broodier side of goth and more on the ethereal dreamy somber side, with a beautiful fluid organic feel. The overall sound has elements as I said of Love Spirals Downwards and Tori Amos, but also reminds me of Autumn’s Grey Solace, with a little Kate Bush and Mazzy Star in there too, perhaps.

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Bob Dylan’s “The Rolling Thunder Revue: The 1975 Live Recordings”: collection review

We were somewhere in the desert between LA and Vegas, heading from one to the other, it was day or it was night – I don’t remember. My buddy was driving, and I had bud or a bud or both in my hand. This was years ago.
He threw on a Dylan CD. I’d heard quite a bit of Dylan by then, but I had a long way to go. What came on the speakers blew me away and stopped my mind dead in its tracks: here was Dylan, but he was on fire, barreling like a freight train down the line of old and new songs, with a strange gypsy acoustic-meets-electric blend, full of precious harmonies, intense violin solos, drama and emotion, tight and drilled, yet organic and breathing. Old acoustic ballads now stomped with a bluesy momentum; protest songs had a sense of humor and a maturity without lacking any of their youthful bite. It was a mystical experience, showing me how you could take a song and re-work it, change it, recast it. Something about the structure of songwriting, the nature of composition, was laid bare to me there in that desert car-ride as Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue Bootleg Series 5 unrolled down the highway. It was an emotional time, the dying embers of my first chapter of life in the US, fleeing into the desert one last time before fleeing the continent leaving behind the blazing ruins of a life-changing relationship, heading into some dark days in the rain sodden streets of Dublin, and an eventual rebirth.

I credit that album, and my subsequent thirst for every Dylan song I could get my hands on, with my journey into real songwriting, producing a frenzy of work in the subsequent years that launched me in new directions.
That Bootleg Volume 5 holds a special place in my heart, so I had mixed feelings upon seeing an entire box set coming out. Would this dilute that distilled magic? Would this be just too much, too many outtakes?
No. No it would not be too much. Not for me.
For the average Dylan listener, perhaps this is another overkill release – 14 discs and over 10 and a half hours of music. But I absolutely loved listening to every minute of this collection.
From the first take of “Romance in Durango” you can hear the band start off out of sync, messy, disjointed, off-harmony, yet as the minutes roll by the band tightens, begins to find their connections, the harmonies coalescing and a vibe and sound emerging. It’s a joy and a fascination to hear how that eventual explosive live sound came together, Dylan and Baez choosing songs almost randomly to try. You can hear Dylan teaching the chords and structure to people, eavesdrop as the assembled musicians get a load of Scarlett Rivera for the first time, catching “Scarlett fever.” A re-work of “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” is ponderous compared to final result, but it’s incredible to hear the tempo suddenly pick up halfway through, landing on a faster pace much closer to that unstoppable final product. There are rhythm changes and arrangement and timing experiments, such as the evolution of “Isis” as Dylan seeks the right spacing and punctuation.
Older songs go through stages of rebirth and regeneration. There’s a version of “Just like a woman” that is breathtaking in its beauty. Songs like “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” receive new verses. Songs rarely performed are here given their moment – “Wheels on Fire” and “Spanish is the loving tongue.” There’s the spellbinding reuniting of Dylan and Baez, such as the achingly mesmerizing “I Shall Be Released.” There’s a truly unbelievable solo version of “Easy and Slow.”

Along with that inside the studio view of how Dylan led his band through those rehearsals, there’s a wealth of less heard or previously unreleased material. Maybe some of this is out there on off-bootlegs, but I’d never really heard “The Ballad of Ira Hayes” before, aside from seeing it featured in Martin Scorcese’s “Rolling Thunder Revue” film. And that film, in fact, was the impetus for this entire collection. In listening through all the recordings and viewing the raw video footage, the assemblers of this collection felt that this stuff had to see the light of day and be listened to.
At the time of these rehearsals and of the first leg of the Rolling Thunder Revue, Dylan’s “Desire” had not yet even been released, and while some of the core musicians had been in those recording sessions, the songs must have been new and unknown to plenty of others, and definitely unfamiliar to audiences. The songs are new and fresh, with Dylan still perfecting and discovering how they should really sound, despite already have recorded versions for “Desire.”

If you’ve heard the “Rolling Thunder” bootleg series volume 5 record, you’ll have a sense of how electrifying and special these moments were, these historical documents of a peak time in Dylan’s performing life, in the life of the assembled compatriots, in how that music fit the times and reflected back on the times they’d all come from, and how that time was passing and passed.
If you haven’t heard that bootleg 5, and don’t feel you need 14 discs and 10 hours, then you should still go get a copy of bootleg 5.
Either way, all 22 tracks from that bootleg 5 are on this extended collection, too.
Listening to each disc twice in a row over several days – immersed in that period of Dylan – was an absolute joy.

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Kælan Mikla’s “Undir Köldum Norðurljósum”: album review

I’ve loved Icelandic ethereal synth darkwave act since I first saw them on the lineup for Robert Smith’s curated Pasadena Daydream Festival a couple of years ago, and checked out their sound. Their first few albums feature a heavy focus on emotionally wrought powerful vocals that border on screaming, laid over a brooding early Cure vibe. Laufey Soffía has demonstrated plenty of times that she can sing more melodically (one track on the “Mánadans” collection of early works; a few places on “Nótt Efter Nótt”) underscoring the fact that her more intense voicing are by choice and not necessity or limitation, yet “Undir Köldum Norðurljósum” seems to be where she shows herself most comfortable with her melodic singing voice, those shriller lamentations relegated to backing vocals deeper in the mix. The result is a beautiful and entrancing record, showcasing this impressive trio’s ongoing evolution and maturing.

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Bob Dylan’s “Travelin’ Thru, 1967 – 1969: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 15”: album review

The bootlegs are coming fast and furious now. I remember when Bootlegs 1 to 3 were strange mystical experiences, a sort of overground underground or lesser-know Dylan that not everyone listened to. We’re a long way from that now. Volume 15 looks at the period of 1967 to 1969, a weird time in Dylan’s life following a motorcycle accident and recovery, rumors swirling over a drug addiction bottoming out and a hushed cover-up. Secluded in the woods outside Woodstock, new work started to surface – stripped down; less drug-frenzied and hallucinogenic; scattered and disjointed, unlike prior releases. Some fans were disappointed, and some still are, at the left turn following that mythical set of mid 60s records. Dylan was reinventing himself, not for the first time.
Those strange records – “John Wesley Harding” and “Nashville Skyline,” to be followed by the highly derided Self Portrait and then “New Morning” – are richer than maybe first understood. For fans expecting a continuation of the line from “Bringing it All Back Home” through “Highway 61 Revisited” to “Blonde on Blonde,” or hoping maybe for a return to those dark brooding folk poet warrior days of the first acoustic albums, these records were confusing. Looked at without those expectations they are more easily enjoyed on their own merits as collections of exceptional songs.
The bootleg collections around “Self Portrait” and the Basement Tapes in particular really help to show the slow gradual searching evolution, the love of the inheritance of songs that Dylan was moving through, the pure joy of playing and trying things. Bootleg 15 is a great addition to this extra context, and it’s surprisingly good.
The 43 minute 15 track disc 1 of “John Wesley Harding” and “Nashville Skyline” session alternate versions and takes, in particular, is as good as either of those two albums. Take for example the great slower version of that truly cryptic song “As I Went Out One Morning,” or the faster and less ballad-driven version of “I Pity the Poor Immigrant.”
As regards the other two discs in the collection – those are probably more of a record for Dylan historians and collectors, than the average fan. A lot has been written about the hit-and-miss nature of the Johnny Cash sessions, and the mismatched non-harmonies and missed cues of the single track that made it onto “Nashville Skyline” – “Girl From The North Country” – is an accurate reflection of those sessions. The live performances on these discs are probably better than the rehearsals – include a beautiful rendition of “I Threw It All Away” which makes you wonder how these new songs sounded to audiences that had hardly seen a live Dylan set since the prior decade. The live “Living the Blues” serves as a decent bridge between the frenetic blues 60s Dylan sound and this early 70s country retreat Dylan. The live “Girl from the North Country” is arguably better than the version that made the album.
Is there enough here to have made an entire Dylan/Cash album, or even EP? Perhaps…
There’s a pretty decent “Ring of Fire” labeled as an outtake, and a spirited “Folsom Prison Blues” with a crazed tempo increase at the end which suggests they were having a lot of fun in the session.
Some of the other songs seem to approach the level that would be acceptable releases, but many songs feature aborted verses, jangled lyrics, odd melodic guesswork, or dissolve into laughter. While these two discs make an endearing record of the meeting of these two great American songwriting icons, it’s probably not as strong as some of the other bootleg series editions. As for the Scruggs tracks – for some of the Scruggs seems barley audible, unsure how to insert himself.

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Michael Wolff’s “Landslide: The Final Days of the Trump Presidency”: book review

When I reviewed Wolff’s “Fire and Fury” I said that “I already knew Trump was a raving moronic imbecile of the highest order, surrounded by a cadre of dangerous kooks, unqualified idiots, hangers-on, right-wing leaders and enablers, apologists and yes-people.” I have not yet read, but have a copy of, Wolff’s follow-up “Siege,” and expect it will be a similar experience. His third Trump book, “Landslide,” certainly does not offer many surprises, but serves as yet another historical record of how unhinged and chaotic those final chapters in Trump’s tenure were.

Many books will be written this year and in the ensuing years about the immediate and long-term impacts of Trump’s ascent to and brief time in the White House, and Wolff’s book will form yet another valuable perspective for us and future generations. And like I said, while there were no massive shockers, the book served as yet another of the many detailed reminders of precisely how ridiculous and nuts some of those events were. There are many horrendous examples to choose from, but let’s take, for starters, Sidney Powell’s irresponsible and ultimately damaging conspiracy fantasies, spewing dangerous speeches where “virtually not a single word had any basis in reality of even possibility”:

What we are dealing with here, and uncovering more by the day, is the massive influence of Communist money through Venezuela, Cuba, and likely China in the interference with our elections here in the United States. The Dominion Voting Systems, the Smartmatic technology software, and the software that goes in the computerized voting systems herein as well, not just Dominion, were created in Venezuela at the direction of Hugo Chávez, to make sure he never lost an election after one constitutional referendum came out the way he did not want it to come out…
Now, the software itself was created with so many variables and so many back doors that can be hooked up to the internet or a thumb drive stuck in it or whatever, but one of its most characteristics features is its ability flip votes. It can set and run an algorithm that probably ran all over the country to take a certain percentage of votes from President Trump and flip them to President Biden, which we might never have uncovered had the votes for President Trump not been so overwhelming in so many of these states that it broke the algorithm that had been plugged into the system, and that’s what caused them to have to shut down in the states they shut down in. That’s when they came in the back door with all the mail-in ballots, many of which they had actually fabricated, some were on pristine paper with identically matching perfect circle dots for Mr. Biden. Others were shoved in in batches; they’re always put in in a certain number of batches, and people would rerun the same batch. This corresponds to our statistical evidence that shows incredible spikes in the vote counts at particular times and that corresponds to eyewitness testimony of numerous people who have come forward and said they saw the ballots come in the back door at that time.

As Wolff writes, despite being “disturbed, paranoid, hallucinogenic, and ludicrous,” Powell’s “delivery was [so] precise and articulate” as to make it “seem all the more like a put-on.” Yet, many were put over, and convinced. Months later, when faced with a monstrous lawsuit, she explicitly argued that she could not be held liable for defamation because no reasonable person ought to have believed anything she had said.

Some White House aides, in trying to understand how they’d gotten here, would agree that the tale of the frog in the pot of slowly heating water might describe their situation: somehow they did not realize they were being boiled alive. But now they knew, and nearly all marked Rudy’s hair dye press conference as the moment when they could no longer, in any fashion, deny that the Cartesian world had ended.

Wolff’s book, among others written about this period of American history, documents in detail, using a wide array of cross-checked sources – though none of that will pierce the fog of reality-dismissing journalism-disdaining loyalists crying out “fake news” as if those words somehow constituted a valid counter-argument against anything – how Trump “abdicated his proscribed and daily duties and turned from the most crucial issues of the moment” as no sitting president previously has.

But who was running the country?
Even in more normal times this question would not have had a straightforward answer. As a manager, Trump’s own interests superseded almost everything else. Therefore, he was often pursuing a series of personal concerns, vendettas, fancies, most often figments of the moment, while the executive branch itself carried its business. The job of aides was to snatch or negotiate time with him, or decisions from him, on pressing executive functions while he pursued his other concerns – and to do this during his 11m to 6pm schedule in the office.
But now he had given up on any interest or pretense in executive matters. The election challenge, this very issue of his survival, had made everything else meaningless. All daily briefings were canceled, including national security briefings. All efforts to return his attention to pandemic issues, vaccine rollout, or critical intelligence failed. And there was, quiet categorically, no possibility of engaging him in, or even discussing with him, transition matters. What’s more, he had cut off all communication with the Senate leadership.
At this point, it was Meadows effectively assuming all executive functions – or at least those that could be carried on in secret and not generate a headline that might alert the president that some business continued as usual. Virtually on his own, Meadows commenced the formal transition to the Biden administration. This included intelligence briefings, which Trump had stalled, Department of Defense transition meetings, which the president had rejected, opening a daily channel to key Biden aides, and integrating the Biden team into the White House’s daily COVID planning and strategy meetings.
A hobbled government was able to work under the nose of a wholly preoccupied president, but with almost everyone in the government looking into the void of what might happen in the event of a crisis.

Trump barreled unperturbed down the nonsensical and nation-damaging path of attempting to subvert the course of democratic elections, as if he was attempting to force himself into his coveted role of actual authoritarian dictator, overturning elections like his idols Erdogan or Putin; seizing uncontested power like the Kim Jong Un he so admires. What is perhaps unusual in Wolff’s account is his own reading of the situation that Trump never had an actual chance of making this work, and that the media, on both sides of the political spectrum, served to exaggerate the threat and in so doing played a hand in inflating and escalating the tensions leading to the Capitol Riot.

Every effort in state and federal courts and in the legislatures of the contested states, along with efforts to get the support of key state officials, had abjectly failed. Every significant threshold of counting and certification had passed, giving no advantage or hope to the challenge effort. Only days remained before the ultimate, formal certification, a rite that in itself was largely meaningless to the already certain outcome. And yet Trump was steadfast, even optimistic.
And confident about his own powers.
He was buttressed by the media in this, which, operatically, had bought into the uncharted possibilities of his powers, wiles, machinations, and demagogic evilness – the media believed he might well have the power and will to overturn the election. He followed his own battles closely as they unfolded on television. Even as he lost one, the narrative offered another. This was hardly just the right-wing media, although Fox and the satellite right-wing outlets were on the edge of their seats in anticipation. But the rest of the media were equally on the edge of their seats in horror and astonishment – even if, in a parallel voice, there was a stricter explanation of the really practical impossibility that anything could disrupt what was otherwise destined to happen.


It really was one of those what-if moments. Not: what if the president of the United States were revealed to be an evil despot, moving the nation to the type of fascistic dictatorship hotly anticipated by MSNBC. But, rather: what if, stripping all protection and artifice away, he were revealed to be incapable of separating the fantasy of what he believed possible from the practicalities of accomplishing it? Indeed, aides noted that, on the eve of a consequential legislative battle, the White House would ordinarily have been burning up the phones, but Giuliani, in effect the president’s singular operative, barely had contact information for most people on the Hill.
The good news here is that the irrational president could actually not accomplish anything very much. He was just one man, without a plan, nor with much knowledge of how the government worked, whose staff had almost entirely deserted him. The bad news was the his fantasy, even his self-dramatization and moral authority, as it were, with his base, was soon shared by millions of people.

The fantasy taken up by so many Americans was sufficiently motivating for the small sub-section that genuinely believed a real and justified revolution was in the offing, committing in the process a bona fide insurrection that broke the hearts of so many Americans on January 6th, badly tarnishing the American reputation in the eyes of allies and foes alike who had become dulled to the constant lowering of American prestige throughout the abysmal Trump mis-administration.

Trump made his speeches, said his piece, spread his conspiracies and dishonest statements, never once prepared to actually join those he was inflaming as they began their fateful march on the seat of national government.

‘You said you were going to march with them to the Capitol.’ [said Meadows]
‘Well – ‘
‘How would we do that? We can’t organize that. We can’t.’
‘I didn’t mean it literally,’ Trump said.

Wolff’s account shows Trump denying any intention of remaining beyond the official end date of this term, despite his public statements to his base.

‘The media thinks I’m not going to leave,’ said the president. ‘Do they really think that? That’s crazy.’

Wolff’s account of the second Trump impeachment is an illustrative and useful addition to the historical record, laying out how the Democracts, facing no good choices in how to respond to the egregious acts of January 6th 2021, and Trump’s role in inciting them, failed to make any political headway.

While it did not succeed in bringing around Republicans in the House, the Democrats now proceeded to the Senate trial, with a new team of lawyers to primed to make their passionate case against the president with the carefully curated and highly produced video evidence of his call to arms, and then, obvious to all for whom it was obvious, his clear connection to the conflagration at the Capitol, beginning just minutes later.
It was both a strong case, if you wanted it to be strong, and quite a weak one, if you didn’t. Certainly, there was a direct relationship between a cadre of people storming the Capitol and Donald Trump’s long pattern of encouragement of fringe groups and their cultural and antiestablishment grievances. But at the tame time, this encouragement, this incitement, was also, in its perfect form, just more Trump blah-blah – he opened his mouth and rambled for most of the hours he spoke at any given event, including the precipitating speech at the Ellipse on January 6, just filling space, ever returning to his continuing mental and verbal loop, now and then adding a crowd-pleasing inspiration. Certainly, it was a dramatic leap to credit him with intent. It suggested an ability to join cause and effect, and the logic of a plan, that anyone who knew him or had worked with him certainly understood he did not possess. And yet, at the same time, it was surely true that the locusts would not have descended on the Capitol without him.

There are other accounts of Trump’s final period, though what’s most striking for me about Wolff’s is that sense that he feels Trump was never going to get anywhere in his attempt to push America down an authoritarian path. Historians can debate that, though I remain fearful that in fact Trump was already marching us down that road. Not through any conscious plan to carbon copy Hitler’s gameplan, but more so as a natural extension of Trump’s psychology and modus operandi: the drive to centralize as much power as possible in his own hands; seek personal loyalty from all those around him; attack, vilify, ruin and destroy all those opposed, no matter how sacrosanct or sacred the institution or entity, or how illegal, libelous, unethical, or unfounded the attack may be. Trump literally may be too stupid to understand that those specific characteristics, among others, and among other actions, are precisely what makes him a would-be authoritarian, and many observers, both in and out of his base, may not grasp those concepts either.

Ultimately, Wolff both marvels and laments the staying power of this most awful of all Presidents:

The fact that he survived, without real support, without real assistance, without expertise, without backup, without anybody truly minding the store, and without truly knowing his ass from a hole in the ground, was extraordinary. Magical.

I’ll be interested to read Wolff’s “Siege” soon.

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Bauhaus is not Bela Lugosi’s Dead. Who knew? – “5 Album Box Set” review

Well, I’ve seen Bauhaus and Peter Murphy live a number of times, so I know their catalog is more varied than that scorching foundational goth anthem, but up until now I had only listened fully to “In the Flat Field” and had yet to go line by line through their catalog. This ‘5 album’ collection is, surprisingly, much cheaper than trying to buy the individual records for some reason. It also includes a comprehensive gathering of their singles.

That first record, 1980’s “In The Flat Field” was not well received in the press at the time, but grew in stature and quickly garnered a strong cult following as one of the most courageously inventive and groundbreaking records of the time, honest and piercing, unapologetic for its willingness to convey the darkest parts of the human psyche into sound. Gritty and raw, incessant and noisy, it’s a postpunk hallucination.

1981’s “Mask” continues that raw gritty-bordering-on-shrill jagged-edged sound from the debut album, the band toying with percussion guitar sounds, off-centered riffs, and Birthday Party-esque noise punk sentimentality. Murphy drifts into Bowie territory already on this record (“Kick in the Eye”), signaling his own inner belief that he was more Bowie than Bowie, and frankly, if you’ve ever seen him live, it’s kinda hard to argue.

1982’s “The Sky’s Gone Out” shows all the previous elements of the band, already fused quite well, now coming to prominence in their own area. Murphy’s voice and Ash’s guitar lines really shine. They sound a little like the Buzzcocks in places, and also a little bit Iggy Poppy. There’s more of that Murphy-über-Bowie thing going on, too, and it’s not just Murphy’s voice – the noisy guitars and tight harmonies bring to mind Bowie’s “Scary Monsters.”
Whereas acoustic guitar featured only sporadically on the prior record, here it shows up more frequently, giving the band a wider more open sound. You can also hear the birth of that latter day Peter Murphy sound on tracks like “Silent Hedges” and on “Spirit.”
The same inventive jagged guitar lines are audible, but now the production quality is lusher, with each note more pronounced and distinguished, and not as lost in a the haze of noise. Songs like “In the Night” show the band going into some truly bizarre territory, demonstrating significant creative development and movement away from their original sound into deeper more involved areas, almost taking on a Dead Can Dance sound. There’s even a foray into reggae on “Exquisite Corpse.”

With the band already approaching a break-up, and Peter Murphy ill for much of the recording, the final Bauhaus album, 1983’s “Burning from the Inside,” sounds somewhat fragmented and disjointed. The opening track “She’s In Parties” is vintage Bauhaus – moody, baritone, and goth-heavy, with the guitar sounding like something out of a Joy Division song before opening up into a searing screech. There’s more of that Dead Can Dance vibe – such as on “King Volcano.”
Murphy’s absence led to the inclusion of lead vocals from other band members, with David J sing on “Who Killed Mr. Moonlight,” a track that reminds me of the emotional piano ballads Grant Hart added to the pre-break-up records of Hüsker Dü. Ash sings on “Slice of Life,” a track that has hints of Pink Floyd. The careening Birthday Party element is still there, such as in “Honeymoon Croon.” The record has a more acoustic vibe than even the prior album, such as on “Kingdom’s Coming.” While looked at a somewhat less fluid than other records, this is still a great record.
I haven’t heard a lot of Love and Rockets yet, but what I have heard seems to tell me that the early signs of that band were evolving and emerging at least as early as 1982’s “The Sky’s Gone Out,” but definitely more so here on “Burning From The Inside.”

The eighty minute 20 song singles collection is not a rehash of songs released from the albums – these are largely non-album tracks plus some bonus material. In a way it’s like a entirely separate bonus double album, and a great showcase of the band’s sound from the earliest raw gothy frenetic jagged incarnation to their later more esoteric blends. It’s an important part of the story, including key tracks like “Telegram Sam” and “Terror Couple Kill Colonel”; an epic version of Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust”; a truly weird version of Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit in the Sky”; and one or two other curios.

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Bob Dylan’s “1970”: album review

This doesn’t even pretend to be part of the bootleg series, scattered and fractional as it is. This is probably really only an album for Dylan completionists and collectors, packed as it is with alternate takes, works in progress, and aborted snippets.
That said, there are some truly beautiful songs on here that I’m very pleased to have heard. “Can’t help but wonder” is vintage folk Dylan; Dylans’ version of “Spanish is the loving tongue” is unforgettable, as is at least one of his renditions of “Lily of the west”; “Thirsty boots” is another good track; there’s a basement tapes feel to “Jamaica Farewell.” Some of the alternate takes are definitely interesting – one of the alt takes of “Sign on the window” is arguably a better take that the album version.
And while I enjoy hearing how “Went to see the gypsy,” “Sign on the window” and other songs of that era evolved and gradually coalesced, most listeners are not gonna want to hear the incremental tightening.

“Woogie boogie” is completely unnecessary and tedious. Nobody really needs to hear 51 seconds of an abandoned start into “If not for you,” or 26 seconds of a barely coherent attempt at a song called “Fishing blues.”
There are also full band re-dos of songs that perhaps already reached a perfect incarnation as solo acoustic version – “Song to Woody,” for example. Some of these do-overs are jerky and disjointed – such as the version of “Just like Tom Thumb’s blues,” or the flat retake of what was originally a beautiful folk song, “Tomorrow Is A Long Time,” which appeared on bootleg 9. While this blues version is an acceptable track (despite unapologetically stealing the lick from Howlin’ Wolf’s “Smoke Stack Lightning”) you might still wonder what was wrong with the original.
Toss in a few tepid versions of 50s and 60s hits, tracks like “Ghost riders in the sky,” “Cupid,” “Matchbox,” and “All I have to do is dream,” and you’ve got a pretty oblong and misshapen collection.

As for the “special guest George Harrison” – he’s barely present for much of these songs, and what he does produce will likely leave serious Harrison and Beatles fans disappointed. It’s definitely not Traveling Willburys-level supergroup material, and Harrison does not sing.

For these reasons, Dylan’s “1970” may not be a worthy investment for some listeners, even at the pretty decent normal CD price. Speaking for myself, though, I do appreciate the level of detail and insight these releases provide, both as a Dylan fan and as songwriter myself. The lens into the songwriting process, in particular, is fascinating. The sense of Dylan striving for new sounds and his restless need to move away from the past and his prior identities is all over this collection, and when you set the subsequent albums in that context, I believe it makes the entirety of the body of work richer and more cohesive. Bear in mind also that what might have sounded like a strange and bewildering dead-end at the time, even a lack of creative imagination (why redo these old songs that already sounded great if many of the new versions are just alright? Is he running out of new songs, new ideas?), Dylan has often reinvented himself and proven that “Dylan knows best” – such as when he “went electric,” or when he unleashed his stompingly monstrous re-works of older songs during the Rolling Thunder Revue. Seen in that light, these aborted tracks and foundering attempts at new avenues can be viewed as artifacts of that reinvention.

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