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Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Although I didn't rush out and buy women's underwear when Dylan's Victoria's Secret commercial was running, I made a point of getting my coffee at Starbucks this morning, in order to pick up a copy of "Live at The Gaslight 1962". Something tells me I'd have enjoyed a teddy more, but as a document this captures the Bard of Hibbing right at one of those moments when he is turning from one thing into another. For the most part what we have with Dylan sides is a representation of what he has become-- the transitions occur in between releases, which accounts, in part, to the hostility his performances were sometimes met with in those early days.

Part of that hostility can also be accounted for by the nature of the audience, too, I think. In the same time period Miles Davis was releasing one groundbreaking side after another, with critics sing hosannahs over the fact that each represented a stylistic breakthrough. The difference is that Dylan was playing to folk music fans, who prized tradition; Miles was playing to jazz fans, who value improvisation and innovation. (Some of them, anyway. Jazz fans are just as capable of ossification.)

Related (somewhat): Nick Hornby interviews Bruce Springsteen.

Update: Jon Pareles does a great job on this in today's NYTimes, as nice a bit of RockCrit as I've seen in some time. "Gaslight" turns out to be an oddly documented document: there is no indication as to who the Benedetti was, and the notes conceed that this is probably taken from two different performances. Even so, it's a terrific recording, with Dylan in great voice, and you can see why the folkies were so reluctant to give him up to the gods of rock'n'n'roll-- this is one of the best versions of "Barbara Allen" I've ever heard, and throughout old Bob sings the hell out of this material. We are all a little tired of folkie Bob Dylan, I think, but if you own his first album and "Freewheeling" you want to have this. And if you don't? Well, I'm not sure why we are talking then, actually, but if you happen to be having a cup of coffee, this might be something you could buy that would make you more hip. Maybe. Me, I've been planing my cup of coffee since I heard this was how the side was coming to market, and I'm pretty pleased with it. I wish I could say the same about the blueberry scone.

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