My intention had been to write a similar article about the 1981 album “Shot of Love” and then to go on and write a series of articles or a book about the albums and tours since then looking particularly at Mr Dylan’s use of Old Testament and New Testament imagery but also other imagery he used commonly across many years which helps us to understand and appreciate his work.
Unfortunately, I got bogged down in the article on “Shot of Love” which is still not finished although I keep returning to it and tinkering with it. I hope it will be completed as I think I might have some important things to say but who knows when.
This week, as has become his habit when a new album is due. Dylan’s staff published on his website a new interview he has given to Bill Flanagan:
Mr Flanagan seems to be a writer that Bob particularly trusts and he has given him several important interviews over the past decade. This new one is intended to herald his latest album of standards, the 3-disc set “Triplicate”.
I was in my mid-teens when “Saved” was released. I’d just begun to discover Bob Dylan’s music around then but, to be honest, I was far more interested in albums like “The Times They Are A-Changin'” than “Saved” or “Slow Train Coming”. I’d caught on to the singles from “Street Legal” via Annie Nightingale’s radio show but really nothing else of his contemporary work was even on my radar. From “…Changin'”, I made the predictable moves to “Highway 61 Revisited” and “Blonde on Blonde” and for me Dylan was an interesting master songwriter from the 1960s.
I could be seen around college with a copy of “Writings and Drawings” under my arm but even in that my interest faded after the “John Wesley Harding” album.
There is a time when a man’s heart yearns for a little Soul and R’n’B (old meaning of the term). So last night, it was off to the Royal Albert Hall of all places – the least likely Soul venue in the whole world – for an Al Green concert. Accompanied by UK singer, Gabrielle, as support, Reverend Green was stopping off for two nights in London on his world tour which has been running since April and has yet a few more nights to run.
Gabrielle opened the show with a set that included most of her hits – Dreams, Give Me a Little More Time, Rise, Sunshine and so forth. Her band were allowed half of the stage and the volume was lower than it needed to be and the Albert Hall has a habit of swallowing sound anyway. Her set was perfunctory, pleasant and not very exciting.
Before the show, I tried to count how many times I’ve seen Al Green perform in concert. I’ve seen him in London, New York, and Birmingham and I stopped counting when I got into double figures. So I’m used to all those parts of the show which a master showman like Green manages still to make seem spontaneous but are actually very well-rehearsed and have been going on in this way for many years. Given that factor, this was still full of energy and a good show. Reverend Al included songs from his new album "Lay it Down" (the title track and "Stay With Me") and 1 track from his 2004 set, "I Can’t Stop" (title track). Aside from that it was the hits ("Let’s Stay Together", "Tired of Being Alone", "Love and Happiness", "Let’s Get Married", "Take Me To The River" etc, etc.), some gospel ("Everything is going to be alright", "Amazing Grace", Nearer My God to Thee") and a medley of covers.
Green has a warmth with his audience, he has a vocal range which is still astonishing and a band which is tight but fluid.
Shame about the venue. I would like to see him cut loose with the set list rather than just give the appearance of that. But all-in-all given the longevity and varied nature of his career, I think this guy is amazing.