A few weeks ago I had a conversation with my old friend Patrick Tape-Fleming about the best albums Bob Dylan has put out. I don’t remember the genesis of the conversation, but basically he was saying someone had mentioned a record that he didn’t even consider in Dylan’s top ten. That got me thinking about how your top ten Dylan albums says way more about you than it does about Dylan. In the end we decided that you can’t really fault anyone because they’re all good in their own way (yes, even Empire Burlesque). As today is Bobby’s 71st birthday, I figured I would share my list with you and then if you feel like it you can put yours in the comments section, or up on Facebook and we can discuss them. Keep in mind I am not saying that these are absolutely the best, just the ones I think are best. Read more…
Originally I thought that I would put up that Rachael Yamagata single in lieu of a list. Then something was nagging in the back of my mind: “What’s next, no Christmas? Are we going to stop putting Fritos on our ham sandwiches?” The answer: Of course not. It’s Friday, and that means we’re putting up a list, dammit!
The criteria for this one is pretty easy: a profile of a musical artist (singer/instrumentalist/producer/what have you), a concert film, or anything that resembles either of those. I’d almost consider something like the Beastie Boys video anthology, but that’s a bit much. Maybe you’ve seen all of these (my guess is you have if you’re a big music buff), but if you haven’t and it’s rainy in your area you can knock a couple of these out this weekend.
10. Sid & Nancy (Alex Cox, 1986)
Being a rock star never looked so unglamorous. Gary Oldman is beyond good in this as Sid Vicious. There is also a great Simpson’s parody that substitutes Nelson and Lisa as the main characters, and chocolate for drugs.
9. Amadeus (Milos Forman, 1983)
Man, that Salieri sure was a dick. This movie won a ton of awards, and rightfully so. It shows Mozart as a brat and Salieri as a jealous, defeated jerk. If you dig on classical music, or are interested in it at all, this flick is right up your alley.
8. Once (John Carney, 2006)
The indie darling that won Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova a Oscar for Best Song. As low-budget and heartfelt as they come, this tale of an Irish busker and Slovakian immigrant is absolutely a must-see.
7. Bird (Eastwood, 1988)
If you think Ray is a good movie you ain’t seen nothin’. Also, you’re kind of an idiot. Forrest Whitaker’s performance in this film about Charlie Parker is head and shoulders above Jamie Foxx, who basically just did a Ray Charles impression for two hours.
6. Don’t Look Back (DA Pennebaker, 1967)
Following Bob Dylan during his 1965 tour of England, Pennebaker captures some amazing footage of the master at work. Also, he gets Dylan saying, “Who the hell is Donovan?” which pretty much guarantees a spot on any list.
5. 24 Hour Party People (Michael Winterbottom, 2002)
I guess this one is a docudrama. It’s a dramatized retelling of the story of Tony Wilson and his label Factory Records. Brilliantly acted by Steve Coogan and everyone else, Winterbottom really captures the “Madchester” era.
4. This Is Spinal Tap (Reiner, 1984)
Technically, this is a mockumentary. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t capture the essence of the types of characters portrayed. As Spinal Tap Harry Shearer, Michael McKean, and Christopher Guest completely nailed the excess, absurdity, and vanity that rock stars are guilty of. The music isn’t terrible, either. (Not quite as good, but still worth a look is Eric Idle’s The Rutles, which is basically a Beatles spoof produced by George Harrison)
3. Monterey Pop (DA Pennebaker, 1968)
There are two lines of thought when it comes to the huge festival films of the 60′s, Monterey Pop and Woodstock. While Woodstock captured more of the culture and the feeling of the time, Monterey Pop captured the music. That isn’t to say there aren’t great performances in Woodstock, there’s a ton. But for me, Monterey Pop is one of the all-time greats (largely due to Janis Joplin’s “Ball and Chain” performance). When they finally put this out on DVD, they also released a disc of two shorts films put together by Pennebaker, Jimi Plays Monterey and Shake! Otis At Monterey. These two shorts are well worth the full price of the expensive set.
2. I Am Trying To Break Your Heart (Sam Jones, 2002)
What would you do if you turned in your album to the studio, and they didn’t want it? Not only do they not want they album, they don’t want you. Well, here’s the fascinating story of how Wilco’s label hated Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, and how Wilco got them to pay for it anyway. There’s also some great footage of Jeff Tweedy and Jay Bennett’s tenuous relationship and sweet concert shots.
1. The Last Waltz (Scorsese, 1978)
Probably the most talented quintet of rock musician ever assembled, Robbie Robertson and The Band made some absolutely fantastic music, most notably their 1968 debut Music From Big Pink. This film documents their final show as a band on Thanksgiving of 1976. The show features The Band playing by themselves, and then has them joined by guests like Bob Dylan, Emmylou Harris, Neil Young, Muddy Watters, and Eric Clapton. The concert footage is intercut with Scorsese interviewing the band (mostly Robertson) and there is some pretty interesting stuff in the interviews. A bluray of this show exists, but I only have the standard DVD version, which is serviceable. If you’re thinking about checking out the movie, definitely grab the bluray if you have the capabilities.
Explanations for a couple of omissions: Purple Rain and The Wall were included in previous lists, so they were cut. Almost Famous and High Fidelity almost count, but neither of the main characters in those movies fit the criteria. Perhaps next friday the list will be something about music fans or a similar topic.
I have nothing prepared today. I’ve been listening to a couple records, but I’m not ready to write anything about them yet. I was trying to think of what I would post today, and I remembered that I had commented to Kari last night about how awful I thought the soundtrack was for the movie we had just seen. Like music, I’m a movie geek as well. So I follow Ain’t It Cool News fairly religiously. Since moving to Chicago they’ve put on some great screenings, and last night we got to see a preview of the new Jesse Eisenberg/Aziz Ansari comedy. It was hilarious, but I really hated the music they chose. With that in mind, I’m making a top ten movie soundtracks. This is my personal list, so feel free to flame me in the comments, or make any suggestions of movies you think I missed. Note: These are regular soundtracks, not the scores for movies (maybe I’ll do that next Friday).
10. Goodfellas-Various Artists
If you look at just the soundtrack album, it doesn’t seem all that amazing. But, when you look at the movie, there are about 20 songs that they use that aren’t on the record. Each one more spectacular than the one before it. Scorsese has always been able to put music to great use in his films, but I think in Goodfellas, he got it just right.
9. She’s The One-Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Ed Burns films have never had a huge audience, but his first flick, The Brothers McMullen, was excellent. So I was a bit surprised when this flick, featuring two of the same actors and adding in John Mahoney, Jennifer Aniston, and Maxine Bahns, ended up being a bit of a dud. But the soundtrack was glorious. Petty took a disappointing movie and made it somewhat of a cult classic because of his music (that cult is mainly made up of myself and a few friends). “Walls,” “Zero From Outerspace,” and “Asshole” are all great songs. A little help from Lucinda Williams and Beck Hansen didn’t do any harm either.
8. I’m Not There-Various Artists covering Bob Dylan
I wasn’t much a fan of Tod Haynes’ Dylan movie. I thought most of the actors were good, particularly Blanchett and Gere, but I couldn’t give it my approval. The songs, however, are great. Glen Hansard’s version of “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” and John Doe’s “Pressing On” are both amazing covers of great songs. And Willie Nelson & Calexico’s take on “Senor (Tales of Yankee Power)” might be even better than the original.
7. Garden State-Various Artists
I think it’s a law that this album be on the list, so it’s here just to be safe. I’ve heard a lot of hate for Garden State since the initial mass of great buzz it got upon release, and I don’t get it. If you don’t like Zach Braff, fine. But the guy put together a great soundtrack for his movie. He introduced a lot of people to The Shins and Iron and Wine who would have otherwise never heard them, and for that he deserves a spot.
6. The Wall-Pink Floyd
A great piece of music on it’s own, this album is much better than the movie. One of the best albums from a band that put out a lot of staggeringly good material.
5. Almost Famous-Various Artists
One of my all-time favorite movies includes some of the greatest songs of the 70′s. If you weren’t alive during the time, you can live vicariously through Patrick Fugit’s character William Miller. Watch the version labelled UNTITLED instead of the shorter theatrical version for more music and a better movie.
4. Rushmore-Various Artists
Wes Anderson has an amazing ability to pick perfect songs for any scene. If he ever decided to retire from directing, someone would be smart to hire him at a record company. Cat Stevens, The Who, The Kinks. I think what pushed Rushmore ahead of all the other Anderson films for me is the use of music, so here it is.
3. The Big Chill-Various Artists
I never thought much of the movie, but holy cow what a soundtrack! I’m a sucker for any movie that includes Procul Harum, so it has that going for it. Smokey Robinson, The Temptations, Marvin Gaye…the list goes on. Fantastic.
2. Purple Rain-Prince
Probably the biggest album of the 80′s. It works great as a compliment to the film, and even better as a standalone.
1. The Graduate-Simon And Garfunkel
Number one in the list of criteria is, could you imagine the movie with any other songs. In the case of The Graduate, the answer is, obviously, no. I have a beat up old vinyl copy of this record that looks like it shouldn’t play, but it does. Sounds great, too. Love the movie, love the songs.
And that’s it. Did I miss anything? I’m sure not everyone will agree, and I’m open to debate. Let’s see some other top 10′s. Or 5′s.
I’ve been listening to your new record, and I gotta say, it sounds great. In fact, it reminds me a lot of your last big record, You’re The One. You know what? You’re The One reminded me quite a bit of another record you did a while back…
Now, maybe I’m speaking out of turn here (I mean, what do I know, right? I’m just some punk kid with a blog), but it seems to me that you haven’t put out a really wholly original album in a really long time. The last one that really caught a spark and seemed fresh and new was probably Graceland. Jesus, Paul. That album came out in 1986. Twenty-five years seems like an awful long time between original ideas.
Don’t get me wrong, Paul. I’m a life-long fan. Whatever half-assed cash grab you make, you know I’m down. What I really want, though, is for you to come alive again as a performer and writer. Recently I read a story where you had said that you wrote a song and wanted Dylan to sing on it with you, but he never responded to your request. You were confounded, but there is a reason, and here it is:
At 70 years old, Bob Dylan continues to grow as an artist and try new things (even if sometimes they sound like he’s rehashing some of his own material and mixing up the chord progression or something). He’d much rather work with the kids of today like Jack White and Mark Ronson come to mind. If he wanted to work with a guy with old ideas, he’d go back into the studio with Don DeVito.
The problem for you Paul, I think, is that for thirty years, no one has said anything really negative about your work. The worst I ever hear about your albums is, “It’s not his best.” Well saying it isn’t the best work from a guy who gave us some of the greatest records of the 60′s and, maybe a top three of the 80′s with Graceland doesn’t mean much. It’s like watching one of the games where Oscar Robertson DIDN’T have a triple double, in ’61-’62, and saying it was below average.
Well, it pains me to be the one that has to do this Paul, but I think it’s time to hang it up for a while. You’ve been touring a lot the past few years, coming out with a new album every three to five years may be too much for you. In the 60′s and 70′s you put out so much great material…maybe your brain just lost the ability to create new ideas because you haven’t given it the proper rest.
You’re going to be 70 next year, Paul. Maybe it’s time to start thinking legacy. Do you really want to continue to put out this mundane old folks music, or do you want to put out one more great album that people will remember? Don’t worry Paul. You aren’t alone in this. The Rolling Stones haven’t put out a really good album since 1972, so you’re still one up on them.
The Staff of Music.Defined.
I’m going to see The Felice Brothers tonight at Lincoln Hall. I haven’t had a chance to listen to their new record, Celebration, Florida yet, so here is a re-post of my thoughts on their last release.
The Felice Brothers put out their self-titled debut in 2008. A year later, they put out two new releases, Yonder is the Clock and a self-recorded disc called Mix Tape. Originally intended as a free recording for fans to pick up at shows, record label Team Love (Conor Oberst‘s label), decided there was money to be made and put it out nationally.
That’s a very good thing for people unable to see The Felice Brothers live. Mix Tape is a strong record comprised of tracks that the band deemed unworthy or just didn’t fit on Yonder. By my count they are mostly right. The songs here are good, but I don’t think I would replace anything on the former record.
I’m reminded of the movie Songcatcher when I listen to The Felice Brothers for some reason. Probably because they come from the Catskill Mountains where, as in Songcatcher, songs are passed down through the generations. It gives everything they do a homegrown feeling that I find charming. Coming from that area also provides some great influences.
A lot of people (critics, mostly) have tossed out comparisons to The Band and Bob Dylan when they talk about The Felice Brothers. Those comparisons aren’t completely wrong. When listening to any of their three records, you can definitely hear touches of both. I would say the difference, at least to me, is that The Felice Brothers seem to be having a lot more fun while they play. The lyrics can be solemn and serious, but there’s always an underlying feeling of a group of guys just hanging out playing music for and with each other.
On Mix Tape, there is a collection of words both tragic and comedic in almost every song. Take, for example, these lyrics from the beginning and end of the song “Marie“:
You say we ran our course/ And I’m feelin’ like a racin’ horse/ Got a feelin’ I’ll be runnin’ all my life/ My life
You say this song’s in G/ I don’t fuckin’ give a shit/ I wrote this song in the key of love/ Love
There’s also a point in “Marie” where it sounds like The Felice Brothers are about to break out an old-school rhyme-off. It doesn’t happen, luckily. What does happen, on this track and every other one on Mix Tape, is a musical tribute to the past as they push folk music into the 21st century.
If you’re a fan of bands like Mumford and Sons, Old Crow Medicine Show, or Ryan Adams and the Cardinals, definitely check out Mix Tape and the other releases by The Felice Brothers. Their brand of folk music is something I like to call “Campfire.” It’s easy for me to imagine a group of people sitting around together, singing these songs and enjoying one another’s company, drinking the night away.