on 7 June 2009
Having collected many of the Bob Dylan Reissue Series, I was beginning to think that Sony would never re-release this 1970 chart-topper, which underscores why I think it remains such an underrated record some forty years later. Reluctant to buy the ancient original CD release, I've waited patiently for a remaster - and I was not disappointed.
Arriving in the wake of the baffling SELF PORTRAIT, NEW MORNING drew cries of relief from many scribes upon its release, many echoing the critic Ralph J. Gleason's view that we had "got Dylan back again".
Indeed, NEW MORNING is a comforting, friendly little album which presents Bob Dylan at his most approachable. Settled domestically and having since embraced a more direct form of songcraft from his mid-1960s work, NEW MORNING basks in the glow of an artist seemingly content with his lot. Songs like 'If Not For You', the album's most famous tune; 'The Man In Me'; 'Winterlude'; and 'New Morning' all share an up-beat musicality; while a customary sense of surrealism pervades the rousing 'Day Of The Locusts', as Dylan recollects accepting his honorary degree from Princeton University. Meanwhile, the jazz shuffle of 'If Dogs Run Free', embellished with the arresting scat-singing of Maeretha Stewart, and the curious spoken-word tale of 'Three Angels' lend NEW MORNING a dash of eclecticism.
True, NEW MORNING will always remain in the shadow of, say, HIGHWAY 61 REVISITED or BLOOD ON THE TRACKS, but there's little doubt it contains bucketloads of charm and warmth. From the first time I played this newly remastered edition of NEW MORNING, I felt I had known the album for years.
By 1970 Bob Dylan had got married to Sara, recovered from a motorcycle accident, and fathered children. He must have been feeling happy and relieved, New Morning being clear evidence of new-found happiness such as (one suspects) he has never quite managed to find since.
This came out when I was working in a shop called Record Fayre in North Finchley (anyone remember it?) and we played it a lot. Our manager, Mr Hutchison, who wasn`t a regular Dylan buff, liked it too, especially the title track, said he found it a happy song. You can say that again.
The weird thing about NM, coming between such disparate albums as John Wesley Harding, Self Portrait and the later Planet Waves and Blood On The Tracks, is that it shouldn`t work. His voice is at times shaky, some of the lyrics are the simplest of his career, one or two of the songs are basic to say the least, unadulterated happiness is not always aesthetically pleasing, and it`s only 35 minutes long, though that`s a reasonable length for an LP of the period.
So why is this one of my favourite Dylan albums? Being Dylan, he translates his bushy-tailed, almost boyish joy into music that sounds like nothing else. He`s always been able to do this: Blonde On Blonde, John Wesley Harding, Street-Legal, Desire, Oh Mercy, Time Out Of Mind...they don`t sound like any other albums being made at the time, or at any time. Same with NM.
There are one or two staightforward, almost throwaway songs here, eg. the gauche If Not For You, the gloriously bluesy One More Weekend, and the arcadian Time Passes Slowly - which Judy Collins sang beautifully on Whales & Nightingales, turning it into a soaring celebration. Bob sings it with wayward wantonness, over his own equally wayward piano backing. The result is a funkily delirious paeon to the rustic life.
Then there are more substantial songs like the strange Day Of The Locusts, with its enigmatic lyric and explosive chorus; the lovely lilting Winterlude, a lovers` waltz which is as beguiling as it is unexpected; Sign On The Window, a ruminative number that only grows in stature the more one hears it; Went To See The Gypsy, a story-in-song that`s easy to overlook but shouldn`t be, as it`s rather special.
If Dogs Run Free is a spoken song and has to be heard to be believed. It still surprises even now, though I have to say it`s never been a favourite.
The last three songs form a kind of spiritual trio. The Man In Me will be familiar to fans of The Big Lebowski, in which it`s used to good if ironic effect:
The man in me will hide sometimes to keep from bein` seen
But that`s just because he doesn`t want to turn into some machine
Took a woman like you to get through
To the man in me
Three Angels is another spoken song, a most affecting two-minute tale you`ll either love or pass over. I love it.
The closing Father Of Night is even more brief, a hurried hymn of thanks, and a fitting finale to this most modest of Dylan releases.
Here`s a lyric from one of the best tracks, Sign On The Window, which seems to sum up this ultimate `feelgood` Dylan album:
Build me a cabin in Utah
Marry me a wife, catch rainbow trout
Have a bunch of kids who call me "Pa"
That must be what it`s all about
That must be what it`s all about
on 30 October 2010
As i slowly get around to filling the gaps in my Bob Dylan collection, i can honestly say that i hadn't heard much about 'New Morning', certainly not enough to grab my attention and put it at the top of the list of one's to buy. That it doesn't carry the weight historically, of say, 'Highway 61', 'Blonde on Blonde' or 'Blood On The Tracks' can be the only reason that i've overlooked it, as there is nothing about 'New Morning' to suggest that it's anything other than a classic Dylan album. Released in 1970, it's an uncomplicated and concise collection, with no message just great songs, and this is where its strengths lay. 'If Not For You', 'Day Of The Locusts', 'The Man In Me' and joyous title track 'New Morning' are as good as anything Dylan has done before or after. Dylan is in pretty good voice throughout and the band bring a looseness which serve the songs well, and helps to give the impression that everyone was having a good time making it. Though it may stand in the shadows of what went before and what was to come, 'New Morning' surely deserves some time of its own in the spotlight.
on 26 February 2012
Although Dylan seemed keen to quickly release something to cancel out the terrible reception for Self Portrait, this album which came out later in the same year was, incredibly, conceived with a similar intent in mind; that is, to create an album which mixed covers and self-penned material.*
Fortunately, that never happened. New Morning is all self-composed and, what is more, contains some very fine material indeed. Although some of the lyrical themes sound like a slightly forced form of happiness (marriage and domesticity don't necessarily spark great inspiration), this is probably the warmest album he ever made. The best - or worst - example of this pretty nothingness is the opening track, If Not For You; musically pleasing on the ear, but a bit vacant lyrically. Other songs serve his tremendous poetic gift far better; The Day Of The Locusts (about picking up an honorary degree), Went To See The Gypsy (supposedly about meeting Elvis), and Three Angels, which is a wonderfully surreal yarn and almost totally overlooked. For some songs, the music is the key....New Morning, One More Weekend and The Man In Me are all incredibly uplifting.
It is also a great melting pot of musical styles; jazz, blues, pop, gospel, rock, folk...even a waltz! Amazingly though, it doesn't sound like the mish-mash you might expect, and is actually quite a unified piece. Dylan was apparently suffering a heavy cold during the sessions, and his voice has a rough huskiness throughout which seems to suit the material - strange as that sounds. He also seems to have composed the vast majority of songs on the piano and it is the dominant instrument on the album, which gives New Morning that extra bit of individuality in his considerable catalogue.
There are a couple of songs I can live without, most notably When Dogs Run Free, but that's just personal taste. Overall this is a very decent effort that is overshadowed by later 70's triumphs, when he had new issues to sing about that he could really sink his teeth into.
*some of the covers surfaced on the 1973 album 'Dylan' aka 'A Fool Such As I'. Not easy to get hold of these days.
on 30 September 2013
As I recall this came out rather hurriedly after the "disaster" many journalists considered "Self Portrait" to be. While it cannot be
considered in the same league as the best of his 60's output the album has enough good moments to recommend it and it's
certainly as strong as the much trumpeted return to form that "Planet Waves" was supposed to be. I don't play it that often
compared to his "electric" 60's albums but when I do it passes the time amiably enough.
on 18 November 2015
There are two songs on here where Bob just talk through them and they don't even rhyme. Very lazy filler. The rest are good. My personal favourite is 'Sign On The Window'. It's unusual in that, for Bob, anyway, it's more upbeat than his usual stuff.
on 24 August 2010
After reading the review whether the New Morning has been remastered or not. I went to Amazon.com to find out. New Morning has been remastered and released in 2009, and is listed on Amazon.com as remastered as the other 2004 remastered Albums are.
on 10 October 2010
"New Morning" is a really excellent album that has "suffered" largely because it falls between Dylan's "miraculous" period, and his return to the "miraculous" with "Blood on the Tracks in 1974.It's a little "quirky" and short too, so that didn't help but remastered at this bargain -basement price of 2-99 it's a must buy.
on 5 March 2015
A fabulous collection of tight edgy rock songs. Ignore the poor reviews, they make little sense. Dylan doesn't have bad albums and this is proof, being that it was hastily put together and alegedly rushed out in the wake of its predecessor. Your toe will tap and once the lyrics stick you'll be wailing along with him all the way. A half an hour sprint that leaves you grinning and calling for more.
This 1970 release, the eleventh studio album from Bob Dylan, was always going to be well received, coming as it did straight after the much derided `Self Portrait'. And indeed, compared to what came immediately before it sounds pretty good. But it's still a long way from Dylan's best.
After the almost self destructive path taken with `Self Portrait', almost daring the public to buy it, Dylan at least here sounds like he is making an effort and is a little engaged with the music. An album of amiable tunes results. And that's about the best that can be said for most of it - it's competent, listenable and generally OK, but for the main part (apart from the classic Dylan opener `If Not For You', an effective yet simple love song) there is notherng here that really grabs your attention and makes itself noticed. It is perhaps the most anonymous album in Dylan's canon, neither controversial or amazingly good. It really lacks the spark of adversity that made Highway 61 or Blood On The Tracks great. It's just another album of country pop-rock. OK but not exciting. Strange as it sounds, I often find myself listening to Self Portrait more often than I put this on. At least that album had some character of its own, even if it was dire. 3 stars.