Tuesday, August 30, 2005

More is Less

I finally got in the mood to read Bob Dylan's Chronicles, and I have to say it is a surprising book.

He comes across as more gracious, worshipful and insecure than you might expect, but still a genius. Just not a literary one. The narrative is disjointed and not tightly edited, yet I found myself re-reading passages more here than in anything I've read in many years.

If you're not a musician, I can't vouch for how some of the sections on songwriting and recording will get across, but if you understand music, performing and the creative process, you will slow way down and savor sections, such as his extended description of the struggles recording an album with legendary producer Daniel Lanois in New Orleans.

Dylan returns to listen to the mix of a song that has given him and the band grave troubles:

A lot of work had continued after I'd left the night before. Ruffner had overdubbed torpedo licks over my very minimalistic Tele rhythms. My guitar was taken out of the mix entirely. My voice was out there in the middle of nowhere in some corridor of sonic atmosphere. The song got shanghaied. You could tap your foot to it, clap your hands or jig your head up and down, but it didn't open up the world of the real. It sounded like I was singing from the midst of the herd, a lot of artillery and tanks in the background. The longer it went, the worse it got.

"Christ, all this happened while I was out of here?" I said to Lanois.

He said, "What do you think?"

"I think we missed it."


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