Saturday, May 28, 2011

Bob Dylan - "The Essential Bob Dylan"

Bob Dylan is one of the most talked about and influential musicians of the last 50 years he has made so many albums, written so many songs, and gone through so many styles that there is no real compilation that can capture Dylan completely (possible exception is his excellent box set "Biograph"which itself is really short at only three discs).

This compilation from the well done "Essentials" series is inevitably missing quite a bit of music but it does collect the majority of his most famous songs from "Blowin' in the Wind" to his Oscar winning "Things Have Changes" from the film "Wonder Boys."

This comp contains 30 tracks spread evenly over two discs. Disc one focuses on Dylan's heyday of the 1960s, disc two is 70s-2000 so there are far more overlooked songs on disc two. Basically this is designed for the newcomer for those who want a single compilation to represent a large career. There are no liner notes except some pictures. Basically a strong compilation. I own this because I was low on money, space, and wanted a Dylan career overview. All his most familiar songs are here those who want to dig deeper may be better suited with his three individual greatest hits albums (which cover four discs).

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Bob Dylan - "Blood on the Tracks"

"Dylan made more influential albums that this, but he never made one better" - Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Music Guide

This is Dylan's best album, followed by "The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan" and "Highway 61 Revisited," this is my favorite Dylan album.

"Blood on the Tracks" was released in 1975, when Dylan had somewhat disappeared from the popular mindset with a series of lackluster and/or unpopular releases ("Dylan" "Self Portrait") but this album returned him to prominence along with its Rolling Thunder Revue tour. Dylan has abandoned the screaming vocals he adopted for 1974's "Before the Flood" and he has dropped the sweet croon of "Nashville Skyline." Dylan has kind of returned to the folk sounds of his early albums and he has returned to the acoustic guitar.

He is not alone with his guitar he is backed by a quartet of fine musicians that add flavor and body to his excellent batch of songs but they are always backup they let the songs speak for themselves. Now to the songs, all the songs are excellent and some of the finest of Dylan's catalogue they feel like confessional singer songwriter tunes but Dylan wraps the confessions in riddles and stories that may obscure the true reality of them but he never hides the feelings and emotion. The songs all deal with relationships, mostly crumbling ones. Yet the songs are hopeful, melancholy and poignant all at the same time. This is a glimpse into Dylan's guarded soul one of the few glimpse we will ever get. This is the one Dylan album that every MUSIC fan (not just Dylan fans) should have and listen to often.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Derek and the Dominos - "Live at the Fillmore"

To support their only album Eric Clapton, Carl Radle, Bobby Whitlock and Jim Gordon aka Derek and the Dominos went on a erratic tour of the USA. This live album is compiled from two of the shows at New York's Fillmore East auditorium in October 1970.

The Dominos were always Clapton's finest group, "Layla," their one album together, is Clapton's finest studio album and no surprise this is his finest live album. This would be the first time Clapton was the official leader of a group. He had been famous for years by this point and he was in great turmoil in love with Patti Boyd the wife of his best friend. These factors could account for his powerful performances.

Being the insecure guy that he was Clapton is uncertain of his singing and leadership ability thus he tries to cover up his insecurities with some killer guitar playing. He has never sounded as fierce or as inventive as he does here. His singing is perfectly good as well. The powerful "Have you ever loved a woman" blows the excellent album version away. The nearly twenty minute "Let it Rain" is jaw dropping with a killer drum solo by Gordon. This is also the only place, until the new 40th anniversary "Layla" album came out last month, to get the song "Got to Get Better in a Little While."

The songs are long, five of them run over ten minutes, but if you are a Clapton fan these are great great treasures. It is a shame that this album is not mention more often in Clapton's catalogue, I guess that makes it something of a great discovery for the Clapton fan. I personally was hesitant to buy this album because of the long songs; after all sometimes longer does not mean better. I finally picked this album up and am so happy, this is the finest live performance Clapton has ever released and one of the best live albums I have ever heard. If you want more from the Dominos this is the only place for it. Doesn't get better than this.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Derek and the Dominos - "Layla and other assorted love songs"

I believe I missed a week, sorry about that. Here is the triumphant return with my favorite album of all time. Derek and the Dominos lone studio album is not only one of the finest examples of rock music, it is also a testament to the creative power of love; whether it be euphoric or heartbreaking.

As it has been widely told before Eric Clapton was madly in love with his best friend's, George Harrison, wife Patti Boyd. Clapton had been working as a side man, with Delaney and Bonnie as well as on Harrison's "All Things Must Pass" album, to escape the spotlight of superstardom. Clapton joined forces with Bobby Whitlock, Jim Gordon and Carl Radle to form Derek and the Dominos. During the recording sessions Duane Allman joined the group as well.

The Dominos are Clapton's finest group able to adeptly support him but also work as a unit creating a true band sound. The title cut is a prime example of their great teamwork: halfway through the song all the blistering guitars fade to a whisper and the rest of the tune is a beautiful piano solo by Whitlock. This is truly a great band and it truly is a pity that they were not able to record more albums.

None the less their one album is a shining achievement. Clapton has never been better, he throws out blistering guitar parts that are among the best of his career. Some are fast straight ahead jaw droppers other are intricate quiet tunes. He uses the blues and rock equally to get his point across. Clapton has never before or since sounded as passionate or interested in his music as he does here.

The songs emit all Clapton's yearning, aching, depression and excitement that comes from being in love. Despite his turmoil the songs are often up tempo but there are a fine share of blues songs in there as well. The songs encompass everything that one feels when love is out of reach. There is also some hope though, in reality Clapton eventually married Patti Boyd largely in part due to this soul bearing album.

I could go on and on for days about the greatness of this album and how much I enjoy it but I shall stop soon. I believe one of the main reasons this is my favorite album is that I have more times than I want to admit been in the exact same place as Clapton, in love with someone who does not love me. I have never been as talented as Mr. Clapton and I can play only a few notes on the guitar; the only outlet I have is writing and listening to music. This is the music that connects us to each other, we as humans are consumed by emotion at all times and "Layla" reflects that. That is what this album does for me, not only is it great music; "Layla" reminds me that love conquers all and that in the end even a guitar god like Clapton is just as human as I am.