I’ve still not tired of the Amorphous Androgynous remix of If I Had A Gun from Noel Gallagher’s debut solo album after nine months of heavy rotation, so let’s dig this one out of the archive, too.
This is where the knob-twiddling duo of Garry Cobain and Brian Dougans - better known as the Future Sound of London - appeared on the scene with the Gallaghers courtesy of this monumental remix of Falling Down from the last Oasis album, Dig Out Your Soul.
Stretching well past the 20-minute mark, it moves through several seperate movements and takes Oasis further out into the psychedelic stratosphere than ever before.
Where do you start with picking highlights from the greatest music movie of all time. Well, how about here? In the dim and distant past when Dylan could still cut it live, this is one of his most beautiful songs. It teeters just on the right side of sentimentality. Is that something in my eye…?
RESCUING ROCK’S WAIFS, STRAYS AND UNDERRATED GEMS…
It’s 1970 and Bob Dylan has pushed it too far. The sprawling mess of a double album that constitutes Self Portrait was given a huge critical mauling. The slapdash collection of covers and throwaway originals is his most controversial and reviled to date. Career suicide on four sides of vinyl.
Fast forward four months and Dylan’s already attempting to right the wrongs he’s done to singer-songwriterdom with New Morning. An act of desperation and knee-jerk reaction? As ever with His Bobness, the real story behind the album is more labyrinthine than that.
The truth is that the lion’s share of New Morning was already in the can by the time that Self Portrait hit record racks. In early 1970 Dylan had been approached by the poet Archibald MacLeish to pen songs for Scratch, a musical version of The Devil and Daniel Webster. Bob responded with three tunes - Time Passes Slowly, Father of Night and the ebullient title track.
The collaboration was short-lived, though. Dylan never fully connected with the play and a further dispute with its producer saw him bail out, taking his songs with him in the process.
However, those three songs were enough to get his creative juices flowing once again and formed the nucleus of New Morning.
Bizarrely, the new record was originally intended as Self Portrait II - another scrapbook comprising original material and a healthy sprinkling of covers. In the aftermath of the vitriolic attacks on Self Portrait, Dylan scrapped a whole host of retreads including sessions with George Harrison. Among the tracks which failed to make the cut were Yesterday, (Ghost) Riders In The Sky, Ballad of Ira Hayes and Mr Bojangles.
What remains is a diverse, charming and heartfelt selection that works as a perfect companion piece to the similarly easy-going nature of the previous year’s Nashville Skyline. Most intriguingly, the lyrics of many of these songs shouldn’t merely be taken on face value. While many allude to domestic bliss and the wonders of laid-back living in the country, on closer inspection Dylan often shows how conflicted his emotions truly are.
We begin, though, in uncategorically tender territory with the pretty love song, If Not For You. George Harrison had already spotted its merits recording and releasing it on All Things Must Pass before Dylan could get his version out. Folky with a dash of wheezing harmonica, it’s an overlooked Dylan mini-classic.
There’s more ambition in the narrative arc of story song Day of the Locusts, Dylan’s off-kilter take on receiving a Doctorate of Music at Princetown University. The man standing next to Dylan “whose head was exploding” is none other than a chemically altered David Crosby who came along for the ride.
And here’s where we get to some lyrical obfuscation. On first listen, Time Passes Slowly is a simple tale of home comforts. There’s something about that line “time passes slowly, then fades away” that suggests that Dylan isn’t quite as happy at kicking back in the country as might first appear.
Similarly, Went To See The Gypsy makes all the right noises to suggest it’s a retelling of being summoned before Elvis and his acolytes - “he did it in Las Vegas and he can do it here”. There’s just one fly in the ointment though – Dylan never met The King and claims never to have even had the inclination. In retrospect it seems like an imaginary conflation of meeting Elvis, Jimi Hendrix and his own boyhood memories of growing up in “a little Minnesota town.”
The slinky waltz of Winterlude is delivered tongue-in-cheek as Dylan sends himself up as a newly-minted romantic troubadour. It’s cute though, there’s no denying that.
If there’s any hint of controversy here then it arrives in the shape of If Dogs Run Free. Once again, when taken on face value, it’s astonishingly ill-conceived with its hideous scat jazz backing vocals and banal lyrics. When you realise it’s a beatnik piss-take from start to finish it makes a whole lot more sense.
The title track is a corker though, whichever way you cut it. Dylan’s totally engaged with the vocal performance and it builds to an irresistible singalong chorus. “So happy just to be alive, underneath this sky of blue.” Joyous.
The conflicted emotions return for Sign On The Window. Underscored with a gentle gospelish backing, there’s an end of an era feel here. The death of the 60s counterculture dream? The shallowness of the rural idyll? It’s all open to conjecture.
One More Weekend almost returns to the quicksilver rollicking rock’n’roll of Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde-era Dylan. No hidden meanings here, it’s just pure lasciviousness. A little flat-flooted perhaps, but a lack of amphetamine sulphate probably accounts for that.
The Man In Me has the freewheeling (pun intended) feel of The Basement Tapes and there’s a brief lull with the rather non-descript Christmassy Three Angels. Dylan’s almost rapping on the latter but sounds a little non-committed.
The hymn-like closer Father of Night with its odd rolling piano refrain is little talked about, and at just 90 seconds long is almost served up like a throwaway. It captures the essence of New Morning though in a nutshell - light on its feet, multi-layered and unassuming.
Often trampled on in the crush to get to Dylan’s more revered Blood On The Tracks, you’ve missed a few tricks if you’ve given this up for dead.
1. If Not For You
2. Day Of The Locusts
3. Time Passes Slowly
4. Went To See The Gypsy
6. If Dogs Run Free
7. New Morning
8. Sign On The Window
9. One More Weekend
10. The Man In Me
11. Three Angles
12. Father Of Night
END CREDITS: George Harrison’s version of If Not For You from All Things Must Pass
Can’t believe I had no idea this existed. Here’s an alternative take on Brown Sugar from the Stones which features Eric Clapton on slide guitar and Al Kooper on piano.
Recorded after a birthday party for Keith Richards on December 18, 1970, this shows what Slowhand would have brought to the band if he’d have ever joined their ranks. Must have been some party, too.