Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Bob Dylan 12: New Morning

This was a little more like it. At the time people thought it was a white flag due to the bad reaction to Self Portrait but the studio logs say otherwise. Dylan went into this album intending to cut even more covers he wanted to play—along with a voice halfway between rasp and croon—but managed to come up with an album’s worth of originals before too long. (Some of those covers would surface soon enough, unfortunately.)
“If Not For You” starts us off with a nice idea, but George Harrison’s version, out a few months later, is still the best. “Day Of The Locusts” introduces the piano to the proceedings, on a song taken from his own recent headlines. “Time Passes Slowly” is very pleasant, and a hidden classic. “Went To See The Gypsy” seems to continue from the fables of John Wesley Harding, while “Winterlude” goes back to the Nashville Skyline sound. The side ends with the all-out hep-cat jazz of “If Dogs Run Free”. You’ll either hate this one or find it pretty funny.
The title track starts side two with one of the better ones, but “Sign On The Window” is the most telling song, with his overt wish for the simplicity of family life. As slight as it is “One More Weekend” would have also fit on Skyline, but “The Man In Me” takes a more mature view of the situation. (This song was basically ignored until The Big Lebowski brought it to the mainstream, or somewhere on one of its sidestreets.) “Three Angels” seems to want to be about something, and then “Father Of Night” ends it all on an unsettling note—a prayer almost.
Critics haven’t been as kind to New Morning over the years, but as with many things, if you’re not expecting much, you can be pleasantly surprised. (Even after the in-joke painting on the previous album, the cover for this one is just as startling, with its almost come-hither leer. In other photos of the time he almost looks like Richard Dreyfuss.) Taken all together the album does seem to be something of a cross between John Wesley Harding and Nashville Skyline, which is meant in a good way. Four decades would pass before we could better understand where he was at. And it would be a long time before he’d depend so much on the piano. But was he really “back”? Time would tell.

Bob Dylan New Morning (1970)—


  1. New Morning is Dylan's most underrated album.

  2. June 12,2009

    Does anyone know where I may go online to see the names of the musicians that accompanies BD on this album?

    Thanks in advance.

  3. Sure. Go here:
    and scroll down. Alternately, dig around starting here:

  4. Another one of my fav's. I didn't like it when I first heard it around 1979, but, one morning I woke up really early, just as the sun was rising over the lake, I didn't want to wake anyone up, and I went down to the dock and the only tape in the boat was New Morning, I cued it up and from the first notes I was hooked forever. I think hearing New Morning on a new morning was the catalyst. I had some time for reflection and that is what the album is all about; personal reflection. If you don't get that, you probably just won't "get" New Morning. Too bad.

  5. That's a great story. It's especially satisfying when an album like that all of a sudden "makes sense". Thanks for the comment!