Good as I Been To You/World Gone Wrong part 3: The Riffs, the Genre Pieces and the Final Verdict (Dylanology 25)
In the two previous issues I have discussed the Bass Melody style and the Csus4 Thing as central techniques or styles which define the sound of Bob Dylan’s two acoustic 90s albums, Good As I Been To You (1992) and World Gone Wrong (1993). In the first of these styles, the melody is picked out on the bass strings, creating a foundation which ties the song to the instrument. In the second, it is the guitar’s ability to be a part-singer that is exploited.
In this issue I will wrap up this mini-series with the remaining main song categories: the Genre Pieces and the Riff Songs, and a final discussion of the albums on the whole.
First a few words about the category of songs that I’ve called the Genre Pieces. This mostly covers the more or less equilibristic exercises in guitar blues, such as the vamp in “Sittin’ on Top of the World”, the boogie “Step it Up and Go”, the tireless and perfectly exquisite playing on “Frankie and Albert”, “Broke Down Engine” in all its Drop D glory – perhaps Dylan’s best and most virtuosic guitar track ever - the instrumental parts of “Blood in my Eyes”, and even the charming Ink Spots impersonation-transformation “Tomorrow Night”.
But while these songs are without a doubt the most interesting tracks on the albums technically speaking, there is not that much interesting for me to say about them, beyond the surprised «Bob can Boogie!?!», and the general verdict: “Great playing!”
What is perhaps most puzzling about the playing on these songs is that Dylan never seems to have done anything like it again, neither on stage nor on record. Brilliant as his playing is here, it left no mark whatsoever on his style. It’s as if he was doing a classic “Been there, done that” thing.
Therefore I will not say any more about these songs, although they are all among my favourites – on these two albums, but several of them in Dylan’s total catalogue.
Instead, I will concentrate on some of the other styles and traits that are interesting precisely insofar as they reflect aspect of his art in general and specifically his development in the surrounding of the albums.
When I’ve dedicated two posts to the Bass Melody style and the Csus4 Thing, it’s because they are interesting aspects of the playing on these two albums. But I bet that most people who love these albums do so not primarily because of his ingenious way of handling parallel melodies.
Much more likely they will be thinking of the tour de force of the Genre Pieces mentioned above, but some may also mention the pervasive lick in “Ragged and Dirty”, the slowly descending licks in “Love Henry” or in the sad story of the perils of poor “Delia”. These riffs and licks that Dylan is playing with are exciting and surprising, and – I believe – ultimately a more substantial contribution to the success of the albums.
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