Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Musical Musings, November 2018 Edition: Morrissey, Smashing Pumpkins, Frank Sinatra, and Bob Dylan

  • I try to get a good mix of music on here. I tend toward yesterday's classic rock and today's indie rock; with the occasional foray into other genres, especially when they have a political implication.

  • I am opposed to censorship, but I am not a free speech absolutist. I do not believe people have the "right" to make violent, hateful statements, they do not have the "right" to insist on being published everywhere, and I am certainly under no obligation to promote music or artists who I think are harmful.

  • Reason this is on my mind is because there is currently a new Smashing Pumpkins album and a cool video of Morrissey doing a cover of The Pretenders' "Back On The Chain Gang".

  • In other times, I would probably have featured articles on both of those artists and their latest projects, but for political reasons I have decided to not promote either of them at this time.

  • Morrissey, despite being queer and Irish, has made numerous racist, anti-immigrant statements over the years, and he only seems to be getting worse. He now supports a tiny far-right, racist, fringe political party in the UK. Therefore, I cannot support him.

  • Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins has always been a bit of a bitter pill for some people to swallow. I was formerly a big fan until he started palling around with Alex Jones and bashing "Social Justice Warriors" and Bernie Sanders supporters. That was a bridge too far. Until Billy rejects Alex Jones, I have to reject Smashing Pumpkins.

  • In better news, the Democratic Party did really well against Trump in the mid-term elections last week...

  • In even better news, it seems Bob Dylan has (finally) given up on the Sinatra thing (thank the gods, both old and new!!!)

  • Dylan has done the equivalent of five (!!!) Sinatra albums (2 single albums and 1 triple disc album) since 2015. His recordings and concerts since then have been dominated by songs associated with Frank Sinatra. Although I appreciate Frank's early support for the civil rights movement and other progressive causes (see The House I Live In video above), as well as his singing (High Hopes, Young At Heart, Fly Me To The Moon, My Way...) and acting (especially From Here To Eternity), (and I'm currently appreciating the daily eviscerating anti-Trump tweets from daughter Nancy Sinatra), I grew up during his drift to the right-wing and the Republicans, when he was known more for Mob associations, drinking, and sexist behavior than for his music. 

  • Dylan has worshiped Sinatra for decades and has always been stung by people's criticism of his voice. Seeming like he had something to prove, Dylan stopped releasing original music and focused almost entirely on Sinatra material, which he may have imagined would finally convince the haters what a great singer he is (his timing.... his pitch... his delivery). Sorry. We love you Dylan, but no one will ever mistake you for Pavarotti and that's ok - we love you for your lyrics and what you stand for. We love you despite your voice, not because of it.

A bright patch for Dylan fans during this same period was the release of many excellent archival Dylan releases. In 2014, we had The Complete Basement Tapes (absolutely essential), followed by The Cutting Edge 1965-1966 (the studio sessions for his classic releases Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited, and Blonde On Blonde), Trouble No More (from the underrated gospel period), Live 1962-1966, and, mostly recently, More Blood, More Tracks (the complete New York and Minnesota sessions for the great Blood On The Tracks).

  • As you may have guessed by now, I haven't liked his Sinatra period AT ALL. My thought has been this: Now that Dylan's voice has been diminished by age, he would be much better suited singing blues songs by people like Reverend Gary Davis and Blind Willie Johnson. As a 20-something-year-old white boy, it was a little ridiculous for Dylan to always try to sound like a 70 year-old Black man... but now his voice has grown into it! He's ready for it! And so, I would wager, are his fans.

  • In the early days of the Sinatra period, Dylan concerts would be 95% Sinatra songs with one or two old Dylan songs thrown in. Eventually he started playing more and more Dylan songs (most notably at Oldchella). I was curious to see what he was up to these days. He's playing a 7 day residency at the Beacon Theatre in New York starting November 23. 

Below is a setlist from November 7. I was wondering what the Dylan/Sinatra ratio was like these days.

As you can see, it's pretty good. Lots of Dylan classics, a few new Dylan songs, a few Sinatra songs... and an encore of It's a Man's World? Wow!

Great news for Dylan fans - the Sinatra period is OVER!!!

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