Thursday, April 23, 2009

Review of the new Bob Dylan album 'Together Through Life', April 2009

Here is a quick review of ‘Together Through Life’. Hot off the press, just one listen, and even that was in the car! But, it sounds great in a car. It’s a fun record.

Sound wise, it is not far off the last 3 albums, but sweetened by the predominant accordion of David Hidalgo. As other reviews have said, it is a Tex-Mex bordertown sounding album. Bob’s voice is good. Dog-rough, but good. Doesn’t seem to be any harmonica. Lyrically, not sure yet.

My first general impression songwise is that it is not quite up to the (accepted) high standard of Time out of Mind nor even to the (less accepted!) high standard of Modern Times. I love these two albums. Together Through Life for me is I think going to be closer to Love & Theft, which I thought of as an interesting exercise in genres, with one outstanding song (Mississippi).
And this album, too, has one outstanding song in ‘I Feel a Change Coming On’.

So I’ll start with that one – what a song! There’s very little I don’t like about this song. It is upbeat, optimistic, lyrically possibly a reflection on how good life and love can be, despite ageing. It’s the best band performance on the album, and probably the best vocal too. Also in an album short of guitar solos, this song has a lovely one, presumably played by Mike Campbell.
If all this album has given us is this song as an addition to the canon, then it’s definitely worth your 20 euros. A song that I think is one of his best latter day major songs, to file with Workingmans Blues, Nettie Moore, Missisippi, Not Dark Yet, Trying to get to Heaven and Standing in the Doorway.

Beyond Here Lies Nothing is an excellent album opener. Kind of rock-y and swinging but also swampy and murky if that makes any sense – it’s the only song on the album that in any way reminds me of ‘Oh Mercy’.

The much touted Life is Hard doesn’t live up to expectations. It is quite European sounding, but has he ever written a slower song. It’s almost moving backwards! Jury out on this one.

My Wife’s Hometown is my vote for worst song on the album. A mediocre re-write of a Willie Dixon song (duly credited, to be fair), presumably I Just Want to Make Love to You? Waste of time. He’ll probably play the bloody thing to death in concert too.

If You Ever go to Houston – nice song. The way he uses the accordion on songs like this reminds me a bit of the way people like Bruce Springsteen, John Prine, even latter day The Band, have used this instrument. I thought I wouldn’t like such a reliance on accordion, which is an instrument I am ambivalent about, but it seems to work I must say..

I won’t review every song, but two that I love (and suspect other people will not!) are Shake Shake Mama and Jolene. These are in the field of recent Dylan songs that veer between rockabilly and a kind of jump blues (not straight blues), which I love, and are great great dance numbers. His recent day musicians seem to have really got good empathy with each other in making these numbers swing. So, in other words, these two songs are this albums Summer Days/Thunder on Mountain/Someday Baby/Levees Gonna Break..

There are a few mid paced typical brooding gloomy type songs on the album that I quite like, such as Forgetful Heart. Not much else to say about them at the moment.

And, finally, I hate to finish on a negative note, but another of my least favourites is the closing track ‘It’s All Good’. Sadly, the title is somewhat inaccurate. This sounds like an Under the Red Sky outtake. Hopefully my opinion of it will improve.

Overall, though, I’m happy. 8 out of 10. Lousy album title though!


  1. >Lousy album title though!
    Second that :)

    I have yet to pick my copy, but it does look promising!

  2. Sounds so far as Bob having fun making music again. Lots of pressure for TOOM after 7 years and the poorly received Red Sky. Bob delivered the songs, left a couple of the best ones off and Lanois messed up the production. Love and Theft, Bob did it his way, went farther in the old-timey tunes direction, showed off kick-ass band. Modern Times, Bob waited for good songs to come along, delivered a nice record, a little bit flat musically, but great singing.

    So Bob went from early 90's left for dead to #1 album in 2006 and best Songwriter of the Planet again, not bad. New album sounds like the career rehabilitation is done, "It's all good" in that respect, so why not hang out, invite some old friends, have a blast making a record? Go for it, Bob!