Bob Dylan’s Rough and Rowdy Ways —An American Classic

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Rating: 5 out of 5.
The 39th Studio Album from Nobel Laureate Bob Dylan and 42nd overall is a collection inspired by the best of Walt Whitman and William Blake. 77 minutes. Double CD/Digital Streaming.

Juke Joints Sing The Songs Of Self

“Endless unfolding of words of ages!
And mine a word of the modern, the word En-Masse.

Walt Whitman

“I Contain Multitudes” opens the record with a reference to another epic poet whose work, “Song Of Myself”, celebrates every living creature on the planet. The title of this track is a Whitman quote. The ‘I’ is used here inclusively. Evoking the value in all living things.

The songs speaks to the experience of life. Loving and hating in equal measure. Composing, painting, eating, drinking, and our bodies as vessels that contain a universe.

I love Mr. Dylan’s end to this track. You can accept this line as just playing recordings of the classical giants or perhaps it is an expression that his final chapter maybe spent composing classical pieces:

“I’ll play Beethoven’s sonatas, and Chopin’s preludes…”

The cover image for this record is important. Presented in a cinematic letter-box format, anonymous couples are dancing. They are people of color. A solitary figure is hunched over the juke trying to decide what to play or in anguish over lost love or any number of reasons you could imagine.

For the first time Bob Dylan’s name does not appear on the cover! We listeners are to focus only on the image of a juke joint interior. The name of the record seems to pop-up from the floor in vivid technicolor. The color scheme applied is simply the best ever used in his catalog of 42 records.

Once again he is creating a mythic eden seeded in the past but brought into our present. A secret place where people of color went to actually express their humanity. The Queer folk also went to these type of places to do the same. Evoking Whitman’s celebration of humanity and non-humanity alike within the dark spaces of the juke joint where all can be free together.

American Folklore’s Rough and Rowdy Ways

His choice of title reference classic folk music by way of Jimmie Rodgers. The adjectives of Rough and Rowdy are masculine in nature. Playful but potentially dangerous like people themselves. A Dylanesque wink to the underlying violence packed within the culture. Dylan loves to use folklore and tall tales for referents to his lyrics. This album is more than worthy of his best works. His mystique is intact; here now his innermost troubles are laid bare.

False Prophet

A 10 stanza poem that could have been a part of Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass.” In the sixth stanza he invokes the ‘I’ in repetition:

I searched the world over, for the holy grail, I sing songs of love, I sing songs of betrayal. Don’t care what I drink, I don’t care what I eat, I climb the mountain of swords On my bare feet.”

Mr. Dylan is baring his soul like never before throughout this record. In the verse quoted above you here his artistic declaration of mission. He once again invokes his religious beliefs too. Willing to climb a mountain of swords in bare feet is a form of stigmata.

“My Own Version Of You”

Expressing his heart’s desire to create his own Frankenstein—like creature in his image to be able to assign it the qualities he feels are required to balance the world. The lyrics here are macabre yet have a restless play about them:

I’ll take the Scarface Pacino and The Godfather Brando
Mix it up in a tank and get a robot commando

Using fictional toughs from the 1970s in ‘The Godfather’ and 1980s in ‘Scarface’ as his character ingredients expresses the raw masculine imagination at work. A modern American ethos is applied here.

Dylan appeals to Julius Caesar, St. Peter, Mr. Freud, and Mr. Marx. As usual for the Ancients to connect to the Moderns as the basis for a new brain. Politics, Religion, and Philosophy—these are the areas of human endeavor forever swirling around in Mr. Dylan’s grey matter too.

“I wanna bring someone to life, turn back the years
Do it with laughter and do it with tears

The strongest desire of all seems to be the return of older values and ideas. The masks of comedy and tragedy must always balance the equation of reality and fiction.

“I’ve Made Up My Mind To Give Myself To You

The love poem of the album is addressed to an unknown woman (or perhaps every listener). A nice ballad delivered pretty straight and dry. In contrast to all of the other songs here this track stands out as the least grim.

“I’m giving myself to you, I am
From Salt Lake City to Birmingham
From East L.A. to San Antone
I don’t think I can bear to live my life alone

Mr. Dylan has had two marriages that produced 2 grown sons. His declaration here becomes clear. He wants to give up his lonely wandering.

“Black Rider”

A 5 verse poem that reinforces letting go of youthful recklessness. The doppelganger of violent intent is warned to release its grip or be hacked to pieces. The song is the simplest one here.

“Goodbye Jimmy Reed”

A 6 verse poem expressing Mr. Dylan’s goodbye to the blues. Mr. Reed is the most influential bluesman who passed back in 1976. He is the connective blood and tissue to Mr. Dylan’s other friends, Elvis and The Rolling Stones who covered Mr. Reed’s songs.

Mother of Muses”

A poetic prayer expressed with a selfish desire to have the top muse all to himself.

Mother of Muses, wherever you are
I’ve already outlived my life by far

In seeming desperation he lays his soul out for her to see. That life has now gone on too long. He needs her injection of spirit. Perhaps to fill the void if he lets go of his former life.

“Crossing The Rubicon”

Reinforcing his connection with the Ancients via Julius Caesar again, here to express a dedication to a new and risky course. This is a 9 verse poem that Dylanologists will love parsing among themselves. The densest work in this collection. Great poetic phrasing with just the right dose of abstraction.

“Key West (Pirate Philosopher)”

4 Verses of philosophy; 4 choruses describe Key West. This is the second longest track here. It serves as Prelude to Disc 2’s opus, “Murder Most Foul”.

In such simple verse Mr. Dylan crystallizes his ways. Key West is flat land where he can keep his feet planted firmly and listen closely to a pirate radio signal for inspiration and peace.

My favorite lines make up Chorus 4:

“Key West is the place to be
If you’re looking for immortality
Key West is paradise divine
Key West is fine and fair
If you lost your mind, you’ll find it there
Key West is on the horizon line”

Throughout his years writing songs Bob Dylan embraces places real and imagined as Eden–like. Key West is now his present flashpoint in life. It represents his cohorts: Ginsberg, Corso, and Kerouac; his greatest influencers: Louis, Jimmy, and Buddy.

This song closes out Disc 1. Key West is defined by Dylan as a tonic for life. The epic track on Disc 2 acts as counterpoint to the divine.

Murder Most Foul” is a nation’s fall from grace as well as an individual’s reckoning.

Due to the length and depths of that track I gave an entire blog entry over to it.

Click here for my analysis of the 17 minute track: https://wordpress.com/block-editor/post/evan-s-gate.com/1542

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Bob Dylan is that rare artist who continues to be inspired by the myriad roads travelled and the places he has seen. At once worldly and still forever in deep love with his own country, he is able to imbue his work with just the right amount of ambiguity and self—worth. He has become a true Renaissance man. I am a grateful listener.

Bob Dylan’s Murder Most Foul

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At midnight on March 27th, 2020, Bob Dylan released “Murder Most Foul”, his first studio release since 2017’s Triplicate and first original song release since 2012’s Tempest.

American Elegy—Our Nobel Laureate Publishes Another Masterpiece

In a career now spanning six decades Bob Dylan has been through numerous phases in a life that has itself become the stuff of living legend.

Now revealed that this song is the third side on his upcoming, Rough and Rowdy Ways, he continues to inspire and write brilliantly about history.

His ability to connect our ‘modern times’ with the ancient culture that brought it about, specifically the Romans, enabled his new life as a Nobel Prize recipient.

Murder Most Foul is Mr. Dylan’s longest song. if you take the time to listen to this track you will learn a lot about this wonderful country and its brutal past and present.

You will also discover an underlying feeling of hope in the soft accompaniment with its piano, light timpani, and strings.

Dylanologists are going to have another great track to explore for many years to come. There are a ton of deliberate references to all kinds of cultural arcana in this track. Too many in fact for a single blog entry.

But herein I will discuss some of my takes on this peerless work. The closest thing to a spoken word song or a revival of the beat poet in the vast Dylan catalog.

First Section

It was a dark day in Dallas, November ’63
A day that will live on in infamy
President Kennedy was a-ridin’ high
Good day to be livin’ and a good day to die
Being led to the slaughter like a sacrificial lamb
He said, “Wait a minute, boys, you know who I am?”
“Of course we do, we know who you are!”
Then they blew off his head while he was still in the car
Shot down like a dog in broad daylight

Was a matter of timing and the timing was right
You got unpaid debts, we’ve come to collect
We’re gonna kill you with hatred, without any respect
We’ll mock you and shock you and we’ll put it in your face
We’ve already got someone here to take your place
The day they blew out the brains of the king
Thousands were watching, no one saw a thing

It happened so quickly, so quick, by surprise
Right there in front of everyone’s eyes
Greatest magic trick ever under the sun
Perfectly executed, skillfully done
Wolfman, oh Wolfman, oh Wolfman, howl
Rub-a-dub-dub, it’s a murder most foul

Here in the beginning of the poem we are explicitly told how Mr. Dylan feels about the day President John F. Kennedy was murdered.

Using a phrase as his title, he frames the dreadful event as a Murder Most Foul. As the track continues there will be an evolution or rather a de-volution through the following decades as America’s culture and politics slowly decays.

The great hope of a young, handsome, and brilliant leader is cruelly blown off the face of the Earth. The promise of a new frontier delayed by his killing.

Mr. Dylan further frames the President’s murder as that of a lynching. Mr. Kennedy was white on the surface, but he was also the nation’s first Catholic elected to the Presidency. In Bob Dylan’s view he was ‘led like a lamb to the sacrificial slaughter’.

The first verses also make clear how this crime was such an American scene. Committed in broad daylight in front of the world; ‘greatest magic trick ever under the sun’.

The Second Section

Hush, little children, you’ll understand
The Beatles are comin’, they’re gonna hold your hand
Slide down the banister, go get your coat
Ferry ‘cross the Mersey and go for the throat
There’s three bums comin’ all dressed in rags
Pick up the pieces and lower the flags
I’m goin’ to Woodstock, it’s the Aquarian Age
Then I’ll go over to Altamont and sit near the stage
Put your head out the window, let the good times roll
There’s a party going on behind the Grassy Knoll
Stack up the bricks, pour the cement
Don’t say Dallas don’t love you, Mr. President

Put your foot in the tank and then step on the gas
Try to make it to the triple underpass
Blackface singer, whiteface clown
Better not show your faces after the sun goes down

Up in the red light district, they’ve got cop on the beat
Living in a nightmare on Elm Street
When you’re down on Deep Ellum, put your money in your shoe
Don’t ask what your country can do for you

Cash on the barrelhead, money to burn
Dealey Plaza, make a left-hand turn
I’m going down to the crossroads, gonna flag a ride
The place where faith, hope, and charity died
Shoot him while he runs, boy, shoot him while you can
See if you can shoot the invisible man
Goodbye, Charlie! Goodbye, Uncle Sam
Frankly, Miss Scarlett, I don’t give a damn
What is the truth, and where did it go?
Ask Oswald and Ruby, they oughta know
“Shut your mouth,” said a wise old owl

Business is business, and it’s a murder most foul

Now a tourist destination, the arts & entertainment hub of Dallas, TX was part of Kennedy’s fatal route on the day of his murder.

The last lines of these first 2 sections of verse connect to reinforce this crime as foul cold-blooded murder. ‘Rub-a-dub-dub, it’s murder most foul; Business is business, and it’s a murder most foul’.

The actual neighborhood near the crime scene of Kennedy’s death is referenced following the pop culture explosion of The Beatles who became a salve for the real pain young people felt at the time. Deep Ellum, the arts and entertainment hub of Dallas, TX had a rise in crime too.

Referenced in the song’s second section above: ‘When you’re down on Deep Ellum, put your money on your shoe’.

‘Don’t ask what your country can do for you’, the famous Kennedy line to demand public service of youth is juxtaposed to remind people now trapped in poor communities not to expect any government assistance. The social contract was murdered too.

Explicitly calling out Woodstock and Altamont and the Age of Aquarius with the mythology of free love and the violence of Altamont. America has always created myths to soothe the wounds of very real crimes.

The reality of the made up summer of love is the real slaughter of men, women, and children in Vietnam. The daily death toll were surely murders most foul.

Mr. Dylan performs a conjuring trick as well raising the original sin of race hatred in a line that also references his hit “Hurricane”. Blackface singer, whiteface clown
Better not show your faces after the sun goes down

Up in the red light district, they’ve got cop on the beat
Living in a nightmare on Elm Street

Also quite cleverly references a Wes Craven horror film released in the decade that followed his hit song about boxer Ruben ‘Hurricane’ Carter.

The name covers Dallas’ real murder of a President and the fictional murders of teenagers in a genre called the slasher film. The cruelty on display in Dallas would continue to resonate for the decades that followed.

The Third Section

Tommy, can you hear me? I’m the Acid Queen
I’m riding in a long, black Lincoln limousine
Ridin’ in the back seat next to my wife
Headed straight on in to the afterlife
I’m leaning to the left, I got my head in her lap
Hold on, I’ve been led into some kind of a trap
Where we ask no quarter, and no quarter do we give
We’re right down the street, from the street where you live
They mutilated his body and they took out his brain
What more could they do? They piled on the pain
But his soul was not there where it was supposed to be at
For the last fifty years they’ve been searchin’ for that
Freedom, oh freedom, freedom over me
I hate to tell you, mister, but only dead men are free
Send me some lovin’, then tell me no lie
Throw the gun in the gutter and walk on by
Wake up, little Susie, let’s go for a drive
Cross the Trinity River, let’s keep hope alive
Turn the radio on, don’t touch the dials
Parkland Hospital, only six more miles
You got me dizzy, Miss Lizzy, you filled me with lead
That magic bullet of yours has gone to my head
I’m just a patsy like Patsy Cline
Never shot anyone from in front or behind
I’ve blood in my eye, got blood in my ear
I’m never gonna make it to the new frontier
Zapruder’s film I seen night before
Seen it thirty-three times, maybe more

It’s vile and deceitful, it’s cruel and it’s mean
Ugliest thing that you ever have seen
They killed him once and they killed him twice
Killed him like a human sacrifice
The day that they killed him, someone said to me, “Son
The age of the Antichrist has just only begun”
Air Force One comin’ in through the gate
Johnson sworn in at 2:38
Let me know when you decide to throw in the towel
It is what it is, and it’s murder most foul

I set the third section above in big bold type since at this point forward the song becomes full and explicit. Brimming with anger at President Kennedy’s demise, whom Mr. Dylan likens to a King as the Kennedy White House became Camelot, then in a blink ‘his eyes, nose, and ears were filled with blood.’

The Zapruder film in some way becomes America’s first slasher film, only it’s real.

Mr Dylan describes the piece which he claims to have seen over 30 times, as ‘vile and deceitful’.

That first piece of social media created an infinity of conspiracy theories. I see it as a reflection on his own youth. In his youth the repetition is easily performed. Now, at 79 Mr. Dylan only needs a single reading.

Freedom, oh freedom, freedom over me
I hate to tell you, mister, but only dead men are free

This is my favorite line in the poem/song. Using Whitmanesque phrasing to connect Lincoln with Kennedy. Both men were after all the great hope of a wounded nation. Slavery in Lincoln’s era and Vietnam/Racism in Kennedy’s time. Both men were victims of murder most foul.

Mr. Dylan has undergone phases of life where he composed Christian influenced records. He has deep personal beliefs that crop up nicely here.

Declaring, ‘the Age of the Antichrist’ has just begun following the Kennedy assassination the nation saw a steep rise in cult activity, the crimes of Charles Manson, and satanic music also came into being in American culture.

Echoing the conventional wisdom that the nation had lost its soul are Mr. Dylan’s lyrics describing the Kennedy post mortem: ‘No soul was found where it should be.’

The Fourth Section

What’s new, pussycat? What’d I say?
I said the soul of a nation been torn away
And it’s beginning to go into a slow decay
And that it’s thirty-six hours past Judgment Day
Wolfman Jack, he’s speaking in tongues
He’s going on and on at the top of his lungs
Play me a song, Mr. Wolfman Jack
Play it for me in my long Cadillac
Play me that “Only the Good Die Young”
Take me to the place Tom Dooley was hung
Play “St. James Infirmary” and the Court of King James
If you want to remember, you better write down the names
Play Etta James, too, play “I’d Rather Go Blind”
Play it for the man with the telepathic mind
Play John Lee Hooker, play “Scratch My Back”
Play it for that strip club owner named Jack
Guitar Slim going down slow
Play it for me and for Marilyn Monroe

It’s Mr. Wolfman Jack to you. Bob Dylan has reached a point in his career that he can compose a poem that includes 1970’s icon Wolfman Jack.

This is a reference to the alter—ego creation that he underwent in the 1960’s, Robert Zimmerman became Bob Dylan; Robert Weston Smith became Wolfman Jack.

Also in the new age of the antichrist men were literally becoming beasts. It’s in this section that Mr. Dylan begins to recommend recordings using the word ‘play’ as a command.

It references his 2 years as a D.J. himself on satellite radio. Using famous titles/lyrics from the era’s violent refelctions include “Only The Good Die Young”, published in 1977, the year of the Son of Sam killings in New York.

Bob Dylan makes his listeners do a lot of history homework. I strongly believe this is why his work ranks so high.

Playing up the description of President Kennedy’s car of choice, ‘a long black Cadillac’, itself a coffin on wheels.

Take me to the place Tom Dooley was hung
Play “St. James Infirmary” and the Court of King James
If you want to remember, you better write down the names

For my take these 3 lines set up why Bob Dylan has become such a master at connecting seemingly disparate ideas.

You see the ‘place where Tom Dooley was hung’ is in North Carolina, where the Wolfman took his last breath.

Being white, Wolfman Jack died of a heart attack not a lynching. Tom Dooley became the subject of many folk songs, a genre that gave artistic birth to Bob Dylan.

Tom Dooley is part of a sad American tradition known as Appalachian Murder Ballads. A murder most foul.

St. James Infirmary references blues music. An alternate title for the song was “The Young Man Cut Down in His Prime”) about a soldier who uses his money on prostitutes and then dies of venereal disease. The theme ties in with Kennedy’s death.

Then closing the section with a simple notation of why the name checking will continue unabated for the rest of the piece—to remember with clarity write down the names.

Only an artist of Bob Dylan’s caliber tells the listener his intent in writing this or any other song/poem is to preserve it for the ages to come beyond his mortal years.

The Fifth Section (Conclusion)

Play “Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”
Play it for the First Lady, she ain’t feeling any good
Play Don Henley, play Glenn Frey
Take it to the limit and let it go by
Play it for Carl Wilson, too
Looking far, far away down Gower Avenue
Play “Tragedy”, play “Twilight Time”
Take me back to Tulsa to the scene of the crime
Play another one and “Another One Bites the Dust”
Play “The Old Rugged Cross” and “In God We Trust”
Ride the pink horse down that long, lonesome road
Stand there and wait for his head to explode
Play “Mystery Train” for Mr. Mystery
The man who fell down dead like a rootless tree
Play it for the reverend, play it for the pastor
Play it for the dog that got no master
Play Oscar Peterson, play Stan Getz
Play “Blue Sky,” play Dickey Betts
Play Art Pepper, Thelonious Monk
Charlie Parker and all that junk

All that junk and “All That Jazz”
Play something for the Birdman of Alcatraz
Play Buster Keaton, play Harold Lloyd
Play Bugsy Siegel, play Pretty Boy Floyd
Play the numbers, play the odds

Play “Cry Me a River” for the Lord of the gods
Play Number nine, play Number six
Play it for Lindsey and Stevie Nicks
Play Nat King Cole, play “Nature Boy”
Play “Down in the Boondocks” for Terry Malloy
Play “It Happened One Night” and “One Night of Sin”
There’s twelve million souls that are listening in
Play “Merchant of Venice”, play “Merchants of Death”

Play “Stella by Starlight” for Lady Macbeth
Don’t worry, Mr. President, help’s on the way
Your brothers are comin’, there’ll be hell to pay
Brothers? What brothers? What’s this about hell?
Tell them, “We’re waiting, keep coming,” we’ll get them as well

Love Field is where his plane touched down
But it never did get back up off the ground
Was a hard act to follow, second to none
They killed him on the altar of the rising sun
Play “Misty” for me and “That Old Devil Moon”
Play “Anything Goes” and “Memphis in June”
Play “Lonely at the Top” and “Lonely Are the Brave”
Play it for Houdini spinning around in his grave
Play Jelly Roll Morton, play “Lucille”
Play “Deep in a Dream”, and play “Driving Wheel”
Play “Moonlight Sonata” in F-sharp
And “A Key to the Highway” for the king on the harp

Play “Marching Through Georgia” and “Dumbarton’s Drums”
Play darkness and death will come when it comes
Play “Love Me or Leave Me” by the great Bud Powell
Play “The Blood-Stained Banner”, play “Murder Most Foul”

In this final section of this elegiac piece Mr. Dylan reminds us of the worst scene of racial violence in the nation’s history.

The Tulsa race massacre (also called the Tulsa race riot, the Greenwood Massacre, or the Black Wall Street Massacre) of 1921 took place on May 31 and June 1, 1921, when mobs of white residents attacked black residents and businesses of the Greenwood District in TulsaOklahoma.

It has been called “the single worst incident of racial violence in American history.” The attack, carried out on the ground and from private aircraft, destroyed more than 35 square blocks of the district—at that time the wealthiest black community in the United States, known as “Black Wall Street”.

This awful history was dramatized on the Premiere of HBO’s ‘Watchmen’. Here the line takes us back to the scene of the original crime.

He connects it to the currents of hate/racism that from 1921 became a tsunami that killed another American President.

Then swirling through the American history of Jazz music and its iconic progenitors he adds crime figures like Bugsy Siegel who builds Las Vegas and on and on in a dizzying meter of names that arrives at “Love Me or Leave Me” by Bud Powell.

This is Dylan’s response to the hateful crowds that state, America love it or leave it.

The final line is perhaps the most stinging reminder of how far America needs to go to overcome its bloody past and present: Play The Blood Stained Banner , Play Murder Most Foul.

‘The Blood Stained Banner’ was a Confederate anthem and a version of the Confederate Flag presented in 1865. Bob Dylan is telling the nation to never forget this happened.

And to kindly play the song just ended, his American Elegy, Murder Most Foul.

Album Review: Rewind, Replay, Rebound/Volbeat

Copenhagen’s hard rockers Volbeat released their seventh record August 2, 2019.

The band found commercial success around the world with their unique fusion of heavy metal music with rockabilly style.

In Denmark they have sold millions of records hitting gold with every release. Topping charts at home and abroad in Germany, UK, New Zealand, and the US.

This latest collection will surely hit your ears with pleasing sounds if you are familiar with heavy metal music of the eighties or rockabilly music of the fifties and sixties.

Their current line-up consists of vocalist and guitarist Michael Poulsen, guitarist Rob Caggiano, drummer Jon Larsen and bassist Kaspar Boye Larsen. 

The 14 songs comprise a life cycle that depending on your age will make you feel happy. The first section recalls or rewinds to carefree days of childhood.

Opening with ‘Last Day Under the Sun’, the opening riff reminded me of Billy Squier’s sound in 1984. The lyrics ask questions about life. Then reassures if your path is not happy it will improve. A new day will come.

This reflects strongly on metal music mainly being about youth. And today we, the metal listeners have grown up. But it’s okay. The music can still uplift in times of being blue.

Volbeat sit atop the Mainstream Rock Chart in the US.
This upbeat eighties metal style track leads off the 14 song album.

‘Pelvis On Fire’ is a metal meets Elvis groove with mid-tempo thrash swagger that is a delight.

‘Rewind The Exit’ is a power ballad that defies the usual cliche of past glory. It declares the middle age understanding of self as a new start.

‘Die To Live’ is a fresh burst of psychobilly (punk and rockabilly) fun. Complete with Jerry Lee Lewis style piano and sax! A rollicking kicker that takes you on a fun trip.

Guest vocals by Neil Fallon of Clutch delivers vocals that ride in between Elvis Presley and Joey Ramone with fine tuned dexterity.

‘When We Were Kids’ is remembrance of youth’s promise of eternal life. What makes Volbeat fun to listen to are the mix of genres like thrash with pop.

This track includes a Metallica like progression you will groove with despite the initial shock that it goes there at all. The thrash speed is slowed to mid-tempo riffing that captivates its listener.

Back into psychobilly for ‘Sorry Sack Of Bones’ which like all the previous tracks has harmonies and great riff lines. It’s like The Misfits meet Billy Idol.

The Replay theme follows with ‘Cloud 9’. Total recall of memories of love features a tight arrangement that despite familiar guitar lines will leave you smiling.

‘Cheapside Sloggers’ features Exodus guitarist, Gary Holt. He delivers a Thin Lizzy style riff. This collides with a section that recalls Black Sabbath at their best. It slides gracefully back into power harmonies that deliver a feel good punch.

‘Maybe I Believe’ uses nineties sounding guitars with power pop vocals to create a track that sticks with you.

We rebound back to our present state with a 37 second track called ‘Parasite’. This was the lead off single. Teasing fans with such a short track was attention getting.

‘Leviathan’, a bouncy hard rocker with progressive roots in seventies rock like King Crimson and ELP. Very catchy melodies are a Volbeat staple. The chorus is power metal at its best.

The descriptions of a sea monster’s rise over stormy conditions are seemingly recycled lyrics from a past era. Yet it works really well here.

‘The Awakening Of Bonnie Parker’ is heavy with a spoken word section that recalls when rock rolled. This leads into the album’s final two songs, ‘The Everlasting’ and ‘7:24’.

Chugging along we get groove, thrash, and even death metal style deliveries combined with melody.

The record takes a few listens to absorb all the divergent sounds. If you take the time to listen close you will be rewarded.

Making the past sound present is Volbeat’s untangible quality. Fine tuned musicanship is on display here. You can Rewind, Replay, and Rebound if you so choose. No sign of middle age metal crisis in this effort.

Volbeat are 0n tour in America opening for Slipknot.

Album Review: Africa Speaks by Santana

January 2019 saw the debut of a 3 song e.p. titled In Search Of Mona Lisa” . This record was the introduction to”Africa Speaks”, Santana’s 25th album.
1.“Do You Remember Me”Carlos Santana9:50
2.“In Search of Mona Lisa”Jeffrey Cohen / Santana / Narada Michael Walden5:11
3.“Lovers From Another Time”Santana / Consuelo Velázquez / Walden

Performing concerts in France for decades he never went to the Louvre museum. His wife and drummer, Cindy Blackman Santana explained he must visit. Carlos Santana found divine inspiration .

Tourists from all over the world come to see Mona Lisa. Most of them view her through their smart phones. Carlos Santana gazed upon her with his own eyes. As a result of this moment came ancestral memory, dreams, and musical passages.

“Melody is the bridge between the celestial and the physical”—-Carlos Santana

During interviews for both the e.p. and full-length records he explained that the Mona Lisa asked ‘Do You Remember Me’. He thought a lot about what this meant to him.

This work of art conjured up many images for him. Over the following months his dreams formed a template for this album.

As a result we receive a 3 track gem called “In Search Of Mona Lisa”. This ep was followed by the full length studio album, “Africa Speaks”.

All the magic of those jams recorded in the 1970’s return on Santana’s new record.

My listening has become enriched with the sounds of “Africa Speaks”. Never before has a record captured my attention in this way.

The mix of Latin Rock, propulsive World Beats, and African rhythms with intoxicating vocals by Spanish singer, Buika, add up to an experience of pure joy.

The album’s cover art displays an African mask with swirls of colors that represent the import of the sounds within its gatefold sleeve.

This mask is worn in ceremony. To communicate with ancestors long gone. Like the Mona Lisa preamble it asks the listener to remember forgotten roots.

I realized for the first time why music remains so present in my life. You can experience so much over years of listening. Artists who have reached so many still elude some.

While new music is important I discovered that old music is always waiting for first time listeners. Santana is new music for me.

His early hits ‘Black Magic Woman’ and ‘Oye Como Va’ (a cover of Tito Puente’s classic) were all I knew before listening back to every song on his first 6 records.

His eponymous debut in 1969 fused Latin music with jazz, rock, and funk to produce indescribably deep grooves that jam. His ‘Soul Sacrifice’ proved to be the spell that once cast kept me in his artistic orbit.

This new record has such an amazing way of drawing in its listener. Slowly the drums begin then rhythm kicks in with intense tonal verocity that never lets up.

A rich musical journey that begins in Africa where civilization began. The sounds vibrate out sending waves across the world to wash over the fortunate listener to feel whole.

Release Date: 06/07/2019

TRACKS

  • 1Africa Speaks
  • 2Batonga
  • 3Oye Este Mi Canto
  • 4Yo Me Lo Merezco
  • 5Blue Skies
  • 6Paraisos Quemados
  • 7Breaking Down The Door
  • 8Los Invisibles
  • 9Luna Hechicera
  • 10Bembele
  • 11Candombe Cumbele

“Deep in the jungle, beyond the reach of greed
You hear the voices of spirits
With their frequency of light
Making sounds like the crackling of stars at night
Communicating with plants, animals and mankind
Affirming the universal truth…
All and everything was conceived here in Africa
The cradle of civilization”
Carlos Santana

This invocation is spoken by Santana at the top of this record. You the listener are invited to feel the warmth of a place forgotten, lost to migration of peoples, and re-discover its beauty, magic, and genuine human connection.

Produced by Rick Rubin (Metallica) the 11 track album was the result of sessions at Shangra La Studios in Malibu, CA and his Tarpan Studios in San Rafael, CA that created 49 songs.

Carlos Santana & Buika
A remarkable collaboration bringing the sounds of Africa to life.

Buika is a singer, poet, composer and music producer. Her music draws on a wide range of influences, from jazz and flamenco to pop, soul and African polyrhythm. She began her career as a drummer and bassist, turning to singing only because “in Spain nobody wanted a female drummer, and I got tired of hearing no, no, no.”

Her vocals are mesmerizing. Contributing writing to every song on this record, the languages of Africa are well represented too. Do not be intimidated if you have never listened to this music. Its beauty will envelop you; its melody provides a warmth that won’t let go.

Carlos Santana is one of the last remaining active rock stars of the Woodstock Era. His performance at the legendary festival in 1969 is rightfully considered one of the greatest sets of all time.

August 30, 2019 marks the 50th Anniversary of his recording career debut! ‘Santana’, ‘Abraxas’, and his top selling ‘Supernatural’ have been reissued on vinyl, CD, and are streaming too.

I hope this record brings you all the joy it has brought me.

Thanks for visiting Evan’s Gate!

Twenty One Pilots Reinvent Rock

Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons” is a critically acclaimed play that keeps getting revived on Broadway. I saw the most recent production Starring Annette Bening and Tracey Letts.

It tells the story of an American defense contractor who knowingly sold defective plane parts that led to the deaths of 21 pilots during the war.

Vocalist Tyler Joseph took the name for his band from this play. He is the principal songwriter for the duo. His childhood friend Josh Dun is the drummer.

I loved the play. Arthur Miller became one of my favorite playwrights. Consequently, Twenty One Pilots are now one of my favorite artists in music.

The duo from Akron, Ohio did not try to sell themselves. Playing low key gigs in their home state until one fateful show with 1,200 local fans and 12 record label reps in the crowd took them by surprise.

They have recorded 4 studio albums. The third album”Blurryface” was their breakthrough to the commercial mainstream. The song “Stressed Out” went triple platinum.

I found them on SNL. Then I went to hear all of their music online. I could not stop listening. Their sound was unique. How could a rock duo seemingly reinvent the genre?

Tyler Joseph discovered for himself how to express personal struggles with depression, doubt, and survival using his voice. He plays keyboards/synth. The music has no guitar. This became revelatory to their success.

I felt strongly that no other artist reflected these times better. Exploring themes of faith, mental illness, death, insecurity and suicide on their eponymous debut, “Vessels”, and “Blurryface”, the duo took a year off to write a story focusing on the painful end of an order based on faith.

Their recent offering, “Trench”, was a concept record well received by fans and critics alike. Set in the fictional city of Dema, in a world known as Trench. Clancy, the main protagonist, takes a personal journey into this decaying culture to discover Nine Bishops control this crumbling society.

Trench Album & Josh Dun with Tyler Joseph seen above.

Dema means Towers of Silence. In Zoroastrianism the dead are placed inside of towers made of stone. Black Vultures feed on them. Ecology falters leading to the disappearance of these sentries to the eternal.

The songs tell the story well. Tyler Joseph and Paul Meaney of indie band Mutemath wrote all 14 tracks and produced the album.

‘Jumpsuit’ opens the record. A protective article of clothing needed to survive in Trench. ‘Levitate’ & ‘Morph’ describe the actions required to move around dangerous sections of the city.

The vocals vary from soft to outcries; falsetto to baritone; sometimes in the span of a single song.

‘My Blood’, ‘Chlorine’, ‘Smithereens’, and ‘Neon Gravestones’ cover more ground. The joining together to fend off enemies, cleansing away dark thoughts, and sacrificing for your community are expressed in these tracks. The music insists on our resisting old thoughts to operate in a discovery of improved life.

‘The Hype’, ‘Nico and the Niners’, ‘Cut My Lip’, ‘Bandito’ and ‘Pet Cheetah’ follow in quick order. The action moves fast; the thoughts need time to be absorbed.

This album takes more than a few spins but rewards its listener with catchy beats and introspective lyrics. The pop elements repeat a lot. I found it more soothing than irritant.

‘Legend’ and ‘Leave The City’ are about survival. Coping with new circumstances becomes the salve.

If you have not listened to this music yet start with Blurryface or Vessels. While Trench is satisfying to the duo’s now established following, it may not grab a novice.

Zappa The…

strange or extraordinary character ODDFANTASTIC

synonyms for weird

Synonyms: Adjective

bizarrebizarrocrankycrazycuriouseccentricerraticfar-outfunkyfunnykinky, kooky (also kookie), oddoff-kilter,  offbeat, , outlandish, outrépeculiarquaintqueerqueerishquirkyremarkablescrewyspaced-outstrangewacky , way-outweirdowild.

The above comes from the Merriam—Webster dictionary definition of Weird. For myself this was the word that always popped into my head when I thought about Frank Zappa. Not surprising that a single word could then be translated in many colorful ways. Much like the sonic experiments Mr. Zappa created, his listeners would receive a bounty that would never get exhausted.

This entry is happening now because on Friday May 31, 2019 for the first time on vinyl since 1976 comes a re-issue of “Zappa In New York” on 3 Lps. Recorded during a 4 show stint at The Palladium in New York City. Originally a double LP, the third record is a bonus!

Before I delve into my thoughts about the work, how did it come to be?

In 1964 Frank Zappa took over leadership of the American band The Soul Giants. He renamed the band The Mothers, referring to the jazz compliment of mother for a great musician. However, their record company, Verve Records , objected to the insinuation (i.e., “motherfuckers”) and by necessity Zappa had to change the name, creating (and defining) The Mothers Of Invention.

Necessity is the mother of invention” is an English-language proverb. It means, roughly, that the primary driving force for most new inventions is a need.

Mr. Zappa’s need drove him to create music that would provide new pathways for musicians and listeners.

As a music lover I am relieved that my appreciation of his work comes after my obsessions with mainstream groups. Music is exploratory by nature. As a listener I need to be challenged. Following the former years of passive media consumption I want to be more actively engaged. Music does this for me. But like many of my fellow countrymen I listened to what was put before me, not what I actually made an effort to get. In an age where over produced pop is drowning us in simplicity I need complexity.

Now, in this age of information, the legacy of his vast body of work can be understood as a rigorous expression of subjects Mr. Zappa cared deeply about. Nothing to do with easy access or top 40 popularity. This music is label free. Fusion is the word used to describe what is the core of his output. He puts styles together to form a new sound.

Remaining outside the mainstream culture of mass consumer popularity Mr. Zappa is being reached for the first time by people like myself who remained in a fractured mindset. Applying self-made restrictions on what to hear or think about prevented finding this revolutionary sound.

Tellingly, Mr. Zappa spoke openly about the damaging effects of television that enable a crippling passivity. People become narrow and confused, bogged down in just one form of expression. Taught to consume without much thought. Creativity becomes necessity in such a culture. In his lifetime he released 60 albums of original work. The Zappa Family Trust, since his death in 1993, has put out 62 more works.

For a complete list of the 112 studio albums and 40 tribute albums use this link:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Zappa_discography

Even back in the late 1960s the idea of free thought was constrained by profit. His albums beginning with the debut, “Freak Out!”, sought to obliterate this filter. Without a filter he put out a record titled, “We’re Only In It For The Money”, with cover art that mocked the lionized “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”. The rock era is filled to overflowing with artists that sought nothing more than commercial acceptance. Nothing wrong with it. There is more to art than just profit.

I admit that my first impression of him was typical of a kid too young to understand anything more than top 40 drivel. Here was a guy with looks I found peculiar playing music that had sounds I could not readily decipher or pigeonhole. My prejudices were taught. Today there are more people with Zappa’s looks of otherness. I think this is encouraging. He brought humor into forms considered serious like jazz and blues.

Way-out experiments are not the commercial fruit bearing endeavors record companies want from their talent. Frank Zappa did it because there was within him a strong need to invent sounds that could not exist otherwise. He sought out musicians that could play this no boundaries music.

On YouTube there are several hours worth of interviews from different countries and years. His opinions were direct, smart, and well thought out. Knowing full well that America’s self-deception was the thing hurting the nation from era to era, Zappa spoke about our deep backwardness regarding sexuality and free expression.

“The American dream is to always be young, always be rich, and always be cute”— Frank Zappa

Sexuality was the pressing issue. He felt strongly that sex is as natural a function as going to the bathroom. In American culture many are taught to repress sexual expression. Look at what the result of this has been. Zappa did not believe in pornography or dirty words. Filters like religion and television have done damage in dictating that there is something wrong with sex. Notice how absent most expressions of sexuality are from our media. He recognized most license holders in television are right-wing.

I admire his tenacity when expressing these things. I agree with a lot of it. To fix the economy he stated that churches should be taxed. Then legalize prostitution and drugs. Both should be highly taxed and regulated. Make sure our politicians get what they need, especially sex.

Everyone in the country would have better jobs because America would be manufacturing goods. The economy would then be quite strong. And stop overfunding the military. I think this is why so many wanted him to run for President during the 1980s. Boldly put, do you really want sexually repressed people in places of power?

Speaking of power nobody was more aware of television’s deliberate consumer mission: to sell products. His 1978 appearance on Saturday Night Live was my first exposure to his music and personality. “Dancin’ Fool” was the catchy number I remember most. Re-watching it I discovered how relevant the other two pieces were in presenting his ideas. Click here to see it: https://youtu.be/PGWE7t3qO1I

Actually, after seeing it again now as an adult I think of Frank Zappa on the simple level of a George Carlin type with musical talent. Intellectual, probing, and skeptical of what we as a society think culture should be.

Mr. Zappa was a champion of First Amendment rights. In the 1980s when the Parent’s Music Resource Center, a group made up of politician’s wifes including Tipper Gore tried to censor rock music, Mr. Zappa testified before Congress. He defended the rights of all. He knew an attack on any form of music was an attack on him as well.

I think he would find the current state of things typical. We are still fighting over race, sexuality, gender, censorship, and inequality. The continuing legalization of marijuana would be progress, slow, but a forward step he might have been happy to see. Just imagine the Zappa response to ‘reality’ TV and ‘social’ media that do the opposite of what they pretend to be. Zappa was quite real and social. A real mother.

Searing instrumentals.
“Hot Rats” is a must listen. The second solo album.
Don Van Viliet (Captain Beefheart) featured on the only vocal track, “Willie The Pimp”.
The 112th release in the ever expanding Zappa Catalog.

Details of the 40th Anniversary release of Zappa In New York set (seen above) are here:

https://www.zappa.com/news/frank-zappas-beloved-live-double-album-zappa-new-york-celebrated-suite-40th-anniversary

In April a new concert experience played 9 sold out dates in America. A hologram of Frank Zappa performs alongside 6 musicians. The European dates are coming up.

According to Mr. Zappa’s family he hoped there would be a hologram tour after his life.

Getting back to how I started this entry. Can we define Zappa? I think we cannot. Fluidity is the main thing in art. Zappa the musician. That’s enough for me.

I have started listening from the beginning with the first 4 albums by The Mothers Of Invention. The first two solo albums were added too.

There may be more entries about Frank Zappa in the future. Although I still need to write about the albums and artists that were at the core of my love of music, the boundaries are ever expanding. The gate is always open.

June is Pride Month.

Coming Up: Stonewall At 50.

Thakn you for reading and following Evan’s Gate!