Album review by Eric Sandberg
I really don't know how to break this to you but, to this day, there are people walking the Earth who still "don't get" Bob Dylan. "Eww, that nasally voice! The songs go on forever! I don't understand what he's on about!"
Yes, it's an illness that has so far eluded Science. Over the decades there have been many attempts at developing a serum to cure this affliction. Duane Eddy, Hugo Montenegro, Yes's Steve Howe [who named his son Dylan] and, most recently, Bryan Ferry have all tried to eradicate this scourge with only middling efficacy.
Yet, even as Dylan, himself, potentially strengthened the virus this year by releasing a twenty minute raspy word drone as a single, a crack team of Nashville scientists have been working in secret on what I predict will be the magic bullet for combating Dylan Aversion Syndrome [DAS].
I first met Emma Swift while perusing the merch table at a hip music show. Ms. Swift was pursuing this honest work while completing her PhD in Dylanology at The University of Melbourne. She was disarmingly nice and friendly, as i bought a t-shirt from her, for someone so stunningly beautiful. It was one of those Hollywood film moments when I later saw her take the stage with an English eccentric and sing with a voice so pure, ethereal and strong that it breathed new life into that bloke's most beloved songs.
I would meet Emma Swift several more times over the next couple of years, each time asking her "When is YOUR dissertation coming out? As it happens Dr. Swift has spent the better part of this ruinous year sequestered in Nashville, Tennessee working with a crack team of aural immunologists; Doctor's Sansone, Serrano, Estes and Radford [ably assisted by visiting Cambridge researcher Dr. Sticky], developing the most promising treatment for DAS in decades.
Blonde On The Tracks is a rehabilitation regimen in eight steps that is at once palliative and aggressive as it fully eradicates Dylan dismissiveness from curmudgeonly test subjects who were on their intellectual death beds. The musical arrangements and playing are a perfect modern analog to the sublime retro sound of Dylan's own current band and provide a suitable backdrop for Swift's arresting voice and spot on phrasings.
The song selection here is key. Swift has chosen songs for their strong melodies rather than their relative fame. In so doing, DAS sufferers find themselves asking "Dylan wrote that? Really? Hmmm." After roping the patient in with the gorgeous "Queen Jane Approximately" Dr. Swift revives a 60s tradition with a hot take on Dylan's current single "I Contain Multitudes." It's Bob's best song in decades and Swift's cover is now the definitive version in my opinion.
Doctor Swift is an outspoken leader in the movement to recognize musicologists that happen to be female as full-fledged members of the greater science and not just a sub-category. If you put her on a list, there better be men on that list, too.
Swift stays true to this worthy idea by including songs that are traditionally sung from a male point of view and pulls it off with authority on songs like "Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands" [my personal favorite], "The Man In Me," and "You're A Big Girl Now."
If you have a friend, loved one or family member who is stricken with Dylan Aversion Syndrome, take heart. Dr. Emma Swift and her team are here to help. One warning: This treatment is ineffective when delivered in streaming form. Any streaming versions you come across are the work of Russian bots and are to be avoided. Downloads from Bandcamp.com are marginally effective but for a complete DAS cleansing, it is best to order a CD and even better to opt for the vinyl treatment. Colored vinyl will also cure ingrown toenails.
Get your prescription below:
1.Queen Jane Approximately 04:36
2.I Contain Multitudes 05:07 video
3.One of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later) 06:19
4.Simple Twist of Fate 04:20
5.Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands 11:57
6.The Man In Me 03:26
7.Going Going Gone 03:30
8.You're A Big Girl Now 05:28
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Eric Sandberg: My true opinion on everything is that it's splunge.