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PostPosted: Wed August 20th, 2014, 06:54 GMT 

Joined: Mon April 6th, 2009, 20:28 GMT
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We all got fed up with the repetitive blues shuffles from TOOM onwards (so the narrative goes), with Modern Times being the most egregious example of lumbering filler, right? Love and Theft—at least Honest with Me and Lonesome Day Blues possess a raw exuberance lacking on MT; and Together through Life—the blues are at least loose and fun, lifting their skirts up and having a fine old jig.

Modern Times—just too restrained, too careful, too derivative.

And yet, I never find myself skipping Rolling, Someday or even, gasp, Levee; truth be told, I find them to be an essential part of a fine old album—for me, increasingly the real standout of the late-Bob output. Even the repetitiveness creates its own power, almost incantatory and mantra-like (prayer being a common thread, I think, of MT); moreover, lyrically, there is more going on than meets the eye/ear:

The night's filled with shadows, the years are filled with early doom
I've been conjuring up all these long dead souls from their crumblin' tombs

Plus some great vocals.

Modern Times has sealed itself for me as the best of late Bob, only rivaled by Tempest. A really enduring album.


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PostPosted: Wed August 20th, 2014, 07:25 GMT 
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why would you skip those three songs? there are times when i just listen to those three songs.


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PostPosted: Wed August 20th, 2014, 10:02 GMT 

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I like 'em fine, but they're longer than they need to be.


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PostPosted: Wed August 20th, 2014, 10:17 GMT 
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I like MT, but I think it'd be cool if the record sounded as raw as the live versions sometimes do. The sound is quite different from L&T, which was pretty raw.


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PostPosted: Wed August 20th, 2014, 10:24 GMT 

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Not wrong, quite right! Modern Times is a great album, and one I enjoy listening to from beginning to end. I've always found that it lends itself to being played in the car while driving. The criticisms of it don't surprise me, but I find it to work really well as a piece, and the takeoffs on blues standards are an integral part of it. I feel a strong connection running between this album and his first two; it and Freewheelin' somehow strike me as companions. I like that it's laid back and rambling, even meandering. I love his voice on it, too. It's got some of his best singing of his late period. I would say that Time Out Of Mind, "Love & Theft", and Tempest are all strong competitors for "best" album of that period, though.


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PostPosted: Wed August 20th, 2014, 20:39 GMT 
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Time Out Of Mind is a far superior blues album, with better lyrics, better players, and far more rhythmic diversity than Modern Times, which I find unlistenable and embarrassing--Bob on autopilot. I credit the producer of each album for its merits or lack thereof.


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PostPosted: Wed August 20th, 2014, 21:42 GMT 

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I enjoy MT start to finish, and I thank it, in particular, for “Spirit on the Water.” The stereo speakers that I bought in the 80s had been deteriorating for years, and I was not doing a thing about it. After they met the bass part of “Spirit” - revealing how decrepit they had become - I took MT to stereo shops all over town saying “Play the second song loud!” until I found the speakers that I have today. The whole CD fills them beautifully.


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PostPosted: Wed August 20th, 2014, 21:42 GMT 
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I wouldn't change a thing about Rollin and Tumblin...Levee on MT just makes me want a live version, I don't think they quite found that one until they took it on the road.


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PostPosted: Wed August 20th, 2014, 21:52 GMT 
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I definitely dig Levee, and I find Modern Times in general to be a solid album. Not one of Bob's very best, but damn good in it's own right.

I like it better than a lot of his albums.


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PostPosted: Wed August 20th, 2014, 22:03 GMT 
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I feel somewhat of the same thing. In fact, Modern Times has crept up on me recently and and shown itself to be far stronger than perhaps it's reputation suggests in the pantheon of modern Bob. Whereas I feel on TOOM, L&T and to a lesser extent Tempest, the 'genius' and exuberance of creativity is pretty plain to see (with TTL just being a bit of jolly good fun) Modern Times is an altogether more subtle beast. The band are more restrained, more carefully going after a very particular sound.
All of modern Bob harks back to 'old' song styles, whether it's the blues, country, folk or whatever, but I feel like MT is a very conscious journey back to the music of the pre-war era. It's quiet and in some places unconventional to modern tastes, but once you really get down to listen to the album and appreciate it for what I feel like Bob & the band are trying to do, you really start to dig it. It's Bob's love letter to the music either of his youth or the songs he used to hear when his parents played the radio. 30/40's music. Lovely stuff.

And with this you're right about the blues shuffles. Sure, they're probably too long, and they lack the sheer thrill of Honest With Me or the majesty of High Water but they're songs that reveal themselves far more slowly and as such, carry a great reward when you find it. It's not neccessarily an album I'd want to listen to every day but in the right setting, the album is a great tapestry of pre-war music.


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PostPosted: Wed August 20th, 2014, 23:58 GMT 

Joined: Wed January 28th, 2009, 17:55 GMT
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This is the record that got me into Modern Bob, so I always have a soft spot for it, though Time Out of Mind is probably my favorite.


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PostPosted: Thu August 21st, 2014, 01:06 GMT 
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You've done a good job describing what I've always liked about it. That soft-shoe mantra-like quality gives the album as a whole a likeable personality, even if there aren't many tracks you would put out there as objectively great songs, like your Tangled Up in Blues and your Like A Rolling Stones. MT is a certain quality, a mindset, a character. It shuffles along, compassionate yet mercilessly indifferent to the modern world around it. I don't think this is some kind of mistake on Bob's part, I think that's exactly what he wanted. And it works, if you let it. Of course it isn't THAT much of a sleeper. Even accounting for the Bob Effect on critics, "universal acclaim" on metacritic is nothing to sneeze at.


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PostPosted: Thu August 21st, 2014, 01:38 GMT 
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I love his Blues and have never looked at them as filler or even a digression on any of his albums.


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PostPosted: Thu August 21st, 2014, 01:54 GMT 

Joined: Wed April 13th, 2005, 14:09 GMT
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No.


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PostPosted: Thu August 21st, 2014, 14:39 GMT 
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l like the blues "filler" on MT much better than those few on LAT. They hurt LAT for me.


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PostPosted: Thu August 21st, 2014, 14:46 GMT 
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I think the pushback against "shuffles" mostly had to do with his live show a few year back. People listened to too many tapes, got sick of "Rollin'" and took it out on the albums, basically.


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PostPosted: Thu August 21st, 2014, 14:48 GMT 
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Has anyone made a live MT like the wonderful TOOM one which I downloaded from here? I would also love a JWH or SL.


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PostPosted: Thu August 21st, 2014, 14:57 GMT 

Joined: Thu December 9th, 2004, 16:38 GMT
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I ferociously deny that there is a single moment of "filler" on L & T!!! By contrast, I do find it hard to get excited about "Levee" in particular, and there's definitely a slippage in the level of creativity and excitement on the less important tracks on MT relative to those on L & T. That said, "Levee" is the only blues shuffle on that album that seems completely desultory. "Rollin and Tumblin" has that great line about crumbling tombs, for instance.

Warren Peace's point is the crucial one, though. Many of the things said on this forum are really a response to Bob's work onstage - how song X has worked or has failed to work live, what Bob has done onstage with the material from album Y, etc.. Many of us work 'backwards' (as it were) and retroactively assess songs and albums in light of live performance. And that's fine, it's the Paul Williams approach.

I'm a weirdo hereabouts in that I've never been a bootleg collector and have neither the time nor the resources to follow Bob systematically as a live act. For me, the officially-released music is the primary site of engagement with Bob's work. This may be why, like you, I've never really understood the impatience with the blues shuffles, any more than I understand the general disdain for "Tweedledum," a prime example of a tune that works better on record than live. So in broad terms, I'm with ya.


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PostPosted: Thu August 21st, 2014, 15:02 GMT 
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BobFan115 wrote:
I enjoy MT start to finish, and I thank it, in particular, for “Spirit on the Water.” The stereo speakers that I bought in the 80s had been deteriorating for years, and I was not doing a thing about it. After they met the bass part of “Spirit” - revealing how decrepit they had become - I took MT to stereo shops all over town saying “Play the second song loud!” until I found the speakers that I have today. The whole CD fills them beautifully.


it's a great album to use to test audiosetups. i know exactly how i want his voice to sound on it and how i want all the other tones to line up. i'd bring it around when i'm shopping for speakers again too! this album has a hypnotic quality. i am able to listen to it back to back over and over more so than any other album of his.

on the audiophile threads, amongst non-dylan fans, this one along with Nashville Skyline gets mentioned quite a bit.

i also think Thunder on the Mountain is a vastly under-appreciated lyrical masterpiece.


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PostPosted: Thu August 21st, 2014, 15:24 GMT 
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Warren Peace wrote:
I think the pushback against "shuffles" mostly had to do with his live show a few year back. People listened to too many tapes, got sick of "Rollin'" and took it out on the albums, basically.


Sums it up.

You can't be wrong - it's your opinion. I like them on the album - in fact, for many years I'd regularly be drunk on the train coming back on a Friday night after work and would often bop along to Thunder on the Mountain!


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