We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
The Rolling Stone piece is interesting in explaining the provenance of some of the songs (Dylan is at least as much of a thief as any other songster or artist, and he steals plenty from himself too), but most of the reviews I looked at miss the point. Bob has nothing "to say," in the socio-political sense, and hasn't wanted to have anything "to say" since he wrote My Back Pages (and some of his preachy re-born songs in the 70s). His songs are more like dreams. Some people still want him to tell them about life. Heck, all of our lives are more normal than his is: we could teach him about normal life. He's been wealthy, and covered with girls, fame, and adulation since his early 20s.
No, it's about the song. If a song - or any music - is effective, and has any staying power, it carries us, or invites us, into its own world, which is the world of the imagination, and, if it contains truth, the world of the heart and the soul. For me, that is what gives a song, or a piece of music or art, its quality of inevitability - not predictability - but the feeling that it was more discovered than constructed. "We live, and we die, we know not why, but I'll be with ya when the deal goes down."
Thunder on the Mountain, and Spirit on the Water, have that. I am not saying that they are immortal art, but they sure are up there with Muddy Waters and Stephen Foster. Dylan's road band can play anything, and I like him on piano.
But a critique of the American economy?!?!?! Gimme a break. Or a commentary on Katrina? Idiotic. Some reviewers seem to expect Bob to be a musical blogger. This is a guy who has been writing about floods and weather almost since the time of Noah, like all the old blues guys do and did, and this is a guy who liked Barry Goldwater, who loves Teddy Roosevelt; a guy who wrote "I become my own enemy in the instant that I preach," and who very much enjoys making money doing what he does.)
It is a delight and a fascination to hear the latest Bob has offered us, for a pittance. But to hear him live, amongst the yuppies, college students, and the grey-haired pony-tails with their pot smoke, and the kids, and the regular folk, is to really see how much he wants to give for as long as he can. Me? I am partial to his mean and nasty blues.
You got it right Bird Dog. Most of the reviews I've seen miss the point entirely. In many cases, the reviewer seems to approach the subject matter with a preconceived notion of what he should and ought to expect from a Dylan album, then projects that expectation as best he can onto the album (one wonders if some of these people even listened to it at all?). Too much vague, useless praise and not enough thoughtful critique.
I liked your points. I have not read any reviews and probably wont. I came across your blog, because I was unsure of some of the words in the song 'Aint talkin'.
Anyhow. As an artist one is unlikely to be blind to possible interpretations. My guess is that Dylan is happy that people make the connections that they do. They just add to the many textures. Its OK if they think theirs is the only interpretation. Be glad they think at all