Posted in Album Reviews

Bob Dylan – John Wesley Harding

Released just over 55 years ago, Bob Dylan more or less keeps his extraordinary string of albums going with the country tinged John Wesley Harding.  The album cuts back on Dylan’s epic songs and instead sees most tracks clocking in at the 3-minute mark. The title track has a great bit of drumming from Kenneth A. Buttrey.  Along with Charlie McCoy on bass, the album has a minimal feel than the last few records Dylan had released with just “The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest” stretching out over 11 verses. The haunting, “As I went Out One Morning” where the protagonist gets taken by the arm by a woman in chains is more typical of the songs Dylan released here.

The most famous song on the album is the original version of “All Along the Watch Tower”, later made more popular by Jimi Hendrix’s stunning version.  The driving acoustic guitar and impassioned vocal are as powerful as the lyric, “there are many here among us/Who feel that life is but a joke”.  “Down Along the Cove” sees Dylan move to piano on a jaunty track before the pedal steel guitar of “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” closes out the set. 

This set of Dylan songs does not quite reach the heights of his mid 60s period albums.  The cracked vocals on “Drifter’s Escape” and the bluesy “Dear Landlord” are fine songs that feel like a more laid back Dylan.  In all, this makes John Wesley Harding a little less awe inspiring than what listeners had become used to but one in which Dylan stays ahead of most in the musical pack of that time.

8.5/10

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Favourite Albums of 2022

5. Tears for Fears – The Tipping Point: The duo of Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith returned in 2022 in a big way. A new album, planned tour (that unfortunately had to be cancelled), and numerous TV appearances. The centrepiece of the year was The Tipping Point. The light electronics mixed with traditional instruments on tracks such as “The Master Plan” for both a mature and bright sounding pop album.

4. Lightning Seeds – See You In The Stars: Ian Broudie returned to his Lightning Seeds moniker for the first time in well over 10 years. The result was a terrific pop album bursting with sunny melodies and scratchy vocals. Tracks such as single “Great To Be Alive” reminded listeners of how positive life can be regardless of the news. It was the album many of us didn’t know we needed until we did.

3. Wet Leg – Wet Leg: In many ways, this feels like a 2021 album as four singles were released a year ago. Since then, Wet Leg has taken the indie rock world by storm with sold out shows and appearances on nearly everyone’s year end list. The duo still managed to save the blasts of “Ur Mom” and “Angelica” for 2022 along with several strong album tracks.

2. Liam Gallagher – C’mon You Know: Right from the first moments of the 60s like children’s choir opening, Gallagher’s third solo album was an unexpected powerhouse. As his brother Noel notes, Liam has kept 90s rock alive and well with a younger generation eating it up. “Better Days” has the strut of a quality Oasis tune while “Moscow Rules” co-written with Ezra Koenig opened up further depths to his sound. Liam’s quality control rarely let him down here on a terrific set of 2022 rock tunes.

1. Beach House – Once Twice Melody: The eighth album from the Baltimore duo of Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally ran an ambitious 84 minutes with four separate chapters. Highlights include the title track, “Only You Know”, and “Hurts To Love”. While the formula does not stray too far from their atmospheric, indie rock, Beach House manage to explore new vistas of sound. With a lengthier run time, it is easy to submerge in this luxiourously expanded album.

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10 Favourite Songs of 2022

10. Yard Act – The Overload: I came across this track through Cillian Murphy’s recommendation on his excellent BBC podcast. The band from Leeds mixes several different genres and on the title track of their debut album, really nail their outsider status with a few pop hooks.

9. Wet Leg – Angelica: The duo from the Isle of Wight saved one of the best tracks from their debut album for a 2022 release. The energetic track really takes off when the drums explode as they sing of Angelica going to a party. Another slice of indie rock perfection from the breakout act of 2022.

8. Taylor Swift (Feat. Lana Del Rey) – Snow On The Beach: A highlight from the Swift’s highly successful Midnights album was her collaboration with Lana Del Rey. While Lana is used sparingly, she adds a bit of texture to a song that would not sound out of place on either of their albums. Hopefully this is just the first of many tracks the two work on together.

7. Tears For Fears – Long, Long, Long Time: Curt Smith takes over the vocals on this midtempo track that adds Carina Round in the chorus. Smith turns in an excellent vocal performance over a bed of shimmering synths and electronic beats. The track is one of several highlights from their very good album, The Tipping Point.

6. Fontaines D.C. – I Love You: The moody track was the second song released from the band’s very good third album, Skinty Fia. It’s a hauntingly atmospheric track that really suits singer Grian Chatten’s deadpan delivery. The love song to Dublin is like one from beyond the grave.

5. Lightning Seeds – Great To Be Alive: This jangly piece of indie pop was the first song that many had heard from Ian Broudie in several years. The upbeat track was an unusual slice of sunshine in an otherwise hard slog for many people that was 2022. Co-written with James Skelly from The Coral, it is never anything than uplifting.

4. Liam Gallagher – Moscow Rules: The third Gallagher solo album had several bangers and highlights. “Moscow Rules”, co-written with Ezra Koenig from Vampire Weekend, was more understated. The atmospheric track sees Liam turn in a very good vocal performance that gets amped up in the chorus as soon as the drum kicks in. With songs like this, the younger Gallagher can leave a few Oasis tunes off the setlist and add in more solo work.

3. Suede – She Still Leads Me On: Called their punk rock record, Suede released a very good album in Autofiction. One of the highlights was the first track about singer Brett Anderson’s complicated relationship with his mother. To hear him sing with this much passion about something so personal was awe inspiring as the band rocks behind him. Excellent stuff from the legendary band.

2. Beach House – Only You Know: One of the highlights from the second half of the excellent 2022 album from Beach House, “Only You Know” was never released as a single. The cascading synths match Victoria Legrand’s repeated vocals before the tumbling drums appear. A characteristically atmospheric track that easily glides along a celestial plane. The line, “every disaster comes faster and faster” is one of many that can get lodged in a listener’s head for days.

1. Taylor Swift – Anti-Hero: One of the biggest pop tracks of the year deserved all it’s attention. The inward looking track features several moments of clever wordplay that the internet would turn into many memes, specifically as Swift sings, “It’s me/hi/I’m the problem, it’s me”. That is followed by the devastating line, “I’ll stare directly at the sun but never in the mirror”. It’s something many of us could do more of in 2023. Nice work, Taylor!

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Favourite Distant (Re)Discoveries of 2022

5. George McCrae – Rock Your Baby (Song): Likely heard one night while listening to the Top of the Pops podcast on the BBC, somehow I had never heard this track before even though it is one of the biggest selling singles of all time at 11 million units. A staggering achievement for this understated slice of R&B disco that slinks along in it’s rhythmic funk. One that works as well on the dancefloor or while holding your baby on the couch.

4. Courtney Barnett – Before You Gotta Go (Song): I missed listening Barnett’s Things Take Time, Take Time album upon release in late 2021 and instead listened in early 2022. A grower of an album with several highlights. One of them being this track of breaking up but wanting to remain friends or at least go out with good memories. The video is equally as great.

3.  Siouxsie and the Banshees – Icon (Song):  Working through the Banshees catalogue, Join Hands was reviewed back in August.  The album proved to be a grim listen at times, lacking some of the pop smarts of the band’s other work.  Still, the track “Icon” was a standout. The slow building song changes midway to thundering drums before exploding into life. 

2.  Radiohead – Kid A (Album):  Kid A is an album I’ve listened to off and on for 20 years but never for more than a few tracks at a time and had never really done a deep dive into the tracks.  Released after the mega selling OK Computer, Kid A split opinion in the rock community, perhaps doing exactly what Thom Yorke was hoping.  Listening to the album and reading Steven Hyden’s excellent book, This Isn’t Happening, was a personal highlight of enjoying art in multiple mediums in  2022. 

1. The Beatles – Revolver (2CD Deluxe Edition) (Album):  Rating another Giles Martin remix of an album by The Beatles is hardly the stuff of surprise at this point. Still, it’s hard to ignore when the attention gets turned to one of the greatest albums of all time in Revolver.  The highlight of these packages, regardless of which edition you choose, is the bonus material. Hearing the all too familiar songs in different takes is thrilling.  From instrumentals (“Eleanor Rigby”), stripped down versions (“Tomorrow Never Knows”) or raw takes (“Here, There and Everywhere”), the bonus album was a delight.