This is my first blog! My first issue is this- I welcome anybody’s success stories vis a vis their usage of blogs, facebook, myspace, etc. I am told, by wise people, that these platforms, and all the time they take away from other pursuits, will help my career. While I am sure that some have found these virtual community-builders useful, I personally find them a little ridiculous, so far. I know what actual community feels like, and it is physical, having nothing to do with staring at a screen. The possible exception is myspace, where people can at least listen to my music, which is a good thing.
Folks, tell me your stories. Is Facebook, or Linked In, or Pulse Plaxo, or whatever bringing you work, sales, useful connections? Or is mostly a waste of time?
Onto other matters: I saw Bob Dylan in Prospect Park Brooklyn last month. I am a huge Dylan fan, and in general I am willing to forgive the occasional faults from someone who has given the music world so much. But this concert was unforgivably mediocre. The man’s voice is utterly shot. He has no range, and I mean NO range. He croaks, barely suggesting the melodies. The deep, creaky expressiveness on, say, Time Out of Mind, is gone. It was difficult to confront a man ruining his best work, like a great painter heaping a bucket of Benjamin White on his masterpiece. The guitarists, one in particular, were shockingly lame. Bad tone, bad phrasing, almost laughable. I’ve met 17 year olds who could have done better. How on earth is it possible that the great BOB DYLAN could not even realize he is playing with a hack? It mystifies me. Bob Dylan can’t even take the time to find a guitarist who doesn’t wreck his material! What’s the world come to?
Of course the sound was bad- and I should know by now that I am too old and mean to go to an outdoor show. I could barely hear the fine pedal steel/ banjo/ fiddle player.
There was one positive aspect to the show, and that’s the rhythm section. On the better tunes, “Like a Rolling Stone”, “Everybody Must Get Stoned”, they played with passion and authority. Unfortunately too many tunes came from the mediocre cd Modern Times (it’s anything but modern) This cd is the type of thing that makes Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf’s spirits shriek. Bad 12 bar blues tunes played with no distinction, too many rambling words, not a single good solo, making one ache to hear the real source of Dylan’s troubled tributes. Hootchie Cootchie man, anyone?
Some years ago I attended a particularly off-putting concert by the great Ornette Coleman. I ran into dear, sweet, recently deceased Andrew Hill on the way out and began talking with him. I asked him what he thought of the show. He replied, rather delicately, that it had caused him to contemplate a question that felt very pertinent and personal- “When do you stop?” When does a great artist say, “I have done enough and I am no longer serving the music?” Clearly Andrew had considered this for himself. Of course he ended up doing some of his finest work at the end of his life.
No one has the right to suggest that any artist should give up, stop touring or playing. But what an ardent fan and intelligent listener can ask for is that the artist continue to exercise self-judgement. As we age can we still hear with the alacrity, professionalism, wisdom and zeal of our younger years? It is imperative that we never lose the capacity for self-reflection. Ironically this may be easier to do when you’ve never had success, as fame seems only to weaken the great. I have to say that in recent times I have heard Ornette play some of the most amazing saxophone playing of all time. So as self-appointed critic, I have to make sure not to judge anyone on one or two concerts.
By the way, if you want to check out my own attempts to try new things, please see my somewhat new song collection at www.passingtrain.com.