Hilary James and Bob James have “Christmas Eyes”.

Well, it’s been an interesting year. Just in case you hadn’t noticed. In the first three months of the year my writing went along in its normal way and then came the the first three lockdowns we’ve experienced in London because of the pandemic. I started that period floating the idea of online performances and interviews to some artists. Some worked out and some didn’t. I interviewed Nad Sylvan (who is also known as lead singer in Steve Hackett’s band) about his trilogy of solo albums. There was an interview with Bob James and Hilary James which was going to be a stand alone interview but has now become part of a series. Then, there was a long essay about Bob Dylan’s “Tell-Tale Signs” box set.

Each of these was well-received and attracted a very healthy readership. And then my eyesight began to fade. And so everything was delayed until surgery brought about improvement in what was a complicated situation.

So, now this week I was able to interview Bob and Hilary for the second time. Appropriately, this time we concentrated on their Christmas Eyes album – just the right time of the year. At the beginning of the interview, there was a short discussion about my situation, which I’ve left in as a personal marker in the sand.

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Passion and Betrayal – Bob Dylan – Tell Tale Signs reassessed

(This article is an expanded version of a review that I wrote when this album first came out. I was really unhappy about the way that the magazine, who commissioned me to do it, published it. They changed the title. They printed it in a way that removed paragraph breaks and they made editing changes to it without consultation. Needless to say, I stopped freelancing for them shortly afterwards. I revisited the article, originally just with the intention of restoring it to the way it was meant to be but then as I read it and listened to the music, I figured perhaps there was more to say. It concentrates on the spiritual and faith-based references in Mr Dylan’s lyrics but touches on other matters too.)

“Those old songs are my lexicon and prayer book.  All my beliefs come out of those old songs, literally, anything from `Let Me Rest on that Peaceful Mountain’ to `Keep on the Sunny Side.’ You can find all my philosophy in those old songs. I believe in a God of time and space, but if people ask me about that, my impulse is to point them back toward those songs. I believe in Hank Williams singing `I Saw the Light.’ I’ve seen the light, too.”

This was Bob Dylan speaking in 1997 – a period which provides 11 songs on his 3-disc set “Tell Tale Signs” (10 out-takes from his “Time Out of Mind” set and 1 live recording).

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