T for Tom

Day 13 – Dylan – 1973

Posted in A Dylan A Day by johnsontoms on July 5, 2016


If you’d never heard of this record, what would be your impression? Full disclosure: I didn’t know it existed before I made this retrospective list. I thought it was just another in a long line of records for the man who made so many. After a listen, it’s a hodgepodge, but still quite good, mixture of feelings from Self Portrait and New Morning.

I found out that was exactly the case.

Dylan left Columbia records in the summer of ‘73, so Columbia pasted this record together with unreleased tracks from both sessions, two from Portrait and seven from Morning. You can hear it, as I did – it starts off in the rebirthed folksy singing and rapid strumming of “Lily of the West” before descending into a waltzing, crooning “Spanish Is the Loving Tongue” where Dylan sings into the end, “Adios, mi cora sole.” In between we get more strange cover selections, from Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” to Elvis’s “Can’t Help Falling Love.”

And while I can’t make an attempt at deciphering what Dylan’s intent was, since there was no intent, it does work to fully deepen the mystery of the man during this time and questions he raised heading into musical exile.

The cover tunes and selections really are enough to support the quixotic misunderstanding Dylan had of his own abilities during this time. I started reading today Chronicles I, his autobiography of sorts, and though I made it only through the first chapter, enough was said to affirm my belief of him in the early 70s. He spoke at length of his journey to New York, riding in a car all the way from Chicago, arriving to sling his songs and harmonica at any of the numerous bars and clubs that would have an unaccomplished guitar man sing. He covered meeting Ricky Nelson, Richie Havens, and Fred Neil, and spent a bit of time discussing why he still moved forward away from their influence. It wasn’t until he met and used his friendship with Dave Van Ronk. As he said of Van Ronk, “he got it.” Later as he dissected their differences further, he said of Fred Neil that he didn’t have an interest in recording albums, because Neil “did it for the words and for himself.” Dylan, self avowed, acknowledges that he “only did it for the music.”

So to hear this record now, some 12 years on from when he first arrived to cut tracks, is both beautiful and strange.

Beautiful that the man is always trying new things and continually chasing the better. But strange that the finest American musician ever would at some point cease to possess the very confidence that got him to the top of the mountain.

Song: “Sarah Jane”

Just a fun song. Hard to pick a song from a collection of B-Sides and act like it means something.


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