You know an album is eagerly awaited when you google for it and in addition to the labyrinth of ‘official’ and ‘fan’ websites you have hyperlinks that will guide you to news stories on the iconic singer and his album.
The album at the heart of the vortex is Bob Dylan’s 44th studio album Modern Times and with a tentative release date of August 29, 2006 it is not particularly imminent. Martin Scorsese’s sprawling four-hour documentary No Direction Home may have garnered awards but it did not crack the Dylan code.
Robert Zimmerman aka Bob Dylan is an enigma it could just be a case of feigned feyness and decades of gullible listeners desperately seeking an icon and in Dylan’s case a reluctant icon.
|Bob Dylan is set for a comeback after five years, with new album Modern Times|
Modern Times will break the five-year self-imposed hibernation away from the vicissitudes of popular culture.
Dylan though is a man steeped in popular culture, if anything his dauntingly prolific musical output can be summarised with this pithy statistic – with the release of Modern Times the 65 year-old Dylan would have released an average of 1.5 albums a year.
If Dylan has popular culture tucked under his one arm, he has high culture tucker under the other. For this is the man who was not too long ago nominated for a Noble Prize in Literature.
And it was his poetry that first ensnared the Shillongbased musician Lou Majaw. Majaw, frontman, Ace of Spades, who has been organising the concert Bob Dylan’s Birthday Celebrations since 1972 in Shillong (the concert also travels to Kolkata, Delhi and Chennai).
About the concert Majaw explains, “The concert is our way of showing our respect and admira tion for Dylan the poet/ songwriter. It is not a ‘fan concert’.
We are hoping in our own way to show our appreciation for all the great things that Dylan as musician has given to the world. .” Talking of the impending release of Modern Times Majaw says, “I have never had any expectations, as far Dylan is concerned.
Each time I listen to a Dylan album he provides me with unique lyrical depth. Then there is his music, which beautifully weaves into his words.” Mumbai too has seen the almost ubiquitous presence of Bob Dylan crowd the stage.
Sean Mahoney, consultant editor and designer, was the driving force behind the Bob Dylan tribute concert staged in the city on May 24, 2001 to celebrate Dylan’s 60th birthday says, “I hope to be as poetically astonished by Modern Times as I have been by all Dylan’s previous albums.”
Paraphrasing what Richard Fariña says of Dylan in David Hajdu's book Positively 4th Street: The Lives and Loves of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mimi Baez Fariña and Richard Fariña, Mahoney adds, “The particular magic that Dylan has over perhaps 20 million people is the paradox and the inaccessibility of him.
People are struck by something and yet they don’t really know what it is .” When asked if he would stage a similar tribute concert in the city again, Mahoney says, “To get those 50 Indian musicians on stage took me 7,000 phone calls – it nearly killed me but I’d definitely do it again.”
With an oeuvre of comprising to date approximately 800 songs one can only hope that Modern Times will present the viewers with Another Side of Bob Dylan.