Tribute records are only as good as the person being feted. Their success or failure is also directly linked to how much energy the performers put into the project. Most tributes operate via telephone and UPS, meaning everyone uses the telephone to figure out what song they want to cover, and then UPS (or if you’re really sexy and rich, Fedex) delivers the finished tape. Actually, in some really impersonal cases, the music might be sent via email. Gee, ain’t this `ol digital world great?
I love Bob Dylan: the man, the music, the whole enchilada. I even like the endless tour, (currently playing triple A ballparks), which he seems determined to continue on until, to use that famous line from Midnight Cowboy, he "dies on the stage."
Perhaps the most interesting thing on satellite radio has been Bob Dylan’s Theme Time radio show on XM, where he uses big themes like “baseball” or “eyes,” and builds shows around music that somehow connects to the theme. The idea for this show, which is worth listening to if only for Dylan’s raspyvoiced patter, may have come from a previous Fortiesera radio program hosted by one of Dylan’s heroes, Woody Guthrie.
"Here's somebody who just loves to sing." Over the telephone, Peter Guralnick sounds sad, incredulous. "But he's unable at the end of his life to force himself into the recording studio—the fear of completion, fear of exposing your untrammeled idea to execution. What a terrible thing to lose that ability, that faith in yourself."
It's the first rule of being a stereophile: sound quality is serious business. Simon Gibson, one of the engineers at Abbey Road Studios who worked on EMI's new Signature Collection of hybrid SACD/CDs, knows the drill: remaster and change the sound of a much-loved classical recording from the label's glorious back catalog and you risk becoming a target of blogs and forums. Gibson's aware that the more hallowed the recording, the more quickly knives come out at the mention of remastering.