Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A Comeback Album: New Morning

Critics heralded New Morning as a return to form after the poorly recieved Self Portrait and yet it never gained a large following.  I'd call it a cult classic.

1) If Not For You - Written with George Harrison, Bob's soulful delivery makes a nice contrast to George's spaced out version on All Things Must Pass.

2) Day of the Locusts - A song about a specific event in Dylan's life, accepting an honorary degree from Princeton.  Not bad for a college dropout.

3) Time Passes Slowly - Personally one of my favorite Dylan songs with a splendid verse like:

Once I had a sweetheart, she was fine and good lookin'
Sat in the kitchen while her mama was cookin'
Stared out the window to the sky up above
Time passes slowly when you're searchin' for love

The bittersweet verse plays wonderfully with time. With reliable Al Kooper on piano, the recording has staying power.*

4) Went to See the Gypsy - It's nice to imagine Dylan and Elvis Presley meeting in Las Vegas.  Who knows if it ever happened?  When Elvis met the Beatles in 1964, he was by most accounts moody and defensive. Elvis dis perform Dylan's ballad 'Tomorrow is a Long Time" and possibly a few other tunes.  What would they talk about?**

5) Winterlude - A country tune and brief return to the croon from Nashville Skyline.

6) If Dogs Run Free - A Beatnik Poem. 

7) New Morning - Lennon-McCartney styled pop song.  Would Dylan have made a worthy fifth Beatle?

8) Sign on the Window - The most complex composition on the album, almost like a mini suite.

9) One More Weekend - Another soulful love song.

10) The Man in Me - Can anyone not think of The Big Lebowski when hearing this tune?  Makes you wanna hit the bowling alley to see how those semi-finals came out.

11 and 12 Three Angels and Father of Night - Two spiritual songs end the album with a benediction of sorts.

*Dylan dedicated a chapter in his memoir to the making of New Morning.  He worked with the renowned poet Archibald MaCleish who asked him to contribute songs for his play Scratch, a modern retelling of the folk tale The Devil and Daniel Webster.  The play itself is dark and takes on the hypocrisy of 19th Century America that literally tore country apart and threatened to again in the 1960s.  All I can say of the play is everyone's loquacious and mean spirited.  

**Elvis: Hey there Bobby Dylan, nice to meet you man.
  Dylan: Never thought I would meet the King.  I saw Buddy Holly, but never the man himself.
  Elvis: Ah shucks, you're the king man.  To the kids, I'm old news.
  Dylan: You changed my life. When I first heard "That's All Right" I told myself, nobody, I mean nobody, is EVER going to tell me what to do."
 Elvis: (Laughing) I believe it
  (They size each other up)
Elvis: You know Bobby, I was thinking we should do a movie together. I'll play the sheriff of this small town and I'll recruit you as my deputy.  We'll team up and fight off evil cattle barons.  Like a buddy picture you know, we'll top Redford and Newman.  Hell, you can write the script and maybe a few songs if you want.  I'll sing them."
Dylan: Sign me up, I'll do that anytime.
Elvis: Well nice to meet you Bobby.  I'll be in touch ( closes the door).


  1. If dogs run free....a beatnik poem.
    That's a good description, I like it.

  2. Oh,
    I bought New Morning when it was released and loved it straight off.
    Always will.
    I've grown up with it. It's like the incidental music of my life.
    Terrific record.

  3. it's no come back. dylan hadn't gone anywhere. he had just been exploring other styles. what's the big issue with self portrait. I loved it then, and still do. NM is just an extension of that. they go hand in hand. just ask Dave Bromberg whom I talked with about recording of both.

    1. Fair enough. I generally agree, there are parts of SP I really like and others not so much. As for the comeback album issue, I was going for a little irony with the title. In Chronicles Vol 1, Dylan (and I'm paraphrasing) wrote NM was the first of many "comeback albums" with a bit of sarcasm towards his critics. I find the whole concept of what constitutes a "comeback" album an interesting question to explore in the narratives of iconic figures in rock.