Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Dylan's Asia series scandal

New evidence has emerged that Bob Dylan has copied the compositions of some of the paintings in his new art series, "The Asia Series", from historic photographs.

This is not the first time that Bob has 'borrowed' from outside sources for the sake of his art. In arguably the greatest album of his career, 2001's "Love and Theft", he rehashed a number of lines from the novel "Confessions of a yakuza" by Junichi Saga. To cut straight to my conclusion, I think Dylan knows exactly what he's doing. He has never cared what the critics think. The average fan will decide for themselves if they 'like' the compositions, despite any controversy. Also, any controversy can't do anything but ensure that a larger audience does indeed access the work. He does what he does for himself, and it just so happens that a huge international audience is eager to consume his output.

If you think of this series as the artistic equivalent of a cover album, it can be seen in a different light. Moral and copyright issues may arise, which is not something I'm about to get hung up on. People who are hung up on shit like that are not Bob Dylan fans. If Bob were to release an album of Muddy Waters or Hank Williams covers, as a fan, I would be ecstatic. Also, I quite like the paintings. I think they have something to offer, and I haven't even seen them in person!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Pablo Dylan

What follows are my impressions of the recently released mix-tape (i.e. e.p.) by Bob Dylan's 15 year old producer and rapper grandson, Pablo.

Nothing super ground breaking, but I did like it. The beats are tight, west coast. Probably good for da club. Not bad for a little Jewish kid from Beverly Hills. Lyrically it's a bit weak, but in spots it really shines, and more so on repeat listens. Of course in this respect he's got big shoes to fill. To write truly beautiful and poetic rap lyrics must be one of the hardest things, for the simple fact that you need LOTS of lyrics to fill a rap song. I've personally only heard a few rappers do it. Instead Pablo makes use of common lyrical devices in rap, namely, personal narrative, self-flattery, and gimmicky word play, which at least he does well. In the song "On top of the world", possibly a nod to the classic blues song "Sittin' on Top of the World", by the Mississippi Sheiks, which Dylan covered on his 1992 album "Good as I been to you", Pablo raps:

"I'm the grandson of a man nothing less than legendary.
That's a lot of pressure so I Berry (bury) Gordie
I am very motown bitch, I'm-a get that crown
While I'm at it I might re-invent sound."

In the first couplet he is essentially acknowledging that he is not going to try and compete with his grandfather on the lyrical front. A prudent move. He goes on to make a pun of the founder of Motown, and then boldly inflate his own ego.

Clearly Pablo is borrowing something from his grandfather, including his album art and his schnoz.

Also what comes through if you listen closely to the narrative and ignore the grandstanding, is a genuine honesty, and a fearlessness, traits that Bob Dylan also had when he released his first album in 1962 at the tender age of 19.

Overall the album is bubblegum pop rap that could easily be passed over amongst the tons of such crap on the radio. However it is my contention that an attentive reading of any of such artists might reveal some kernel of goodness.  

In a recent interview, Pablo Dylan says his grandfather was the Jay-Z of his time. This comparison has legs when you consider the staying power, creative output, and influence on the music industry that these two icons had/have. However, the more important analogy is that Dylan challenged the establishment in the 60's the way rap did in the 80's and 90's, which makes him more comparable to one of the more controversial and political rappers, like Chuck D or Dr. Dre.

For a laugh, here is Dylan's own foray into the rap genre from 1986

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Hello all. In this blog I will discuss the subjects that I find close to my heart. My daughter, Bob Dylan, molecular biology and evolution, music, and Bob Dylan.

Please stay posted.