Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan street art graffiti, Verona, Italy

Well, it's mostly nonsense---17 minutes of it---Bob Dylan rasping pleasingly over a simple rolling piano figure, relaxed, but often tastelessly and grotesquely describing JFK's gruesome assassination November 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas.

'Murder Most Foul' could've been groundbreaking. It could've been a golden ager's autumnal 'Sympathy For The Devil.'

But instead the casualness of the rhyming patterns, the bloody references to bullets hitting the Kennedy noggin and the President slumping into Jackie's lap and THEN the autopsy at the hospital in a bit of gory detail---well, it's all a bit much.

It does get interesting when Dylan brings legendary '60s radio d.j. Wolfman Jack into the picture and then spends the last third of the song making requests for him to play a Who's Who of r'n'b and blues favorites while mention Marilyn Monroe.

Sort of Dylan's way of waxing nostalgic about the America he loved, gone and not being taught. Talk about an untapped cultural goldmine.

Personally I believe academia should start offering entire courses in such worthy items of Americana  as 'Rat Pack Roasts,' 'Sammy Davis, Jr.: Black, Jewish, American, and Talented As Hell," and "Steve McQueen, Clint Eastwood and John Wayne: They Don't Make 'Em Like That Anymore."

In the meantime, remember Dylan did a helluva tribute to jailed boxer Hurricane Carter called "Hurricane," in the '70s. It told a great story of injustice and you could almost dance to it.

So it would've been really cool if the whole of the mostly unserious Murder Most Foul wasn't about JFK but about Wolfman Jack or even Elvis, a much better iconic figure to mourn and idolize. 

I will give him points for mentioning Jack Ruby, a first in music I believe.

If anybody knows how to handle a pandemic, it's the ageing but ageless Rolling Stones. 'Living In A Ghost Town" is their low but steamy reggae-dub-soul response locked in a nocturnal groove moaning about the lockdown.

"Ain't havin' fun/if I want a party/it's a party of one," sings Jagger in his split-personality voice---steely but languid. This virus inspires a realistic despair.

A little bit routine, Ghost Town is the quiet cousin to the similar sounding but overly dynamic moody power ballad from 1998's Bridges To Babylon.  Ghost is nothing but simple here.

Exquisitely minimal in its elements, its gang chorus of wordless "Oh-oo-woahs" makes for a strikingly fine background hook, heard throughout.

Guitars lurk, the roaming lonely singer slinks, the snare bites and the harmonica's haunting howl is the song's primal crown.

For make no mistake, this is a harmonica song and a beauty of a reedy rasp.

In real time, we've been brought low by an invisible foe, true. 

But a timeless blues band has conjured the sturdy grit of ancient American slave music and strangely, their pandemic blues wears rather well. 

Who else but the Stones could beat that little bastard of a virus?

Not bad.