Saturday, August 3, 2013

Richard Thompson Has Friends

It's been three weeks since Richard Thompson received the ultimate tribute--Bob Dylan covered one of his songs! Amazingly, no recording of His Bobness's version of "1952 Vincent Black Lightning" has surfaced online, a conspiracy the NSA should surely look into. In the meantime, while we wait...and wait...and wait for the digital equivalent of a tape to surace, here are two amazing Thompson performances.

The first is Thompson playing "Calvary Cross," once a regular showstopper but now rarely performed, with Dawes (of all people) on a Cayamo Cruise (of all places) while wearing sandals, shorts, and a Hawaiian shirt (of all outfits). Despite all those distractions, it's great.

Next up is Richard playing perhaps his most beautiful song, "Beeswing," at Northumbrian concertina player Alistair Anderson's 'Diamond Dazzler' 60th Birthday celebration concert at The Sage Gateshead, on 14th of May 2008. Now that's more like it!

Now somebody, please, share Dylan's version 1952VBL with the rest of us--before it's too late.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Is It Rolling Bob?

Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, and Bob Johnston
 If you know the name Bob Johnston, you probably know that he produced a lot of great albums, including Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde by Bob Dylan; Songs From a Room and Songs of Love and Hate by Leonard Cohen; Sounds of Silence and Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme by Simon and Garfunkel; and Johnny Cash Live At Folson Prison and At San Quentin, to name just a few.

Johnston, Cohen, and Ron Cornelius

He also played piano on Cohen's world tour in 1972. As he told the Austin Chronicle:

"I ended up on the tour almost by accident. He asked me to manage him; then he asked me to get his band together. Getting ready, I had said to Cohen, "Man, I'll get you the best piano player in the world."

"No, I want you," Leonard insisted

I protested: "I can't play piano. I can bang around, but I can't play, and you've got great musicians here. They're wonderful people."

"Either you come and play, or I won't go" was Cohen's response.

I thought, "Hell, I'm not gonna miss this." So we started off.

I just played piano and guitar and organ, whatever. I couldn't play very well, but he couldn't sing very well."

Tony Palmer made a documentary about the tour called "Bird on a Wire," which was lost for many years but is now available on DVD. The film included a scene in which Johnston sings an amazing version of the title song--strangely, this scene was left out of the DVD release. But thanks to the magic of You Tube, here it is--Johnston picks up the vocal midway through and turns this into the most beautiful rendition of this great and much-covered song I've ever heard.

Turns out Johnston's still around, and produced Harper Simon' eponymous debut album in 2010--Harper being the grown up version of Paul Simon's 9-year-old son from his first marriage mentioned in "Graceland." That circle is complete. Maybe Jakob Dylan, Roseanne Cash, and Adam Cohen can hire him to produce their next records.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Red River Shore: Persecution in the Night

Jimmy LaFave has been a faithful and sometimes inspired interpreter of Bob Dylan for many years. Recently, on his album Depending On The Distance, he became the first significant artist to cover the Time Out of Mind outtake "Red River Shore", which Dylan finally released on Tell Tale Signs. I don't think LaFave quite matches the mystery of Dylan's version, which reminds me of the classic border town film noir Ride the Pink Horse. But his vocal does have an undeniable force. Check it out.

The guy I'd really like to hear cover this is Tom Russell. Tom lives on the El Paso - Juarez boarder, and his best songs have the same sort of dark mystery that Dylan gets at here. He was born to sing this song--if you see him, tell him to get with the program.

And below, just for fun, are some posters of Ride the Pink Horse. The title in Spanish seems to translate to Persecution in the Night--or as Dylan wrote and LaFave sings, "Some of us scare ourselves to death in the dark / To see where the angels fly."