Sunday, April 11, 2010

Bob Dylan: "Mr. Tambourine Man" (March 1, 1978, Tokyo)

This is the version of the song on Bob Dylan At Budokan. As I say, I have a soft spot for that album. It doesn't get a lot of love. Dylan's '78 tour as a whole, on which the Maestro had the impeccably good taste to put together a glitzy rock'n'soul revue complete with satin suits a year into the punk revolution, doesn't get a lot of love. And even those Dylan fans who find some good in that year (and there are a lot of us) tend to say the tour got better as it went along, meaning that the Budokan album, recorded in February and March at the very outset of the tour, isn't a fair representation. By which they, the detractors, mean it sucks.

I've already explained how I feel about that album here. "Mr T Man," which kicks off that album, is therefore Exhibit A in the album's argument. Again, the performances in '78 would evolve, until by the end of the year Dylan was sneering raucously, just like the old Bob; but the arrangements tended to stay the same, or more or less the same. This one was an exception - and maybe I'll discuss what happened to it in America in the fall sometime.

Here it's a pure pop arrangement, so pop that it's like a slap in the face, or a dare. Dig that catchy riff it's sprouted as an intro, wagging like a puppy dog's tail. Aww, that's cute. And then the song kicks in and we have that organ, that flute, that careful bass guitar supporting everything like a tight silk waistcoat. How sprightly.

Yeah, I laugh. But I love it. It's pure pop, and it's good. Why the hell shouldn't Bob be allowed to slip one of his best lyrics - only temporarily, mind you - into a fur-trimmed satin sheath? It's fun. It's well done: that slowdown on the turnaround is effective.

And doesn't it add something to the lyric? Doesn't it create a sort of musical picture of paradise, dreamland, the place we're going to be led if we only allow it? There's your jingle-jangle morning right there.

I mean, I wouldn't necessarily want to hear the song only this way. But I wouldn't want to have missed hearing it this way.

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