Sunday, January 25, 2015

Planet Waves: Rainy Days on the Great Lakes

Released January 17, 1974
Newly signed by Geffen records during his brief estrangement from Columbia, Dylan recorded a new batch of songs with The Band, by then a phenomenon in their own right.

The album opens with the jubilant "On a Night Like This" in a sound reminiscent of the Basement Tapes with its accordion driven, wintry, back country atmosphere.  

A shift in mood occurs on "Going, Going, Gone."  Dylan's despairing lyrics combined with Robbie Robertson's blistering guitar, and Richard Manuel's piano seems to almost float - musically my favorite moment on the album.

The appropriately titled 'Tough Mama" blends the sacred and profane with pure rock and roll.  Then a shift to the angelic "Hazel", reminiscent of "Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands."

"Something There is About You" opens with a memorable stanza:

Something there is about you that strikes a match in me
Is it the way your body moves or is it the way your hair blows free?
Or is it because you remind me of something that used to be
Somethin’ that crossed over from another century?

The mystical and primal once again blend in a familiar Dylan trope.

Then one of Dylan's most enduring compositions 'Forever Young."  Placed at the end of side one, the track has an epic sound and builds up to a soaring crescendo.  Written for his son, Dylan wanted to write something for his kids without being overtly sentimental.  The homespun version on side two makes for a nice coda.

"Dirge" may be the bleakest song Dylan ever recorded.  Full of rage after a relationship ends, the narrators spews anger in every direction. In her review Patti Smith described "Dirge" as the type of love song, "Burroughs could get into . . . Broken masculine honor on low streets."

"You Angel You" feels sentimental and even a little perverse coming after "Dirge" with its syrupy lyrics.  "Never Say Goodbye" has a great line, "My dreams are made of iron and steel."  "Wedding Song" promises eternal devotion.

The first of an amazing trilogy of albums in the mid 1970s with Blood on the Tracks and Desire to follow, Planet Waves brought back an edge absent on previous albums like New Morning and Self-Portrait.  I'm sure every Dylan fan has a few "go to" albums, ones you can listen to on any day, and I would put Planet Waves in that category for myself because of its own unique groove of shifting tone and emotion - a rainy day album.

No comments:

Post a Comment