The Michigan Daily - Monday, September 25, 1989 - Page 13
Continued from Page n
determined to make it to the top, but
in no real hurry. "Where Teardrops
Fall," is a drony evocation of a far-
away land, a shelter from the storm
"in the turning of twilight, in the
shadows of moonlight." A psychi-
cally exhausted Dylan will meet
some mystic female in that place. Is
she the same woman he thinks of
when he sees a "Shooting Star" in
the closing track? The same one
whom he asks "What Was It You
Wanted," perhaps too late, long after
she's left him? I like to think it's
been the same anonymous, timeless
lover ever since Another Side of Bob
Dylan's "Spanish Harlem Incident"
(1964). She's infinitely wiser than
he, a teacher as well as a friend.
"Something there is about you that
!brings back a long forgotten truth,"
he sang to her on 1974's Planet
Waves. "You're trying to break into
another world, a world I never
knew," he marvels this time.
On Oh Mercy, Bob is thinking a
lot about what it means to be Bob.
The first three songs of side two
openly ponder his private and public
obligations as a human being. You
don't get much heavier than that.
"What good am I," he asks, "If I
know and don't do, if I see and don't
say, if I look right through you?"
"Disease of Conceit," were it written
in Dylan's sixties heydays, would
have been a fingerpointing harangue
along the lines of "Ballad of a Thin
Man." Instead of scolding that
"something is happening and you
don't know what it is," he can only
sigh that "there's a whole lot of
people suffering tonight." In a way
far more profound than John Cougar
Mellencamp's silly "Pop Singer,"
Bob Dylan wonders aloud whether
his abilities as a songwriter can
(still) make a difference.
In that department, Bob, you re-
ally have nothing to worry about.
All we expect from you is honest re-
sponses to your world. "Ring them
Bells," a deliberate recollection of
your own "Chimes of Freedom," is
as fine a work as you've come up
with in this decade. As stirring in its
understated religious conviction as "I
Shall Be Released" or "Blowin' in
the Wind," it succeeds as a hymn, a
pop song, and a political outcry. It
should sound just great when you
play it in concert this November.
Paul Kelly and the Mes-
So Much Water So Close To
It's been said that the difference
between rock 'n' roll and its parents,
country and blues, is that it lacks
their sense of guilt. Elvis, Little
Richard, and their crowd could raise
hell all night and wake up the next
afternoon and face no real conse-
quences. Ever since that emancipa-
tion, the devil's musicians have been
freed from having to face down the
horrible beast of regret.
What then, is Paul Kelly and the
Messengers? (On their Aussie home-
turf, they're Paul Kelly and the
Colored Girls, as in "doo de doo de
doo.") It sounds like rock 'n' roll to
these ears. Just like those great old
time, drums/bass/guitar shakedowns
of yore. So why doesn't Kelly
Because the man has a con-
science. Not so much a ideological
conscience in the vein of U2 -
although that's present - but an in-
terpersonal conscience that's sad,
simple, and guilt-stricken. Thanks to
it, he's one of the best trad song-
So Much Water So Close To
Home is the title of his third
American release; it's taken from a
Raymond Carver short story of the
same name. Like the much-missed
author, Paul Kelly is a master at be-
ing down-to-earth in his images but
larger-than-life in his resonance.
From the opening track, "You Can't
Take it With You," a restatement of
Dylan's "Gotta Serve Somebody," to
the heartbreaking "Cities of
Texas,"Water is Kelly's easiest al-
bum to like. His limited voice wins
your trust with its earnestness. His
melodies, country-based and serene,
assure you in their straightforward-
ness. Irony is a tool for insecure
show-offs. Kelly knows what he
wants to say and he says it.
Leave your roommate alone -
Tell it to the world in
Above: Bob Dylan has finally come
to his senses - he's come out
with his first real album in a while,
the intense, heavy-duty Oh Mercy.
His self-reflection results in some
Right: Paul Kelly and the
Messengers nearly drown in guilt
on their latest album, So Much
Water So Close to Home.
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