Elliot Knapp | Seattle, Washington United States | 04/28/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"He's pushing 70 and has artistically and financially earned a peaceful retirement several times over, but Bob Dylan has found it in his heart to generously present us with another album of new material. What's more, in my opinion it's even stronger than 2006's Modern Times.
Whereas Modern Times found Dylan mining similar subjects and moods to those explored in Love and Theft and Time Out of Mind, Together Through Life distinguishes itself by consisting pretty much entirely of love songs. It's still Dylan, though, so these aren't sappy or hackneyed--the words are full of wry frustration, sensuality, compelling nostalgia, and some of the purest heartfelt devotion the man has ever committed to tape. The album's opener and de facto 'single,' "Beyond Here Lies Nothing," kicks things off in a relatively heavy fashion, as pounding toms and dirty guitar licks frame Dylan's shadowy descriptions of consuming love. It's immediately evident that Dylan the producer isn't sticking with the same old formula--he's increased his acoustic instrumentation, including mandolins, violins, banjos, and especially an accordion, and to great and organic effect. The accordion's cheerful, liquid, flitting timbres really complement the laid-back nature of this set of songs, and it strongly recalls Dylan's days with The Band (which never hurts, so far as I'm concerned).
Anyone who's still contending that Dylan's voice is shot needs only to listen to the down-tempo, mandolin-drenched "Life Is Hard," one of Dylan's most successful torch songs, to hear how much heartbreaking emotion he's still capable of wringing out of his own words, even cooing wordlessly toward the song's end. Likewise, "I Feel a Change Comin' On" serves up Dylan's most heartfelt expressions of tenderness since Time Out of Mind's "Make You Feel My Love." Worry not, though--Dylan's nostalgia is leavened by his characteristic wit and inimitable strangeness. "My Wife's Home Town," with its "I just wanna say that hell's my wife's home town" refrain, contains plenty of tongue-in-cheek mock self-pity and Dylan's chuckling at the end of the track is worth the album's price alone. The album's closer, "It' All Good" takes some extremely effective ironic liberties with the titular saying, and the bluesy "Jolene" follows suit, surprisingly containing one of the best guitar hooks in his recent history. Dylan's fascinatingly surreal blending of American culture, mood and geography also pops up numerous times, especially on the downtrodden "If You Ever Go To Houston," and we get to see more than a few mysterious characters as the album unwinds. Finally, "Shake Shake Mama" has one of Dylan's most addictive vocal melodies backed with some gnarly guitar bends--I can imagine that this song will be a total crusher live.
Throughout, Dylan's production remains top-notch. The sound is warm and organic; on Modern Times I felt that the sound lacked a certain grit or oomph to back the harder-edged tunes with the energy they deserved, but here Jack Frost (aka Bob) has hit a sweet spot that better matches the mood of the material, letting the accordion swirl and the electric guitars growl dirtily. It sounds even better if you crank it up a few notches--a hallmark of good mastering. While a couple of songs tread sonically very close to earlier territory ("This Dream of You" almost sounds like an outtake from Desire, and "Forgetful Heart" would fit inconspicuously on Time Out of Mind), the strength of the songwriting here and the love song concept makes Together Through Life an eminently satisfying listening experience that sounds fresh even alongside his most recent work. Overall, while Modern Times had a couple tracks that didn't really click for me, I can't spy a weak song in this set.
As far as the bonus material goes in this "deluxe" version, it's about the same as earlier deluxe editions--nothing essential or earth shattering, but certainly of interest to fans and collectors. The second disc is a Bob Dylan Theme Time Radio Hour (a program that's really worth checking out for the great music and Dylan's entertaining commentary), and the third is an interview outtake from No Direction Home. Unless you're a really big fan, you're probably ok with the standard version, although the deluxe one isn't much more expensive. As far as I'm concerned, Dylan has produced so much great material in his career that he really doesn't owe us anything new. But if he wants to keep putting out albums this great, who am I to say no? Here's hoping the next one is just as good."
"Everyone is commenting how the latest Bob Dylan album has a Mexican bar feel - I would not know as I have never been to a Mexican bar.
Together Through Life - Dylan's 4th masterpiece in a row is a less polished more immediate endeavor than its predecessors - especially Modern Times, which had struck a chord with critics & listeners alike (and Alicia Keys I am sure) as an instant classic. This one is deliberately imperfect (made for an imperfect time in our history I guess), forcedly rushed & more Basement Tapes than any other Dylan record since or before. As if a citizen of a once powerful nation - who is saying he has had enough & just says what he wants to say. When I listened to Time Out of Mind, Love & Theft & Modern Times - they all had this aura of a classic - production compared to the best in the world - lyrics, music, craftsmanship, orchestration - all just came together. This one, on the first go, is more `live' - more in your face - as against studio. Lyrics are simpler (co-written with Hunter) - it is as if he is trying to reach the masses - devils & saints alike - and he is attempting to be more direct, both in delivery & use of words. It is like the old man of the family, at the head of the table, whispering words of wisdom to get better - and no one really cares about.
The singing, the uttering of words, the impeccable timing of the verses and the click-clack of the rhymes is all God's work - Dylan grabs you at the first go. It appears he has been thinking more about singing than ever before and the result is obvious - this is one of the best sung Dylan albums. For the sixties, everything Blonde & Blonde & before - that was sheer talent - the words, the voice, the feel, the urgency & the absolute & utter sense of timing .., this one the other hand is created carefully even with a feel of being urgent & immediate, a maestro in his golden years preserving his glory. I have not heard Dylan `sing' any better in a long time - this is as good as it gets.
Compact discs usually don't pronounce the same warmth as wax of the olden times for the most part & one thing that has really fascinated me is how much Jack Fate has converged the sounds of CD & Wax over the past three records - this one is perhaps the best - perhaps even better than Modern Times - this one sounds as warm as any Vinyl would do. This is just my first take - I will let my listener friends decide for themselves.
Thirty years after the year of the Slow Train, the man still stands alone in some deserted rail station, somewhere in Southern Texas, and murmurs, with more conviction & urge than ever before; listen to him sing again, `when you gonna wake up, & strengthen the things that remain,' albeit in different words.
Would there be another one? I do not know, & neither do you - one can only hope -
And if this is the last one, once again, from the bottom of my heart, Thanks Mr. Dylan - just for being there ..
Oakville: Toronto: April 28, 2009 "
Do You Really Need a Together Through Life Sticker???
Lightman | New York | 04/29/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
This is one of the items in the goody bag that comprises the "Deluxe Edition".
I got it, but I don't need it. Nor do I need the poster and the forgettable DVD extras.
But the album itself - that's another story.
Dylan continues to reinvent himself. This time the cagey old trickster has morphed into an amalgam of equal parts Howlin Wolf and Leon Redbone.
The lyrics on Together Through Life are the result of a collaboration between Dylan and Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter.
Long ago Dylan wrote, "Louise holds a handful of rain tempting you to defy it".
Not quite as long ago but almost, Hunter wrote, "It's just a box of rain, I don't know who put it there. Believe it if you need it or leave it if you dare".
And today, here's what they come up with together:
Well I didn't come here dear with a doggone thing I just came to hear the drummer's cymbal ring There ain't no way you can put me down I just want to say that hell's my wife's home town
Our song writing duo is quick to provide an answer:
Well there's reasons for that and there's reasons for this I can't think of any now but I know they exist I'm sittin in the sun till my skin turns brown I just want to say that hell's my wife's home town
You know what? This ain't half bad...
Here's some examples of yet other memorable lyrics -
Well, I'm movin' after midnight Down boulevards of broken cars Don't know what I'd do without it Without this love that we call ours Beyond here lies nothin' Nothin' but the moon and stars
If you see her sister Lucy Say I'm sorry I'm not there Tell her other sister Betsy To pray the sinner's prayer
I must be losing my mind, you're the object of my desire
Brick by brick they tear you down A teacup of water is enough to drown
And these are from the song I like best - Forgetful Heart.
Forgetful heart like a walking shadow in my brain All night long I lay awake and listened to the sound of pain The door has closed forevermore if indeed there ever was a door
You know, as I listen to this CD, I get the feeling that Dylan's really having fun. In a couple of places you even hear him chuckling in the background. These songs are some kind of easy going, post modern, existential Americana.
Yup, for sure - that's it...
And the sound is absolutely amazing. Producer Jack Frost is some kind of a genius. Wait, does this guy really exist? Who is he anyhow? Anyway, the music is tight, together, all at once happy and haunting. Especially David Hildago's accordion.
What you see is what you get - as announced by the last number, "It's All Good".
No, really it's great.
Fantastic album...for those who "know" Dylan's current voice
Leyan Sun | 04/29/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Together Through Life is a great continuation of Time out of Mind, Love and Theft, and Modern Times. Though it may present a shock to the listener if they had suddenly jumped from his earlier work to his current period, once you get used to it, it sounds pretty damn good. For those who have ever followed his body of work know he's never really hung on to a single voice. As for me, I knew there was a huge shock when I turned on Modern Times for the first time after listening to Mr. Tambourine Man from Dylan's 1964 performance. I immediately turned it off and dismissed it. After a third and forth listen, I've grown to like his current trademark growl. After a few days, I began to grow into other albums from his recent period of work. Along with few other artists, I've always found there is a breaking in period with Dylan. You need to shake off the impression that every single artist needs to have that perfect voice. You know the sound. Give this album a second listen if you don't like it the first time. It'll break in, like that favorite couch of yours. Who knows, this might drag you into other artists who share a similar croak such as Tom Waits."
Another great album
Joseph D. Beullens | 04/28/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Together Through Life continues Bobs recent string of great albums. I believe the work he's done in the past decade rivals any of the classic records of his early career. Sure it's not the Dylan of then, but who could expect that? He is living in the moment just like he did then, making music timely to him and if the rest of us are on board it's all the sweeter. The only complaint about this record is the deluxe editions. Unless you are a die hard fan to extreme extents buy the normal one disc version. I bought the deluxe edition with the bonus dvd, which was very short (less than 15 min) and not that interesting minus hearing an early demo of "blowing in the wind". The radio show disc is cool enough but not a have to have. And the poster and sticker are a nice touch, but more for the collector than someone who just cares about the record itself. Also Best Buy is selling a version that comes in a miniature milk crate with a t-shirt. Again unless you have to have these soon to be collectibles I would skip it for the $30 plus they want for it. Otherwise this is an AMAZING RECORD! Speaking for the music itself. Killer band, David Hidalgos accordion playing is a real treat and addition, as well as Mike Campbell on guitar."