Mike Devlin, Times Colonist
Published: Wednesday, October 08, 2008
Tell Tale Signs: The Bootleg Series
Vol. 8 (Columbia)
Rating: 5 (out of five)
Though his deep well of unreleased material has been pillaged for the
eighth time, Bob Dylan's vault isn't yet in danger of being emptied.
Tell Tale Signs, the latest multi-disc instalment in his Bootleg
Series, is a riveting chronicle of the past 17 years of his career,
with nary a bunk track in the bunch.
The concept -- 27 unreleased tracks, spread over two discs, with a
book of exhaustive, provocative liner notes -- can only work if the
songs stand on their own. These gems, towering achievements none too
slight or fully formed, indeed do that. In fact, they can see for
miles: From a stripped-bare, acoustic version of Most of the Time, to
the spooky full-band of Marchin' to the City, an outtake from 1997,
Tell Tale Signs is a triumph.
The sessions for Time Out of Mind and Oh Mercy supply over half the
songs, so fans of his more recent material will dig it the most. But
there isn't a music listener anywhere who won't be overwhelmed by the
quality. This is essential, incomparable listening. Dylan has
certainly missed the mark in the past. But in the latter stages of
his career, he seems incapable of missing a step.
Day After Tomorrow (Bobolink/Razor & Tie)
Rating 3 1/2
Joan Baez, whose shiny soprano was a cornerstone of the folk movement
of the 1960s, now sings with a rougher edge that Bob Dylan, her
one-time subject, would probably kill for. Despite the slight (albeit
welcome) shift in tone, the Staten Island singer still conveys
considerable emotion; it's the benchmark for Day After Tomorrow.
Not altogether surprising, that. The real delight, however, comes via
her song choices. Baez, now 67, has always found the good in someone
else's song, but on Day After Tomorrow she finds a new way to make
songs by Elvis Costello, Eliza Gilkyson and Patty Griffin fully her own.
Producer Steve Earle, playing Rick Rubin to Baez's Johnny Cash, had a
huge hand in that, and guides her through a decidedly non-fussy
affair. Baez's take on the title track, an anti-war gem written by
Tom Waits, is as stirring as anything she did in the 1960s. It's a
quick-moving listen, but Day After Tomorrow sticks with you. Baez
clearly isn't out of tricks just yet.
Acid Tongue (Warner Bros.)
Rating 3 1/2
Acid Tongue -- bright, bitter, and beautiful -- is a solo effort in
name only. Rilo Kiley singer Jenny Lewis getS plenty of help on her
second solo outing, some of it from some pretty high places: Elvis
Costello sings on Carpetbaggers -- a dead ringer for Tom Petty's
Apartment Song -- which gives Lewis a big leg up on her
Her followup to Rabbit Fur Coat, her 2006 release with the Watson
Twins, is marked by a try-anything streak, which serves as the
record's highlight and a major hindrance. She welcomes a swath of
performers of varying persuasions, from prog-metaller Paz Lenchantin
to Black Crowes singer Chris Robinson to indie faves M. Ward and
Zooey Deschanel, but none of them offer much help.
She doesn't need it, after all. Her country-soul is fetchingly adept
enough on its own -- so much that a successful career outside of Rilo
Kiley isn't such a bad idea.
Live at Shea Stadium (Epic)
Memorabilia hounds will want Live at Shea Stadium for its liner notes
alone, as they provide one last portrait of the Clash near their
peak, months before their eventual split. Among the treasures are
snaps of a mohawked Joe Strummer, sporting military fatigues,
chatting with Andy Warhol and generally looking bad-ass. Moments
later, while on stage during the band's Oct. 13, 1982, gig opening
for the Who, Strummer's intensity was even more pronounced.
The 15-song set is heavy on the band's looser, more well-known
material, which might anger fans longing for red-hot singles White
Riot and (White Man) in Hammersmith Palais. Don't sweat the small
stuff. Live at Shea Stadium is remarkable, both in terms of sonic
qualities -- we've heard albums recorded last year that sound worse
-- and the band's execution.
Back to Strummer's performance. Seizing a break in Police On My Back,
the night's strongest track, Strummer demands that the crowd "stop
yakking," at which point he gets booed loudly for his efforts.
Later, during the frenetic Clampdown, he addresses the mob of 72,000
as "guinea pigs." Strummer, who died in 2002, was about the music, no
matter the crowd or country. His fascinating presence, and passion,
is preserved brilliantly on Live at Shea Stadium.