Not just due to being the only popular music artist who ever received the Nobel Prize in Literature, Bob Dylan is just one of the very finest artist in the music business. The Rolling Stone for example named him to be the Greatest Songwriter of all Time in 2015. Thus, when there is new stuff my this grandmaster of music, the music business is looking at him, regardless which genre you favor. One of these days was the 19th June 2020 – the day Dylan released his 39th studio album, Rough and Rowdy Ways.
Bob Dylan – About The Artist
It is useless to try to squeeze Bob Dylan’s career and success into the space which is available in this Flyctory.com introduction section. Dylan’s civil name is Robert Allen Zimmerman (or Shabtai Zisi ben Avraham in Hebrew), he was born on 24th May 1941 in Duluth, Minnesota. Already his self-titled 1962 debut album made it to a silver record in the UK, the following The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan (1963) was his first Number One there – in his home country, he had to wait until the 1974 Planet Waves for that. Some of his biggest hits are Blowin’ In The Wiind (1963) and Like a Rolling Stone (1965). Wikipedia has an own posting listing all the rewards he received. For example he won ten Grammy Awards on top of a Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2000, Dylan won the Oscar. His outstanding reputation is however likely represented best by his 2016 Nobel Prize In Literature.
Rough and Rowdy Ways – Track by Track
The album is composed of ten songs. The total playtime is 71 minutes.
1. I Contain Multitudes
I’m just like Anne Frank, like Indiana Jones
And them British bad boys, The Rolling Stones
I go right to the edge, I go right to the end
I go right where all things lost are made good again
I sing the songs of experience like William Blake
I have no apologies to make
Everything’s flowing all at the same time
I live on a boulevard of crime
I drive fast cars, and I eat fast foods
I contain multitudes
I heard the album for the first time on a quick car ride from Cologne to the Venlo, Netherlands. Wow, the album starts intense. The melody is having an extreme background-ish role, the song is focussed on the storytelling. It’s a Dylan, no doubt. And it is a good one!
2. False Prophet
False Prophet has more swing and depth in the melody. Still (of course) it is the lyrics which make the song. This is the first song which is 6 minutes or longer (which is the case for six out of the ten songs). False Prophet does not have a chorus, even. Thus, it feels like musical storytelling. Even if you feel you need to put too much energy into the music to digest it – you just cannot hate it… It’s simply too good.
3. My Own Version of You
If I read through the (first day) comments of these lyrics, there are references in the song from Frankenstein to Shakespeare as well as to early Dylan albums. Bob Dylan is a mage of lyrics – and even though the melodies behind feel minimalist, small changes in the arrangements lead to great atmosphere changes. Wow.
4. I’ve Made Up My Mind to Give Myself to You
Compared to other tracks on the album, I’ve Made Up My Mind to Give Myself to You feels really melodic.Emotionally, this is maybe the central track of the whole album. If you just want to listen to one song of the album as an “appetizer”, I would definitely recommend this fourth song.
If I had the wings of a snow white dove
I’d preach the gospel, the gospel of love
A love so real, a love so true
I’ve made up my mind to give myself to you
5. Black Rider
You (comparably) need to hurry at Black Rider – the 4:12 minute song is the shortest of the whole album.
Black rider, black rider, you’ve seen it all
You’ve seen the great world and you’ve seen the small
You fell into the fire and you’re eating the flame
Better seal up your lips if you wanna stay in the game
Be reasonable, mister, be honest, be fair
Let all of your earthly thoughts be a prayer
The way Bob Dylan is creating pictures by words is simply unique. The track again just uses very little instrumentation. He just makes me travel to his black rider country. Close my eyes and listen to the lyrics.
6. Goodbye Jimmy Reed
After the sentimental and quiet songs before, the classic blues track Goodbye Jimmy Reed honoring the big American blues musician feels that loud and powerful. Of course, Dylan does the blues well, too. Just lovely vibes.
7. Mother of Muses
Mother of Muses sing for me
Sing of the mountains and the deep dark sea
Sing of the lakes and the nymphs of the forest
Sing your hearts out, all your women of the chorus
Sing of honor and fate and glory be
Mother of Muses sing for me
This track nearly sounds like a church song. Again, this centricity on Dylan’s voice is just catchy. The song contains several references to Greek mythodology, but also to more modern times.
Sing of Sherman, Montgomery, and Scott
And of Zhukov, and Patton, and the battles they fought
Who cleared the path for Presley to sing
Who carved the path for Martin Luther King
Who did what they did and they went on their way
Man, I could tell their stories all day
8. Crossing the Rubicon
This track has a very classic country music touch. To me, it is one of the strongest and most impressive songs of the album. Don’t want to bother you with lyrics again – you finally need to read these ones from the very beginning to the very end anyway.
9. Key West (Philosopher Pirate)
One of the few songs on this album which have a proper chorus (even though the lyrics are altering).
Key West is the place to be
If you’re looking for immortality
Key West is paradise divine
Key West is fine and fair
If you lost your mind, you’ll find it there
Key West is on the horizon line
10. Murder Most Foul
Key West was a 9:34 minutes song – if you feel this is the maximum, Dylan gives you a farewell from the Rough and Rowdy Ways, which is close to 17 minutes long. The song is about the circumstances fo the assasssination of John F. Kennedy – no space for the light topics if you just have ten songs which fit the capacity of an ordinary CD. At the end, it references to other events and songs happening during Dylan’s career. A farewell? Maybe. It is, by the way, really the longest song ever recorded by this mage of music. And I love to spent these 17 minutes with him.
B. Dylan – Rough and Rowdy Ways – Spotify
Here are the Rough and Rowdy Ways on Spotify:
Bob Dylan – Rough and Rowdy Ways – My View
Is this still music or is it poetry? The Los Angeles Times even published a best lyrics article of Rough and Rowdy Ways on their website. I so far wrote roughly wrote slightly more than 190 album reviews – but none of them so far made me feel that unworthy, that minor like this Bob Dylan one. I needed lyrics with refernce to just roughly get an idea of all the references and stories in his lyrics. If you ever struggled with the fact that this guy won a Nobel Prize, give yourself a deep dive into this album – I will however take several hours to just partially get into it. Wow, overwhelming and genius. Of course, it is a Top Pick!.
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