Thursday, 25 December 2008

[108] Bob Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour

Happy Christmas!

Thanks to Mr. Door Tree @ Golden Age Comic Book Stories for bringing this Curt Pardee pic to my attention.


Today I want to draw your attention to the new series of Bob Dylan's radio show, Theme Time Radio Hour, which starts in the UK today. This is the third series, and it will be on BBC 6 Music today (25th) and tomorrow (26th) with a two-part opening salvo on 'Money'. The shows are on at 2pm both days, but will be available on BBC iPlayer afterwards. Check the site here.

Theme Time Radio Hour is the only radio show I go out of my way to listen to every week. Luckily, for the last few months, BBC have been airing a lot of repeats, so there is almost always a new episode on iPlayer to check out. Each episode has a specific theme, and Dylan trawls through the last 50-60-70 years of music for some obscure or not-so-obscure gems for your listening pleasure. Throughout there are skits, jingles and movie quotes, as well as guest appearances from friends and acquaintances from the world of music and showbiz (such as Tom Waits and Penn Jillette to name but two). The playlists bend towards the less-known, and more vintage ends of the scale, but that provides Dylan and the listener with material that is a lot more interesting, and a lot more surprising.

Check that Jaime Hernandez artwork!

Dylan's on-air presence is astounding. I'm a firm fan of his music, although I do think that he fades a little as he gets older, even on the critically acclaimed 'comeback' albums from the last 20 years (World Gone Wrong excepted). His voice has deteriorated to a thin reedy duck-call, and his style is more laid-back. His latest album, Modern Times, for example, is my favourite dish-washing soundtrack.

However, with Theme Time Radio Hour, Dylan recasts himself as a charismatic host, infusing some of the links and wordy bits with all of the character and musical rhythm that has made him into the legendary troubadour he is seen as. Some of the highlights of the shows are his monologues, often throwing in quotations and recitations, such as Edgar Allan Poe and William Shakespeare. His precise, but swinging intonation also comes to the fore when he recites long lists of items, people or other things related to that particular show's topic.

It is a radio production that is tight, well-selected and well-performed.

Give it a try!

For a more in-depth overview of TTRH, read Dylan-expert Eyolf Ă˜strem's piece on his Things Twice blog.

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