A-side: Political World
B-Side: Ring Them Bells
I like to think of Bob Dylan in the upper echelons of curmudgeonly old men in rock - right up there in the premier division of grumpy aging rock stars alongside Lou Reed (RIP), Neil Young and Van Morrison. What all of these people have in common is the ability to make some of the most sublime, brilliant music ever, but equally be able to make some of worst dross ever recorded. Sometimes on the same album, sometimes even within the same song.
This record is from one of Dylan's "return to form" albums - Oh! Mercy. It certainly found itself in the top 50 end-of-year round-up in both Melody Maker and NME of 1990 - and probably in plenty of other music magazines too.
Political World has a statement to make - it's a political world, and everybody has an agenda, and the decisions we make have impact small or large on other people and decisions. I imagine all the old hippies listening to this revelation were nodding their heads and saying "yeah, man, tell it like it is Bob - stick it to the man", whilst the rest of us were more probably thinking something along the lines of "yes, we know, and your point is..?". I suppose there's some people out there who are naive and innocent enough not to have realised this, however they're probably not the types to listen to Dylan, so I don't think he's going to be corrupting anyone's innocence with this. If the lyrics to Political World are all cliche and truism, so is the music - but not in a bad way It's the music that started rock itself - Blues. It has a great bluesy feel, with a strong swampy rhythm that gets you going. So one to listen to for the music rather than the words. (By the way - there are no vids on YouTube of Bob Dylan doing this number - plenty of cover versions - so no link I'm afraid - you'll have to hunt it down yourself!)
Flipping the record over we find a piano led piece of AOR, called Ring Them Bells. Whilst I'm partial to a bit of Dylan every now and then, I could never claim to be a fan, and so this styling was a surprise for me, however unlike the a-side I found it musically bland. Maybe the lyrics are better and a bit less obvious - well yes they are. In fact I'm a little confused. It could be Dylan not be clear and being obfuscatory, or it could be me being thick (there's a 50/50 chance to be honest!) Either the bells are ringing out in celebration, saying the masses are still here, and are strong, and are surviving, or the bells are ringing out a funereal death knell for the little people as they are swamped by the political world. Could be either, maybe if I listened to this song a few more times I'd have an idea, but I can't say that the notion fills me with enthusiasm. It was a little bit too dull to make me want to go back to.
Next time some more music from the 'shire...