Record of the day: Various artists, "Is it rolling Bob?"

Record of the day: Various artists, “Is it rolling Bob?”

Various Artists
Is It Rolling Bob? (CD RAS /Sanctuary RZDDD008)

During the recording of “Nashville Skyline” Bob Dylan, impatient to record, asked the producer Bob Johnston who was behind the glass of the studio if the tape had started, formulating the question that gives the title to this collection of reinterpretations, which in 2004 paid homage to the American bard, giving the phrase an ironically ambiguous nuance given that it is a reggae tribute and for Jamaican artists the word rolling has a completely different meaning.

Producer Doctor Dread has assembled artists with varied personalities, including Apple Gabriel, Toots Hibbert, Drummie Zeb,
Gregory Isaacs, Sizzla, selecting a repertoire that largely covers Dylan's early period with classics such as “Maggie's Farm”, “Mr. Tambourine Man”, “Subterranean Homesick Blues”, “Lay Lady Lay” and “Blowin' In the Wind” but from which there is no shortage of subsequent compositions such as “Knockin' On Heaven's Door”, “Gotta Serve Somebody” and “I and I”, proposed by Dylan himself in an unprecedented remixed version which underlines even better than the original (which appeared in “Infidels”) the superb rhythm section formed by Sly Dunbar (drums) and Robbie Shakspeare (bass), who in their brief collaboration with Dylan first took him to visit the sunny musical beaches of Jamaica.

The indolent pulsation of reggae, with its continuous alternation of different accents over a solidly groovy base, lends itself surprisingly well to Dylan's songs, which just like those of the Beatles seem to be interpretable in hundreds of different styles and ways without this affecting their stainless musical and poetic structure. The elegant instrumental appearance is guaranteed by professionals from the Kingston studios such as Sly Juice (percussion), Robbie Lyn (keyboards) and Steve Golding (guitar) who combine precision and feeling with relaxed skill.

The Jamaican sound seems to underline the beauty of the songs more, making the songs of anger and politics even more incisive (including prophetic ones like “A Hard'Rain A-Gonna Fall” and “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carrol”) and those of intensely sensual love (listen to Bers Hammond in “Just Like a Woman” or JC Lodge struggling with “Don't Think Twice It's All Right”): the album also appeared in a limited edition with a CD featuring the songs in a Dub version , not to be missed.

Carlo Boccadoro, composer and conductor, was born in Macerata in 1963. He lives and works in Milan. He collaborates with soloists and orchestras in different parts of the world. He is the author of numerous books on musical topics.

This text is taken from “Lunario della musica: A record for every day of the year” published by Einaudi, courtesy of the author and the publisher.