Bob Dylan - Modern Times

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When Bob Dylan dropped Time Out of Mind in 1997, it was a rollicking rockabilly and blues record, full of sad songs about mortality, disappointment, and dissolution. 2001 brought Love and Theft, which was also steeped in stomping blues and other folk forms. It was funny, celebratory in places and biting in others. Dylan has been busy since then: he did a Victoria's Secret commercial, toured almost nonstop, was in a couple films -- Larry Charles' Masked and Anonymous and Martin Scorsese's documentary No Direction Home -- and published the first of a purported three volumes of his cagey, rambling autobiography, Chronicles. Lately, he's been thinking about Alicia Keys. This last comment comes from the man himself in "Thunder on the Mountain," the opening track on Modern Times, a barn-burning, raucous, and unruly blues tune that finds the old man sounding mighty feisty and gleefully agitated: "I was thinkin' 'bout Alicia Keys/Couldn't keep from cryin'/She was born in Hell's Kitchen and I was livin' down the line/I've been lookin' for her even clear through Tennessee." The drums shuffle with brushes, the piano is pumping like Jerry Lee Lewis, the bass is popping, and a slide guitar that feels like it's calling the late Michael Bloomfield back from 1966 -- à la Highway 61 Revisited -- slips in and out of the ether like a ghost wanting to emerge in the flesh. Dylan's own choppy leads snarl in the break and he's letting his blues fall down like rain: "Gonna raise me an army, some tough sons of bitches/I'll recruit my army from the orphanages/ I've been to St. Herman's church and said my religious vows/I sucked the milk out of a thousand cows/I got the pork chop, she got the pie/She ain't no angel and neither am I...I did all I could/I did it right there and then/I've already confessed I don't need to confess again."

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