Comrades From The North
Ever since men and women started selling goods to one another we have lived in a consumer society of one sort or another. So the idea of selling music as "product" should not come as a shock. And neither should the notion that some artistes could/might/should be beyond or above such practices. As someone once said "Everybody's got somethin' to sell". But that doesn’t mean that one has to like the idea. The blogs are currently awash with opinions on the motivations for and the worth of the newly compiled complete set of Dylan’s original studio and live albums - The Complete Album Collection Vol. 1. Now if someone wants to get the Dylan catalogue in one easy go then this is a fine set but the likelihood is that it’s really nothing more than product. When Sony released a similar package by Miles Davis a few years ago it contained a couple of CDs that were unavailable and all of the CDs contained bonus cuts. That is not the case with the Dylan release. If that were not enough, Sony has also released yet another compilation, The Very Best of Bob Dylan adding to the growing cache of Dylan 'best of' albums. Quite why the world needs another one of these we are hard-pressed to answer.
On a similar theme (making money from product) Dylan's music has appeared in two recent TV commercials. The first of these is for the Jeep Cherokee which is returning to the marketplace. Presumably to evoke memories of a distant past the ad uses Dylan's obscure recording of the old blues standard Motherless Children culled from his performance at the Gaslight Club in 1962. A good choice if an unexpected one. The second commercial is for the supermarket chain Tesco which has used Rod Stewart's re-written version of Forever Young in its Christmas ad depicting a typical family enjoying Christmas in the past and in the modern day – staying forever young.
Moving from the coarse to the more refined, Dylan was presented with the Legion of Honour during his Paris residency. As ever, Dylan was reported as looking distinctly uncomfortable during the ceremony and, after the citation speech he simply said that he was “proud and grateful” and left. The awards and honours keep piling up as the world continues to recognise the quality of the man’s work.
By the time you read this the European tour will be over. It has been quite something for Dylan fans. Following the more rigid set-lists adopted earlier in the American shows, Dylan stuck rigidly to almost the same nineteen-song set night after night. Given that he was featuring six songs from Tempest this was not such a bad move but some fans felt that variety would have been better. As if to confound us all, for the two shows in Rome he changed the whole show and played two completely different shows on each night, neither of which featured Tempest songs, before returning to the rigid set lists immediately afterwards until the addition of the wonderful Roll On John at two shows. Those on the slightly cynical side amongst Dylan fans suggested that these might be a plug for the new complete album package!
Yet more or Dylan's archive will become available soon with the release of the Mike Bloomfield retrospective From His Heart To His Head To His Hands. This will contain three cuts officially released for the first time namely Like A Rolling Stone (instrumental), Tombstone Blues (alternate version with Chamber Brothers) and the live version of Groom's Still Waiting At The Altar from Fox Warfield 1980.
Phew! Activity around our man has been hectic and that's without mentioning his ironwork sculpture, the videos for Another Self Portrait, the iOS App for the Bootleg Series, the interactive video of Like A Rolling Stone and the Bob Dylan 50th Anniversary Collection: 1963 six vinyl album box set of unreleased studio and live material. Seems like there’s no stopping the headlong train which is the 'Bob Dylan industry' - isn't that how we started this piece???
We wish all of you the very best for the festive season – see you in the New Year.
May you climb on every rung.
Mike and John
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