Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Getting around that voice

The biggest complaint from most people around when it comes to listening to Dylan is that phlegm baked croaky voice of his, none more pronounced than my wife. She freely admits he's one heck of a songwriter, but prefer Dylan covers than his own recordings. Point taken.

So, just how hard is it to appreciate that voice of his. Rock critics have actually professed that his singing voice is up there among the greats of Lennon and Presley, but his is hardly the most accessible. That is plain to anyone, least of all from Asian ears so cultivated on pristine crystal clear tones.

How does one begin to enjoy his recordings then?

Perhaps the easiest way is to go back to his seminal 60s records, and just like any Dylan newbie, the best way to start is his landmark trilogy of Bringing, Highway and Blonde records. That 'thin mercury sound' was forming and his voice was scathing, vicious, tender and lecturing by turns. And the songs, they are all classic and so covered for the last 30 years or so.

The thing about Dylan is his phrasing and his ability to convey a genuine emotion through that combo of diction and tonal quality that is so effective, and that is despite his non-pristine natural voice tone. Yes, it can be a turn off to many so used to the diva shrieking of todays, but to really appreciate him, one really has to learn to listen past the flawed croaks, and get to the essence of true folk singing.

Heck, just listen a few more times and let it sink in. The power of the songs will do the rest.

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