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Comrades From The North

Hello and welcome to a new year of The Bridge. It wouldn't be the Dylansphere if there wasn't something happening which didn't evoke strong reactions on both sides of an argument and we certainly have one following the release of Dylan's most recent album Shadows In The Night. There has been significant praise for the record in the music magazines and the newspapers. Many praise the quality of the interpretations, others the authentic nature of the feel of the album, yet others Dylan's vocal efforts. And the album made an immediate impact in the charts. So why are fans divided over its worth? In this issue you will find some personal reviews of the record and you may find yourself agreeing or violently not agreeing with them. One test is to ask yourself two questions. Firstly, would you buy this album if it were not a Bob Dylan album? Secondly, will you play it very much in the future or will it be filed under "Forget"? We suspect that it will be one of those efforts that gathers dust due to lack of play. It's not that these are bad songs – they most certainly are very good songs. They are well sung – very much heartfelt and Dylan displays the capacity to exploit all of the emotions which shine through his vocal efforts. They are well-played – the band is on top-form even if there is just a little too much pedal-steel in there. However, there is no variety on the album. Every song is slow, sometimes funereal, and it requires an effort to get through the set. Now there's nothing wrong with a bunch of slow tunes, Dylan often serves them up, but those are Dylan's songs which bear his stamp. This set tends to wash into a sameness which comes dangerously close to drifting into the background.

The biggest disappointment for us is the version of Lucky Old Sun. This is a really great song which Dylan has performed universally well in concerts. On record this version lacks all of the dynamism and drama with which Dylan infused those on-stage performances and becomes another, slightly one-dimensional outing.

So here we have a new album which hits all of the right critical buttons and has sold pretty well. And yet there' something that does not quite work. A missed opportunity? You will have your own views – do let us know.

Dylan recently became the recipient of the 2015 MusiCares Person of the Year. He attended the ceremony in Los Angeles, was introduced by none other than former president Jimmy Carter and had a batch of his songs performed by musical luminaries. The biggest shock of the night came when he delivered his speech which lasted for over 30 minutes, a veritable filibuster for the normally taciturn troubadour. During the speech he was effusive in his thanks to those who had recorded and made hits of his songs, those who were his musical influences and many others.

By the time this issue drops through your letterbox Dylan will have started his touring year in North America. There is a new album to mine live on-stage and set-lists that would benefit from some variety. Who knows?

You will find an article from Ian Woodward later in these pages. Ian has commented as follows on his contribution, "I know the article is unusual for The Bridge but I found the story fascinating and hope your readers will, too. To keep to a reasonable length, I took the decision to omit the names of crew members who gave their services - and, in some cases, their lives - to make the ‘Stockholm Run’ some 70 years ago. Their story, not to mention the stories of similar crews flying unarmed civilian aircraft around the world in World War II, has received too little coverage since and I hope this article will help bring it to the attention of a wider audience".

It was with great sadness that we learned of the passing of Dave Dingle in January. Dave organised the Bob Dylan Conventions with Dave Heath and ran the My Back Pages mail-order Dylan bookstore for many years. He was one of the original movers and shakers in the Dylan collecting and information world. He helped out in the early days of The Telegraph and compiled/wrote Dylan books under his pen-name of Gavin Diddle. Without his efforts we would all have been grasping around in the dark. More importantly, he was a really nice guy. Rest in peace.

Enjoy The Bridge as we move into the second half of our first century of issues!

May you climb on every rung ..........

Mike & John

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