Bob Dylan returns again in our lives with a rumba-swish of an album, Together Through Life – and literally in the opening number Beyond here lies nothin.
We expect Carlos Santana to appear from the wings any moment, but (thankfully) it’s only a lazy drum beat, lined by music-hall horns and pumped accordians.
All for love
Dylan growls out his love, Well, my ship is in the harbour/ And the sails are spread/ Listen to me, pretty baby/ Lay your hand upon my head/ Beyond here lies nothin’/ Nothin’ done and nothin’ said.
This is a man who now wants us to know that ‘love minus zero/no limit’ is a wonderful but theoretical mathematical formulation.
In Life is hard, the hand-dog charm of the drizzlemusik seeps into the weariness of an old love, of time elapsed, of time lapsing: I walk the boulevard/ Admitting life is hard/ Without ou near me/ The sun is sinking low/ I guess it’s time to go/ I feel a chilly breeze/ in place of memories. The mandolin plays the sad clown in this atmospheric nugget.
Since some time now, Dylan’s songs are more covered with smoke than shot with light. Even the more concrete songs are about capturing moods than about creating stories. In My wife’s home town, a blues narrative about an old spouse is sung in a crawling tempo, hinting at an older story.
If you ever go to Houston is a travel advisory that memorises places and people (You better watch out for/ the man with the shining star) in this Bob-as-Dante-with-a Stetson tour of Texas –– he does move along to Dallas to give his regards to a whole lot of ladies he hasn’t met for a real long time.
We find Dylan berating a precious friend of his whom he had entrusted with holding memories and thoughts in Forgetful heart. Like all the numbers on this album –– barring Life is hard –– this is a stark song we expect to veer off into some Dylanseque forest of words and images. Instead, he keeps walking on the concrete footpath.
In Jolene, Dylan rock’n’rolls us and introduces us to his latest lady friend. The violin-accordian ushers us into a room with velvet curtains in This dream of you, a tender, broken-voiced love song. How long can he stay “in this nowhere café”? Which is how dreaming “keeps me living on”.
It’s all good
Shake shake Mama shuffles and squawks out a slow rollicker, while I feel a change comin’ on flirts with an old I shall be released Dylan. The finger-clicking pace of It’s all good provides the tip of a hat-with-smile end to an album that is about the art of swimming in a pool of memories. As Dylan has it, “It’s hard to believe but/ It’s all good.”