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Comrades From The North

Having speculated more than once recently that it might be politic for Dylan to consider taking a break from the touring treadmill, what does he go and do but pull out some of the best shows in a while to close yet another year of the (whisper it but don’t tell Bob) Never-Ending Tour.  There was passion a-plenty on display – if not uniformly throughout any show most certainly when he took centre stage with just the mouth-harp.  Almost every song played in that way, almost every time it was played Dylan wrung every last drop of emotion and nuance out.  There were many standout performances executed in this way – Tangled Up In Blue, Ballad Of A Thin Man, a stupendous Things Have Changed, Forgetful Heart – the list goes on and on.  Not that the more conventional organ-based numbers were devoid of spark and spirit.  It just felt like, once he was released from the shielding armour of the instrument, he was able to concentrate on inhabiting the song and seizing the moment. 

It is telling to compare and contrast the performance art of Mark Knopfler and Bob Dylan having seen them both occupy the same stage on a nightly basis.  Knopfler’s low-key, none-for-note, recitation-style approach to his songs works very well but lacks the colour and shade of Dylan’s sonic journeys.  He does not stir the soul in the way Dylan does and, in not taking the performing risks so feared by many of Dylan’s sidemen, Knopfler’s admittedly mature music so immaculately played can often seem predictable. 

On a sadder note Barry Feinstein, one of the great visual chroniclers of the vintage Dylan, passed away on October 20th 2011 at the age of 80. A collection of his stunning Dylan photographs is still available in his book Real Moments.  And, of course, his work is enshrined forever in the iconic shot that graces The Times They Are A-Changin’ where Dylan’s stare never ever quite engages the viewer.  A brilliant photograph.

On 5th October 2011 music lost one of its genuine innovators and true musical giants when Bert Jansch succumbed to his battle with cancer at the age of 67.  Bert influenced everyone who ever picked up a guitar but none could match his virtuosity and subtlety on the acoustic guitar. He was a modest, quiet man who spoke volumes through his songs.

Returning to the subject of Dylan’s performances, in this issue we begin a series that draws upon an idea first used by Paul Williams – here is a show (tape) that you must hear.  You will come across a couple of retrospective reviews of shows that our contributors and readers believe are the best they have seen or that hold some special magic that they want to share with others.

As we write this piece it is 50 years since Bob Dylan went into the studios to record his eponymous first album.  By the time you receive the next issue of The Bridge it will be 50 years since its release.  We shall be running a set of features on this momentous release and would be happy to receive readers’ own recollections, views and opinions on this album and its role in the Dylan story.  Please do get in touch.

Meanwhile, we hope that you enjoy the Christmas break and wish you a Happy New Year.

May you climb on every rung,


Mike & John

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