Monday, October 09, 2006


Bob Dylan has a new album out, "Modern Times", which is his 678th album in the 135 years he's been at it. Or something like that. "Modern Times" actually spent some time at the top of Amazon's bestseller's list, and if you cruise over to and check out the reviews, you'll notice everything from 0 stars and "it blows" to 5 stars and "his best in years." I know this: there are few artists who, 40+ years into their career, are still causing arguments.

Like many Dylan albums, there are a couple of songs that don't do it for me. But on "Modern Times", there are several really fine tunes, a couple of great ones, and one that stands with his all-time classics.

Dylan's voice has always been the subject of controversy, and "Modern Times", with its croaking, raspy vocals, will be no different. Not a great voice, maybe; but Lord what a singer! The control he has, the phrasing, the inflection; it's just a thing of wonder. Nowhere is that more evident than on the album's closing song, "Ain't Talkin'", where Bob travels through an apocalyptic landscape of evil and betrayal, and reports back to us through some of his most sinister and chilling poetry in years:

All my loyal and my much-loved companions
They approve of me and share my code
I practice a faith that's been long abandoned
Ain't no altars on this long and lonesome road

Ain't talkin', just walkin'
My mule is sick, my horse is blind.
Heart burnin', still yearnin'
Thinkin' 'bout that gal I left behind.........

As I walked out in the mystic garden
On a hot summer day, a hot summer lawn
Excuse me, ma'am, I beg your pardon
There's no one here, the gardener is gone

Ain't talkin', just walkin'
Up the road, around the bend.
Heart burnin', still yearnin'
In the last outback at the world's end.

"Excuse me, ma'am, I beg your pardon, There's no one here, the gardener is gone...." It sends a chill up my spine every time I hear that ruined voice sing it. Is it a prophecy? A warning? Maybe it's just poetry, just words that sound pretty next to each other. Maybe it means nothing, and Zimmer-Man is just screwing with us again. It's always been hard to tell.

In the end, I don't really care, and you won't either. Just hit the "Play" button, crank it up, and enjoy an old pro who's playing at the top of his game.

1 comment:

Sarah said...

'Twas lovely meeting you the other night.