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The Michigan Daily
Wednesday, January 9, 1985
Real Live- Bob Dylan
Real Live is Dylan's fourth live
album, and it finishes a lackadaisical
In spite of having a reputation for
being an outstanding live performer,
Dylan has been difficult to capture live
on record. Except for the Phenomenal
Before the Flood in 1974, there hasn't
been much. 1976' Hard Rain followed so
closely on the heels of Before the Flood
that there was nothing but obvious
material to include on it.
Again only two years later, he
released Bob Dylan at Budokan, an
ambitious attempt to provide a
retrospective of his career while at the
same time bringing some new "con-
temporary" arrangements. The result
has appeared on many critic's lists of
all-time worst live albums.
Real Live would seem to have a
mathematical advantage over the
other, failed attempts - it's been six
years and four studio albums since the
last one - but for the most part it fails
to exploit that advantage.
Although many Dylan fans would
probably be happy to forget the "born-
again" period of Slow Train Coming,
Saved, and Shot of Love, there are some
pieces of merit that came out of it.
Beneath the pretentious lyrics and
over-produced arrangements lurked
some classic Dylan.
A live album could have brought new
life to a lot of those songs and might
have been able to vindicate Dylan to
some extent. As it is, the only new
material Real Live has to draw upon
comes from last year's Infidels.
Infidels is of course an outstanding
album, but with only one source for new
material, Real Live is handicapped
from the start.
The two Infidel's songs on the album,
"I and I" and "License to Kill" aren't
too different from their studio versions,
but the live setting gives them a bit
more urgency at the expense of some
The only truly outstanding live piece
on the album is "Tangled Up in Blue"
from 1974's Blood on the Tracks.
Featuring new lyrics and some power-
ful harmonica solos from Dylan, it
proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that
even if Dylan has abandoned his folk
roots, he certainly has not forgotten
The rest of the material on Real Live
had already been written by 1965. Four
of the remaining seven had already
been done live on one or more of the
Now there's no denying that those
songs were some of the best ever writ-
ten, but they've already been recorded.
It makes complete sense(commercial
as well as artistic) to take a few of the
old songs and redo them in renewed
energy to prove that they're still
relevent, but that tactic gets its
strength from its infrequency. Mick
Taylor's raging guitar on "Master of
War" (from Freewheelin') underscores
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an almost forgotten consistency within
Dylan - his residual anger and outrage
- but its message is lost alongside yet
another live version of "Maggie's
Farm" and a rather uninspired "High-
way 61 Revisited."
In spite of its flaws, Real Live still of-
fers some vintage Dylan. The three solo
acoustic numbers, "It Ain't Me Babe"
"Tangled Up in Blue," and "Girl from
The North Country" are all enrgetic and
offer hope that Dylan may try
sometime to go back to folk.
The lead guitar work is excellent as
well. Taylor is pitiless on "Ballad of a
Thin Man," and Carlos Santana turns
"Tombstone Blues" into his own song
- not an easy feat considering it was
Mike Bloomfield who helped Dylan
record it in '65.
The real failure of Real Live is simply
that it isn't ambitious. Everything on it
is calculated to go over well with the
public that is "rediscovering" Dylan
since the release of Infidels. It
celebrates Dylan as an Artist who is
still relevant as opposed to one who con-
tinues to produce important work.
Holding his up on stage like some aging
actor, it presents a pleasant retrospec-
tive of his "long and colorful carrer."
If Infidels showed anything, it showed
that Dylan isn't a washed up '60s
celebrity. He is an artist who is still
growing and expanding.
Real Live, However, treats him only
as a museum piece. It's not a bad
album, but it is a potentially harmful
one - because the more we treat Dylan
as a figure of the past, the less we'll
listen to what he has to say now.
Under Wraps - Jethro Tull
It probably won't come as a surprise
to anyone that Jethro Tull's latest
release is a bad album. They've been
putting out bad stuff for a while now.
What is surprising, though, is that this
album isn't only bad, it's completely
boring. Where The Broadsword and the
Beast had some cliched references to
pirates and swashbucklers, Under
Wraps is an exercise in international
paranoia. On top of that, it's entirely
The lyrics in Under Wraps are bad
enough to make one forget all about
Duran Duran. Most of the songs simply
take a cliche (e.g. "Lap of Luxury" or
"Under Wraps") and repeat it for bet-
ween three and a half and four minutes.
When they do venture from their
refrains, the result is often even worse.
In "Saboteur", lead singer Ian Ander-
son whines, "I anticipate a cleansing
opportunity/ to take the horns by
the bull. " On the misnamed
"Apogee," he philosophizes, High
point - communicate/ Don't
forget to urinate."
The music is actually not that bad,
but it's stretched out with gratuitous
guitar riffs and synth frills. All of the
songs are too long, apparently trying to
fit in to the AOR recomended hit song
length. Occassionally, one song or
another is listenable, for instance "Un-
der Wraps #2," usually when they
return to their instruments
from synth dominated pieces.
The biggest problem with the album,
though, is just that Anderson and com-
pany din't have anything left to say. We
could of course speculate at why they
would put out an album which they dorit
care about, but the first line in the first
song, "Lap of Luxury", probably tells
the story, The money won't last
Once upon a time Jethro Tull was
doing was some interesting things.
They made a lot of enemies, but they
still had a core of fans. This album will
probably sell pretty well in the heavy
metal markets, but the band's true fans
have all surely given up on them. All of
the original members of the band (ex-
cept for Anderson and sidekick Martin
Barre) are long departed. What's left is
basically Anderson running
unrestrained through bits of bad
doggerel and glimpses (faint ones
at that) of compositional ap-.
It seems as if Anderson would do well
(artistically) to leave the band, but last
year's solo album showed that he just
plain doesn't have any ideas left.
It shouldn't really be a surprise that
the album is as bad as it is - it's just
Long gone Dead - Rank and
Rank and File's second release picW
up where the first left off. It's an-
energetic blend of pop, country, and
psychedelia that's 'bursting at the
seams with fresh ideas.
Led by brothers Chip and Tony Kin-
man, the band plays with a variety of
tempos and themes. Their songs are a
mixture of love songs with sad ballads
and the result is music that's fun to
listen to and intelligent, but neither
overbearing nor pretentious.
Some of the songs, such as "Lon.
Gone Dead," "Saddest Girl in t
World," and "Last Night I Dreamed
(You Died and Went to Hell)", address
potentially depressing topics, but the
band manages to subvert the lyrics
meaning to the uptempo, acoustic
music. That doesn't mean, though, their
lyrics can be tossed aside - just that
their lyrics have a strange sort of con-
test, the bitterness in the midst of
It's all a very strange mix, and 1
might take a few listenings to get used
to it, but it is certainly worthwhile.
Their blend of music may not be en-
tirely original, but it is contagious.
- Joseph Kraus
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