Sunday, November 25, 2007

Visions of Dylan #8

Visions of Dylan episode #8 to air on Monday 11-26-07 from 9-11 PM on WBAI 99.5 FM

this episode can be streamed here:

Songs of the heart: The Love Songs of Bob Dylan
Buck Owens
Joan Baez
Isaac Hayes
Nanci Griffith
Legion of Mary
Johnny Cash
The O’Jays
Jerry Garcia
George Harrison
The Beatles
Jack Fate
Host: Howie Weiner

Sunday, November 18, 2007


Stevie Wonder: MSG 11-17-07
This concert almost slipped under my radar. At first I decided to pass on expensive tickets for this, but fate interjected. It was brought to my attention the day before the concert that Wonder was ripping off some succulent set lists featuring his best 70’s material. I had to go. Innervisions is one of the greatest albums ever, that whole string of recordings starting with Music of My Mind and ending with Songs in the Key of Life is genius. The concert was sold out, I kept checking with Ticketbastard on the day of the show until they finally released some tickets. I pounced on a 15th row seat.

Waiting inside of MSG, I thought of all the great times: Dylan’s two brilliant shows from 2002, my first Grateful Dead show on 3-9-81, St. Stephen 10-11-83, Help>Slipknot>Franklin’s 10-12-83, Watchtower> Morning Dew 9-18-87, Dire Straits ’85, McCartney ’89, Rowan hitting that baseline jumper at the buzzer as St. John’s with Mark Jackson, Walter “The Truth” Berry and Louie “the Sweater” beat Syracuse with Pearl Washington, Derrick Coleman and Jim” The accountant” 70-69 to win the Big East Tournament.

I’ve digressed. Stevie’s daughter Aiesha led Stevie out for a ten minute address including a moment of silence for the 9/11 victims. He was psyched to be in New York and kicked things off with “Love’s in Need of Love Today.” His vocals were as radiant, soulful and as overpowering as you would expect. Then the man jumps into Innervisions with the album’s opener “Too High” as cool psychedelic lighting wobbled off the stage backdrop. "Visions" was incredible, he adlibbed a long ending that was boring politically, but sizzled musically. The cat has won 753 Grammy Awards. He does as he pleases.

A truncated “Living For the City” pumped up the crowd before the reggae party started with “Master Blaster.” It all sounded so amazing, he should tour more frequently. There was some kind of impromptu messing around with effects like Peter Frampton did on” Do You Feel Like We Do” for ten entertaining minutes. Then Stevie walloped us with “Higher Ground” and “Golden Lady.” What a night, I never imagined I would see Stevie on top of his game playing these tunes.

A long "Ribbon in the Sky" with an extended audience sing along portion killed the artistic flow. I felt like I was at a Broadway play as he followed with four more slow ballads. It was a nice strategic move as he sandwiched the stuff I didn’t want to hear into one segment before rebuilding the momentum. Wonder brought it all the way back to the 60’s with a pulsating “Signed Sealed Delivered” that rocked the crowd, following it with a country tinged spoof of the same song. A little minstrelsy. Then Stevie shared an innocent teenage romance story which was the inspiration for his next song, “My Cherie Amour.” He rounded out his 60’s flashback with “For Once in my Life” before bringing the music to a halt, and bringing out his mother’s favorite singer Tony Bennett to finish the song with him. The crazed ovation for Tony shook the Garden.

I’m not sure this is the exact order, but we heard great versions of “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing” and “Boogie on Reggae Woman.” During “Boogie,” a guest harmonica player came out, and he and Stevie harped away on an intense dueling solo. I believe “Superstition” was next as Stevie called out Prince to join him. Prince tore into some nice leads; it was exciting for the crowd. I think Prince is weird – I don’t really get the infatuation with him. “You Are the Sunshine of My Life” was cool – one of the first songs I heard when I started listening to AM radio as a kid. “Sir Duke” and “I Wish” are fantastic songs that I was thrilled to hear, but to be honest, Stevie blew through them in medley style. Big mistake! Those songs are too spectacular to treat like that. There was another song or two and the whole thing was over, no encore. The two and a half hour spectacular was well worth the $180 I shelled out. Hot Dang! I can’t believe I saw Stevie Wonder play almost the entire Innervisions album last night. Yippee!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Visions of Dylan #7

.................................................................Robert Johnson


The Lucky seventh episode of Visions of Dylan aired on WBAI 99.5 FM, New York on November 12, 2007. It was a two hour Dylan/ blues spectacular. We pitched a Wang Dang Doodle all night long. It can be streamed here:

Eric Clapton
The Band
Jerry Garcia
Johnny Cash
Mr. Zimmerman
Host: Howie Weiner

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Dylan and Newport

Dylan and Newport
Baby Steps for Dylan, a Giant Leap for Western Civilization

A new Dylan DVD was just released: The Other Side of the Mirror: Bob Dylan Live at the Newport Folk Festival 1963-1965. There are no hidden tracks, interviews with people who were there, no explaining, no narration, just the footage as it happened. Hallelujah! It’s a tribute the prudence of director Murray Lerner.

1963 Newport: Clean Cut American Folk Hero
Dylan sat in a small wooden folding chair as he began “North Country Blues.” He looked so young; there wasn’t a liquour store in Rhode Island that wouldn’t have proofed him if he tried to purchase a bottle of whiskey. The legendary Clarence Ashley was sitting on the stage smoking a fag and clutching a banjo in his other hand. Ashley, a character from “That Weird Old America,” had so much stage presence that he seemed to upstage young Bob just by sitting there. Joan Baez sounded awful harmonizing with Dylan during “With God on Our Side.” I’m fond of Joan’s voice solo, but with Dylan, the further she is away from the microphone, the better.

Standing on the stage alone and confident, Dylan unleashed gritty and vibrant performances of “Who Killed Davey Moore?” and “Only a Pawn in Their Game.” Between the verses of both topical songs, Dylan lifted his guitar close to his singing microphone which created a pleasing fade in/ fade out audio effect. A group of about 15 folk performers including Pete Seeger and Peter Paul and Mary gathered in back of Dylan for a “Blowin’ in the Wind” sing-along. To the group, this was religion – they sang like they believed this song can change the world. The whiz kid folk hero was in front of the group singing the song like he was already bored with his holy anthem. It was already ancient to Dylan; he was dreaming and scheming about what was to come.

Newport 1964: All Hail The King

Phase two: It’s 1964 and Dylan is singing Mr. Tambourine Man – there’s no explanations because you can’t explain the unexplainable. 43 years later it’s still the most poetically plush jingle ever written. The change in Dylan’s demeanor is palpable. There’s a smirk on his face, electricity is oozing from every pore, he’s bursting with confidence and he’s very content and comfortable. It took me by surprise when I watched the DVD last night – this might be my favorite image of Dylan. Less than a year later, as documented in Don’t Look Back, Dylan looks weary of his fame. In Newport 1964, he embraced and basked in the spotlight that was shining on him.

Johnny Cash sang a Dylan song and hailed him, “The best songwriter of the age.” Joan Baez did a Dylan imitation for kicks during her set. Newport ‘64 came off like a celebrity roast to the 23 years old Hibbing native. Dylan was bigger than the event. After an inspiring “Chimes of Freedom,” the crowd went wild chanting “We want Bob!” Other artists were scheduled to perform making an encore impossible, but Dylan came back to address the faithful: “It’s all a matter of time, I want to say I thank you, and I love you.” It was an enchanted night in the musical kingdom of Newport.

Newport 1965: Worlds Collide

On a grey and windy afternoon, the green leaves were rustling behind Dylan as he halfheartedly sang some acoustic tunes around the same time Albert Grossman and Alan Lomax were having a Sumo wresting match. The winds of change were about to shift. Newport 1965 was an unstoppable destiny, a moment that signified a change in American culture. Did Dylan have to go electric at this particular folk festival? Dylan could have a chosen another time and place, but history was beckoning. He declared his independence from the folk movement and any other entity that would try to claim him. In the process, he expanded the boundaries for all musicians by going electric with his visionary stream of consciousness lyrics.

The changes seen in Dylan from ’63-’64 were drastic artistically, but the mere fact that he was now plugging into the world of rock and roll was immense. In his black leather jacket, Dylan went out there with his electric guitar and his typically focused intensity to deliver a blazing "Maggie’s Farm" with Michael Bloomfield, who peppered the stunned audience with his searing lead guitar. It’s a brilliant performance on its own, but if you consider the immensity of the moment and the fact that it was Dylan’s first live electric performance with a band, the results are heroic. There was a lot of cheering, but there were also many betrayed folk fans who booed loudly and lustily. I listened to it in 5.1 surround sound last night, the booing is very audible.

Just to make the occasion even more historic, the final number of the three-song set was the live debut of “Like a Rolling Stone.” Supposedly, somewhere during that set, an enraged Pete Seeger grabbed an axe and threatened to bury it into the power cables. After the short set, Peter Yarrow begged Bob to grab his axe and come back for an acoustic encore. Dylan should have grabbed Seeger’s axe and chased Yarrow around the stage, but he acquiesced and played “Mr. Tambourine Man” and It’s All Over Now Baby Blue.” After everything that went down, the encores were anti-climatic to say the least.

Hats off to Murray Lerner for putting this footage together the way he did. It’s the most incredible story in music history and you can watch it unfold without narration. Don’t Look Back has been the most popular Dylan documentary, but it’s just a snapshot. Any documentary on Dylan that was ever put together is inferior to The Other Side of The Mirror – Dylan’s performances speak volumes.


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