T for Tom

Day 11 – New Morning – 1970

Posted in A Dylan A Day by johnsontoms on July 2, 2016



I had said before, yesterday, that during this journey I haven’t run across a bad record yet. That’s still true here, and New Morning is definitely a more sound, cohesive album. But for as much as it is higher quality, it’s the first that doesn’t sound like a Bob Dylan album. For all of Bob Dylan’s faults and qualities, Self Portrait at least said something about the man and the time. But New Morning seems to drift just on the edge of being recognizably Dylan-esque.

In its cohesion we’re given a solid collection of American piano blues, never higher or more sped than Willie Dixon-era jive, never slower than Muddy Waters. It’s overall sentiment is jubilee, and from that we derive that it is, truly, a new morning.

Dylan would be defending this more than he would its predecessor, as people immediately speculated that New Morning was the makeup record for what people felt was an atrocity just four months prior. But really, and I’m wont to believe, he spent nearly two years without a record, and just had a lot of material to release back to back. Doubters point to the use of his original voice in this record, but it was just put together as quickly as the previous.

There are recognizable moments and hits, and for my money I can’t get past “The Man In Me” for smiling, as it’s the opening credit track for The Big Lebowski. I think it’s a better indictment overall for the album in general, as a piece of strong Americana, wholly folkloric but somehow not quite Dylan. His seventies rock’n’roll bandit phase will appear soon enough, but isn’t quite here just yet. Like the pearly moments that shine through on Self Portrait, we can see the emergence of something stronger, but in this moment still unsure of appearing in full.

Dylan is supposed to soar above – even in his lowest moments, its identifiably different, as in even the maddest works of genius are still genius. New Morning is strongly musically, well-built and tightly-crafted. But the music says more than the man.

New Morning says something strong about Dylan, though Dylan doesn’t himself say it on this record – this man he is a-changing.

Song: “Day of the Locusts”

I’ve always loved Dylan as a rock’n’roll troubadour, and this song gets the nod over “The Man In Me” because its less gimmicky, and more soulful. The running korg keys, the plucky telecaster, all comes together to boogie woogie and whistle in the beginning of the bandit that fully emerges a few years later with Desire.


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