"...been wadin' through the high muddy water"
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DARK DAYS on the TRAIL: A TEMPEST RESET
by Kevin Harvey
Annette died and I thought someone should write something kinder than anyone expected, if they expected anything at all. Lou Reed passed and somehow his work lightened , affirmation breaking through the cracks.
Lou's death wasn't shocking; what shocked was how quickly one returned to his work and how much it delivered. Phillip Seymour Hoffman , a wonderful actor, a fellow everyone liked, hits the deck with a syringe in his arm and everyone is shocked. He had to be happy! Did he create all those characters- because he was an actor, not a movie star- because behind each character a Black Hole hummed? What happened? I wrote quickly about McCartney's NEW disc, not sure it would hold up: it did. He faked a number with Ringo at the Grammies. Ringo still can't dance; perhaps he never could. Does it matter? Have I lost track of the order? And then, deep in the faux ceremony of the Super Bowl, Bob Dylan starred in a two minute ad for an American car that seems to have mattered a great deal to a great many people.
Let's go back a bit. I was baffled by his Victoria's Secret ad, but it didn't upset me. It was just a hint creepy. His Caddy ad, seen only twice, was ok - for reasons that remained elusive. Perhaps we were sharing a commute. I don't think it upset many people. But the ad shown during the Super Bowl seemed to hit a few buttons. It was well shot and interesting, even pretty cool. It was a sell out so complete that Maureen Dowd might have to write another column trashing him. I watched again; it still didn't bother me. Hoffman's death hovered in the room. Feeling a sudden urge to hear BOB's version of I Want You from the much maligned Bodukan set, I retrieved it from the archives and loved every second of it. The emotion, the pure passion in his voice is heartbreaking. Most of the album works! Will it get the Self Portrait treatment and shock everyone who hated it? The question of Hoffman's identity continued to haunt me. Pleased with Budokan, I went back to TEMPEST, an album that I more or less enjoyed when it came out but faded quickly back into the pack. And there, voice cracked and broken, was Dylan singing lyrics of defiance, anger, lust and joy! He was alive; he'd been called everything imaginable, accused of every sin a major artist can commit; his work , reviled or worshipped, is still with us. He will one day go away but his work is forever. And listening to TEMPEST I heard the sound of something priceless....Time is fluid for Dylan: Lenny Bruce was dead a long time before he sang about him, as was John Lennon. Both songs felt slightly out of place, but they are not. Rather they are reminders of what lasts, reminders that some people can take a Standing Eight and continue; which is to say, what was good yesterday is good today and will even improve. TEMPEST is a testimony to identity, a refusal to go gently into that good night. BOB'S Super Bowl ad was better than Inside Llewyn Davis, which showed none of what was wonderful about the period and even went out its way to ridicule the great Doc Pomus. But that subject deserves a whole other column. And I prefer to let TEMPEST, playing around me as I type, blow the sadness away......Still, I can't help wondering what Pete Seeger, who tried to cut the cable at Newport, would have thought of BOB'S ad.