STREET SOUNDS: Mono is the way to go

  • Mar. 25, 2011 2:00 p.m.

This album could also be called “Bob Dylan’s Best: 1962 – 68” because that’s essentially what it is.

It contains the puritan campfire poet singing Blowing in the Wind and Song to Woody through electric Dylan (Like a Rolling Stone) on to the apocalyptic prophet in All Along the Watchtower.

That’s quite a short, extreme trip: soothing strumming to jaded jangling to bomb site surveillance.

This collection resembles Dylan’s classic hits album released in the late ‘60s when many recordings were “mono” and “stereo.”

Mono is direct and punchy, compressed with an attack. Stereo is, well… stereo.  Everyone knows this sound, it’s separated, spacious, more defined. It’s all a matter of taste.

But if one wants a retro worm-hole ride, go mono. Those were the days of portable AM radios and record players with needles and weighted arms. They were scratchy, grainy sounding things that looked like small suitcases best to hear ancient blues, Beatles and Bob Dylan on.

All those qualities make a tough sounding album.

Tombstone Blues lopes on at a tireless pace and even reflective songs like Positively 4th Street and Just Like a Woman have a wiry heart at the centre.

Tracks like I Want You sweeten the pace somewhat, but happiness is hard won in Dylan’s music.

 

Reflection endures and culminates in Watchtower, a hard-edged kaleidoscope of images to sum up a well-rounded retake on early Dylan sounds.

–– Dean Gordon-Smith is the music reviewer for The Morning Star.