Stormy Monday

I stood out back in the shed listening to the wind pick up and drive the light rain against the walls and fences and trellises. Rose bushes lash the windows even now. The cat and I agreed to go back inside.

Working on a longish blog entry about losing my wallet in New York and the catch-22’s around the need to show I.D. to get on an airplane these days. Starring the Tell Me system.

It’s the end of the year and I’m trying to clean out my basement of equipment from my old downtown office. I’m getting rid of a UMAX dual-processor supermac (PowerPC) clone, a 486 with monitor, and a 386/doorstop. Also, some keyboards and mouses. Mice? There seem to be a few good places right here in Oakland that will reuse or recycle them responsibly.

Live 1975B and I agreed no gifts this year, but I took it upon myself to get us the Beck CD she’s been wanting since we saw him at the Paramount and the new Dylan bootleg series release, from the Rolling Thunder Revue tour. B saw a show on that tour in a high-school auditorium in Augusta, Maine. Apparently no one taped that show but I did once find her a bootleg recording of the show just before it, in a slightly larger New England venue. This tape included the performances of all of the musicians, not just Dylan’s set.

Anyway, we just got back from New York and still haven’t listened to either of the records yet (though we did listen to a little of the Dolemite LP “This Ain’t No White Christmas” my brother A gave me the first night we got back—it survived being checked), but this part of a chockful Ken Layne update really whets my appetite:

My favorite gift hasn’t been out of the office CD player in days: the two-disc set from Bob Dylan’s 1975 Rolling Thunder tour. Fantastic. “Just Like a Woman” is on right now, showing off this crazy band: Mick Ronson’s spidery lead guitar, pedal steel, violin, Roger McGuinn, T-Bone Burnett, Rob Stoner’s bass anchoring the whole thing.

Every song is beautifully done. A bunch have completely different arrangements (normal for Dylan), but what’s astounding is how perfectly these new arrangements work. Dylan’s voice is at its best: clear, passionate, every word enunciated. He jokes with the crowd, gives friendly thanks for applause, and sounds utterly delighted to be doing these shows. This double CD quickly became one of my all-time favorite live albums … and it’s now one of my favorite Dylan records (along with “Love and Theft,” “Blonde on Blonde,” “Blood on the Tracks,” “Desire” and “Nashville Skyline”).

From the first track, you know something good is happening. It’s “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You,” transformed from a country ditty to an absolutely rollicking “Beggar’s Banquet”-style barroom beauty.

Something similar happens with “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall,” a song I’ve always dismissed as preachy. Not here. It’s a roadhouse dance tune, with a freight train rumble and a singalong chorus. You can almost smell the goddamned whisky fumes and taste the BBQ ribs. (How the hell did they pull this off in New England?)

The recording is so crisp and alive, it sounds like it was done last week, not a quarter-century ago. Highly recommended, and not just for Dylan fanatics (which I’m not). This is a record for anybody who likes Ziggy Stardust, Wilco, “Exile on Main Street,” Beck, the Texas Tornadoes, Johnny Cash, Son Volt, the “O! Brother” soundtrack, Ryan Adams, the Flying Burrito Bros., Jimmie Rodgers, Robert Johnson, the Pretenders, Hank Williams (Sr. or III), and pretty much any good, raw American music.