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Bob Dylan: Planet Waves, released 40 years ago today


Bob_Dylan-Planet_Waves-Frontal

“Planet Waves” marks Dylan’s return as a committed artist, the first time since “John Wesley Harding” that he has truly allowed an album-in-progress to be an open canvas for the expression of whatever he is seeing, thinking, and feeling as he works on it.
~Paul Williams (Bob Dylan: Performing Artist, Vol 2: The Middle Years 1974-1986)

I particularly like the song ‘Something There Is About You’,….. It completes a circle for me, about certain things running through my pattern.
~Bob Dylan (John Rockwell Interview, Jan 1974)

Something there is about you that strikes a match in me
Is it the way your body moves or is it the way your hair blows free?
Or is it because you remind me of something that used to be
Somethin’ that crossed over from another century?

Something There Is About You:

The recording of “Going, Going, Gone” is definitely soaked in an atmosphere of acute desperation. Maybe they turned the air-conditioner off for this one, because the guy really does sound like he is “hanging on the ledge.” And though Robertson again excels himself, it is all about Dylan’s frayed performance.
~Clinton Heylin (Revolution in the Air: The Songs of Bob Dylan, 1957-1973 (Cappella Books))

I’ve just reached a place
Where the willow don’t bend
There’s not much more to be said
It’s the top of the end
I’m going
I’m going
I’m gone

Going Going Gone:

Except for the immediate “Forever Young” (anyone with at least some brain cells set aside for music.. loves this one), I feel the key to loving this album is to “get” the sound… Dylan & The Band creates a wonderful & complex mood…. it grows on you…. and when you’re in… you’re in for life!

One of Dylan’s most underrated albums..

planet back

From Wikipedia:

Released January 17, 1974
Recorded November 5, 6 and 9, 1973 at Village Recorder in West Los Angeles, California
Genre Folk rock, roots rock
Length 42:12
Label Asylum
Producer Rob Fraboni

Planet Waves is the fourteenth studio album by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, released in January 1974 by Asylum Records (Island Records in the United Kingdom).

Dylan is supported on the album by longtime collaborators The Band, with whom he embarked on a major reunion tour following its release (documented on the live album Before the Flood.) With a successful tour and a host of publicity, Planet Waves was a hit, enjoying a brief stay at #1 on the US Billboard charts—a first for the artist—and #7 in the UK. Critics were not negative, as they had been with some recent Bob Dylan albums (namely Self Portrait and Dylan), but still not enthusiastic for the album’s brand of laid-back roots rock.

The album was originally set to be titled Ceremonies of the Horsemen, a reference to the song “Love Minus Zero/No Limit”, from the 1965 album Bringing It All Back Home; the release was delayed two weeks when Dylan decided to change the title at the last minute.

Bob Dylan live 1974

Hazel – Live Nov 25 1976 (Last Waltz concert):

spotify:

Artwork

The cover art is drawn by Dylan himself. Written on the right side of the cover image is the phrase, “Cast-iron songs & torch ballads,” apparently signaling Dylan’s own conception of the album. On the left side is written “Moonglow”, which is sometimes interpreted as a subtitle. The initial release also included an insert which reportedly set out excerpts from Dylan’s personal journals.

Bob Dylan planet waves insert

Recording Sessions

In the summer of 1973, Robbie Robertson, lead guitarist of The Band, relocated to Malibu, California, not far from Dylan’s residence. According to Robertson, the idea of collaborating with Dylan evolved from a conversation that took place sometime after July 28, when The Band played to hundreds of thousands of people at Summer Jam at Watkins Glen in upstate New York. After much discussion about that experience, the idea of touring again “seemed to really make sense,” says Robertson. “It was a good idea, a kind of step into the past…The other guys in the Band came out [to Malibu] and we went right to work.”

Bob Dylan 1974

I hate myself for lovin’ you and the weakness that it showed
You were just a painted face on a trip down Suicide Road
The stage was set, the lights went out all around the old hotel
I hate myself for lovin’ you and I’m glad the curtain fell

Dirge:

There were 6 recording sessions for Planet waves: 2, 5, 6, 8, 9 & 14 of November 1973, and every session produced at least one master version…

For details Check out:

 Bob Dylan 1974 Live

Aftermath

Planet Waves was Dylan’s first ‘proper’ album in three and a half years. With a planned tour to follow (his first since 1966 and backed by the same band that supported him on that legendary tour), the media coverage was enormous. Asylum Records planned on releasing Planet Waves the same day the tour began, but an album title change (from Ceremonies of the Horsemen) and a last minute substitution in liner notes (also written by Dylan) pushed the release date back two weeks.

The critical reception was generally positive, if a bit muted.

  • The consensus was ultimately strong enough to secure Planet Waves at #18 on The Village Voice’s Pazz & Jop Critics Poll for 1974. “In a time when all the most prestigious music, even what passes for funk, is coated with silicone grease, Dylan is telling us to take that grease and jam it,” wrote critic Robert Christgau. “Sure he’s domestic, but his version of conjugal love is anything but smug, and this comes through in both the lyrics and the sound of the record itself. Blissful, sometimes, but sometimes it sounds like stray cat music—scrawny, cocky, and yowling up the stairs.”
  • Ellen Willis of The New Yorker wrote, “Planet Waves is unlike all other Dylan albums: it is openly personal…I think the subject of Planet Waves is what it appears to be—Dylan’s aesthetic and practical dilemma, and his immense emotional debt to Sara.”

Bob Dylan and The Band 1974

Michael Gray:
…For the first ten minutes after it came out, this 14th Dylan album was hailed—as New Morning had been—as ‘the best thing he’s done since Blonde on Blonde’. Like New Morning, it then suffered a disappointment backlash from which it never fully recovered. Put in the long back-projection of Dylan’s recordingMGray career it now seems a potent, open album. Warm, musically sumptuous yet tense, and emotionally rich, it points down no new road; asserting the artist’s right to prefer minor work on old canvasses to doing no work at all, it is drawn from the inner resources of memory and a determination to record faithfully the artist’s current state of mind in spite of tiredness, an unpopular grownupness  and some lack of self-confidence.
(from The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia)

 

“The crashing waves roll over me,” Dylan sings in what might be the most startling and seductive performance on the album (Never Say Goodbye)
~Paul Williams (BD – Performing artist 1960-73)

Twilight on the frozen lake
North wind about to break
On footprints in the snow
Silence down below

You’re beautiful beyond words
You’re beautiful to me
You can make me cry
Never say goodbye:

Track listing

All songs written and composed by Bob Dylan.

  1. “On a Night Like This” 2:57
  2. “Going, Going, Gone” 3:27
  3. “Tough Mama” 4:17
  4. “Hazel” 2:50
  5. “Something There Is About You” 4:45
  6. “Forever Young” 4:57
  7. “Forever Young (Continued)” 2:49
  8. “Dirge” 5:36
  9. “You Angel You” 2:54
  10. “Never Say Goodbye” 2:56
  11. “Wedding Song” 4:42

My ratings:

  1. Forever Young (long version) – 9,5 (0-10)
  2. Wedding song  - 9
  3. Never Say Goodbye – 8,5
  4. Forever Young (short version) – 8
  5. Dirge – 7,5
  6. Going, Going, Gone – 7,5
  7. You Angel You – 7,5
  8. Something There Is About You – 7
  9. Tough Mama – 7
  10. Hazel – 6,5
  11. On a Night Like This – 6

“So, I don’t know. I think so. It’s all in the heart, whatever keeps you that way. Keeps you forever young. Forever young doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t grow old, but you just have some contact with what put you where you are. You know, keep some type of contact. Anyway…”
~Bob Dylan (to Marc Rowland in Sept. 1978)

“This song should be sung every morning by every child in every school in every country”
~Allen Ginsberg

May your hands always be busy
May your feet always be swift
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift
May your heart always be joyful
And may your song always be sung
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young:

Personnel

  • Bob Dylan – guitar, harmonica, piano, vocals
  • Rick Danko – bass guitar, violin
  • Levon Helm – drums, mandolin
  • Garth Hudson – keyboards, organ, piano, accordion, saxophones
  • Richard Manuel – piano, keyboards, drums
  • Robbie Robertson – guitars, bass guitar
Technical personnel
  • Rob Fraboni – production, engineering
  • David Gahr, Joel Bernstein – photography
  • Nat Jeffery – assistant engineer
  • Robbie Robertson – special assistance

-

“Wedding Song has a quick, easy flow to it, lyrically and melodically, and the contradictory message conveyed by both words and performance are fascinating. “When I was deep in the poverty you taught me how to give” is a fine tribute. But the next verse is a catalog of horrors: “eye for eye and tooth for tooth” is a phrase that always refers to a pattern of retaliatory punishment; “your love cuts like a knife” is odd praise, odder still because it’s sung without sarcasm or irony.  …. The last line of the verse is particularly scary, given its form as part of a pledge of love: “I’d sacrifice the world for you to watch my senses die.” …
~Paul Williams (Performing Artist 1)

Wedding song:

The performance is so strong that one can’t help but hope the guy in the song manages to win his bride over again. Yet that sense of being written in the moment, and a certain self-serving justification of his
own actions, makes its closest kin “Ballad in Plain D,” another song he wrote in haste and regretted at leisure.
~Clinton Heylin (Still On The Road)

Other Bob Dylan album posts here @ JV:

 

-Egil

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20 Comments

  1. If Planet Waves should be one of the most underrated records of Dylan, the DIRGE has to be its most underrated, well, dirge. In an age of fiberglass, I’m searching for a gem. Think hard on just that one line.

  2. i have always thought this was the best bob dylan album. after a such a long period of silence bob seems to enjoy making music again and men are that they should have joy.

  3. It’s kind of ironic that Dylan’s first #1 LP is considered somewhat of a “sleeper” in his extensive catalog. Over the years, Dylan has sometimes commented that some of the songs were not quite complete when they were recorded, due to the deadline for release before the tour. Nevertheless, Planet Waves features some truly outstanding songs — “Forever Young,” “Going, Going, Gone,” “Something There Is About You,” “Dirge,” and “Wedding Song.” And, of course, with this lineup the performances are knockout. The one thing that holds the LP back from the top tier of Dylan albums is the stunning absence of backing vocals by The Band. It’s a shame that Danko, Manuel, and Helm’s amazing blend of voices remain silent throughout.

    • Thanks for your comment Bob C,

      I agree.. backing vocals from Danko/Manuel/Helm would probably have lifted some songs..
      Great point!

      -Egil

  4. While it has some fine songs, it nevertheless sounds rushed, and it was. Some of the songs sound like the first or second runthrough, and could have benefitted from a bit more work on them. Of course, some will say “I love the spontaneous nature of the songs”, but to me it comes across as somewhat sloppy, and that’s why it’s a good album, and not a great one.

    • Thanks for your comment GSH,

      It sure was kind of rushed… some songs were hardly rehearsed at all (among them “Dirge”).. but I love the way they sound. Maybe the songs would have benefitted from some more studio time or Dylan-alone time… but on the other hand.. maybe not.
      It is not “top 10 Dylan album”, probably not even top 15… BUT it’s still a great album :-)
      -Egil

  5. It’s the only full-length studio collaboration between Dylan & The Band, we’re lucky to have it.

  6. Blood On The Tracks and Planet Waves are Dylan’s are the two albums that give us a glimpse into his soul at those moments in his life. They are his most personal records and therefore – in my opinion – they are his two top albums. I don’t care if Planet Waves sounds ‘rushed’ or could have used some Band vocals – Planet Waves takes us on a tour of Dylan’s heart and soul. “I hate myself for loving you…” That line alone is more personal than anything on Blonde on Blonde. Or “I paid the price of solitude but at least i’m out of debt”. And the fact that Dylan wrote “Forever Young” to his newborn child… WOW… I got a stuffed frog for my daughter’s crib – he wrote Forever Young… Planet Waves is an emotional roller coaster ride and it is a wonderful and painful journey.

    • GREAT comment Satchmo!

      .. he wrote “Forever Young”…. I got a stuffed frog.. priceless.

      At least we agree that Planet Waves is a GREAT album & a wonderful & painful journey :-)

      -Egil

  7. What is with the peace sign on the cover? You would think Dylan would know how to draw one. Maybe it is a Mercedes hood ornament and Dylan is making some other kind of statement.

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  9. Sorry, but again I don’t see how it’s great, other than if you’re being a sycophant. As for it being better with more time, just look at how much better “freewheeling” or “Blood on the tracks” we’re because of extra work. The only album that Dylan had up until “Slow Train” that didn’t need extra work was “John Wesely Harding” .

    • Gunnery.. why sorry?

      This is what’s it’s all about.. OPINIONS ..
      I think “Planet Waves” is great.. .. you think it’s good… I respect your point of view.
      For me.. The album is still a “grower”.. hard feelings.. moods.. “I hate Myself for loving you..”.. tuff shit…

      And still.. not among his best
      -Egil

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  12. i Agree its underrated and sounds slightly rushed but its really good album and have alwaye felt that the slow version of FOREVER YOUNG could have done with the Bands harmonies on the chorus (like at the last waltz) but thats Bob for you.

  13. DIRGE is the main CAST IRON item here; if you don’t believe me, just go ask Dylan. As for his liner notes, these used to be little highlights on their own. Alas, they’ve faded to simply blank or black in recent albums.

  14. I read somewhere that Going, Going, Gone is derived from the haunting I’m Not There from the Basement Tapes, a song never defined nor even transcribed as far as I know. Did anyone else hear that?

  15. One of my favorite Dylan records! His only studio record with all the members of “The Band” their tightness really stands out. No back up vocals needed here as Dylan’s voice is clear and strong. Back up vocals would have taken away from that. Dylan’s harp, Robbie’s guitar, Garth’s organ, etc…….. all sound great individually and collectively to create a beautiful sounding record that sounds fresher with each passing day and remains forever young. This record stands on its own, but I believe also set the ground work for his follow up records, Blood On The Tracks, and Desire.