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08/31/2017

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This was certainly a surprise. More surprising is that I listened to those three selections and they're far better than I expected. Probably not enough to inspire me to hear the whole album though. I really didn't think Dylan was physically capable of singing tunes like that anymore and expected that he would just flatten them into that croak of his.

I love the Songbook, too, but am not especially keen on these pop stars recording those songs. My reaction tends to be "why?" The classic recordings are so great. Didn't realize Rod Stewart had done five!

Thanks for bringing us this! Here are a few random thoughts. I, too, was surprised when Dylan did his first release of standards. Then it occurred to me that throughout his career, by way of being a singer-songwriter who gave us life experiences in song, Dylan has always had a certain intimacy in his delivery -- we felt he was singing to us, not to the crowd. Perhaps this is the quality that allows him to sing from the Great American Songbook.

Willie Nelson may have been the first to cash in on these retro standards. His Stardust album remains one that everyone should have in their collection. I remember reading an article many years agoe which made the argument that Nelson's Stardust album illustrated the fact that American music is really all of one piece in spite of our need to break it out into country, pop, rock, jazz, etc. Nelson, a country singer, gave us "Unchained Melody" (The Righteous Brothers, 1965), "On the Sunny Side of the Street" (a widely recorded standard in the 1930's and 40's),"Someone to Watch Over Me" (a Gershwin show tune),and Hoagy Carmichael's "Stardust" -- all in his typical Willie Nelson style.

Glen Campbell even tapped into that concept from the beginning of his career. His concert repertoire included country, pop, easy listening, and Broadway show tunes -- all of which might add to the argument that all of American music is of a piece -- variations on a theme, so to speak. Perhaps this hints at why Dylan does these covers.

I had a more cynical reaction to Dylan moving into this territory: that he's out of gas as a songwriter. I mean, he hasn't written very many songs that are truly good standalone songs for a long time. He's made some good music, but as with a lot of pop music the songs are kind of inseparable from the performance. I doubt many people have covered songs from Love & Theft and the other similar albums.

But I'm sure he does really love this music. That's been clear for many years, and also that he's more or less of the same mind as the article you reference, that American music is all of one piece.

Thanks for this, Stu. I heard the first two "standards" records and didn't much care for them, so I haven't listened to Triplicate. But you make a good case for it! I have no real connection to the Great American Songbook, perhaps to my shame -- though, in my defence, I'm not an American -- and the thought of Dylan singing them leaves me flat. I guess I just like it when Dylan sings his own songs.

Speaking of rare Dylan interviews, a few weeks ago I got caught up in watching that famous 1965 interview he did in San Francisco. The whole thing is on YouTube, and it's pretty fascinating. Alan Ginsberg is there among the reporters, for some reason. One reporter goes through the whole interview with a look of elated amazement on his face, as though he just can't believe what he's witnessing. And not entirely without reason.

Is part of that in Don't Look Back? Or maybe all of it? That's the only video interview I can remember having seen.

As I recall you don't care for jazz either, and the GAS (ha) is related to it, in a lot of performance if not intrinsically.

The jazz connection -- you're right. I have a strong allergy.

Yes, I believe that a few excerpts are in Don't Look Back. The entire interview is about 50 minutes.

"Glen Campbell even tapped into that concept from the beginning of his career. His concert repertoire included country, pop, easy listening, and Broadway show tunes -- all of which might add to the argument that all of American music is of a piece -- variations on a theme, so to speak. Perhaps this hints at why Dylan does these covers."

Also remember that beginning in the late 50's and throughout much of the 60's there was still a tug-of-war going on between "popular" music and the new rock-and-roll stuff among radio listeners and record buyers. This resulted in a certain amount of cross-pollinization and style-straddling. Some of the early rockers may well have disdained popular music as being "square," but they would have been familiar with it nonetheless. And of course this wouldn't have been a strictly American phenomenon.

My parents had the Willie Nelson album Stardust when it came out, so I heard it a lot as a kid. Those are great interpretations of the songs. In its way Stardust is akin to Ray Charles' Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, which is another great album I intend to cover in this series.

I had meant to mention in this review that each disc has its own name:
1 - 'Til the Sun Goes Down
2 - Devil Dolls
3 - Comin' Home Late
Just for the sake of marginalia.

Somehow those sound like a classic Dylan twist. Are they phrases from the songs?

I confess to not owning Stardust. I further confess to never having heard it. Probably not the kind of thing I'd be wildly enthusiastic about but I'm sure it's good. Don't think I ever heard the entire Ray Charles album, though the singles were extremely familiar.

A lot of the early rock-and-rollers started out in jazz, too. And there was the country-jazz fusion of Western swing. Listen to the guitar solo in "Rock Around the Clock." That's not garage.

You make such a great case for this album!

I wish I knew it. I had another Dylan album where he sings old Sinatra songs, and it was not really my cup of tea. But I can see that for many people it would be wonderful.

The nice thing about the way recorded music is distributed now is that if you think you might like to hear something a few times, but probably not more, you don't have to decide whether or not to buy the album. Most likely it's on Spotify or YouTube or something. Nice for listeners. Grossly unfair to the artists.

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