BOB DYLAN> Bob Dylan’s Theme Time Radio Hour

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Videos by American Songwriter

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Bob Dylan’s Theme Time Radio Hour: The Best Of The Third Series

(CHROME DREAMS)

[Rating: 4 stars]

In 2006, Bob Dylan’s career took a strange turn. Though he wasn’t hurting for money, acclaim, or the spotlight, he signed up for a gig as the host of Theme Time Radio Hour, an action-packed collection of old-timey (and sometimes new-timey) tunes grouped by theme, and presented in a now-antiquated format—ye olde radio broadcast. This two-disc set culls 52 choice cuts from the show’s third season, which ran from October 2008 to April 2009.  Many of the songs Dylan first heard on the radio as a boy in Minnesota. Some you know, like “Lost Highway,” “Big Rock Candy Mountain,” “The Banana Boat Song,” and “So Long It’s Been Good To Know Yuh.” Others, you’ve probably only heard on Dylan’s show, if at all: “Fattening Frogs For Snakes,” “Calling All Cows, “Why Don’t You Eat Where You Slept Last Night?,” “Feelin’ High and Happy.” You’ll hear songs about Money, Night, Beginnings, Middles And Ends, Blood, War, Fruit, Street Maps, Famous People, Numbers 11 and Up, Work, Cats, Madness, Happiness, Cops and Robbers, Candy, Goodbyes, and songs that feature the word “something.”

Like Dylan’s own catalog, the blues serves as the foundation, from Muddy Waters and Elmore James to Ray Charles singing “Greenbacks.” There’s also humor (Red Foxx’s “It’s Fun To Be Livin’ In the Crazy House,” “I’m My Own Grandpa,”) and lyricism (“Searching For A Soldier’s Grave”). These are the songs floating around in Bob Dylan’s brain. It’s hard to pick a favorite—they’re all kind of MVPs, from the calypso madness of “Jack Palance” (“she prune face like Jack Palance”) to the heartfelt gospel r&b of “Straight Street.” Liner notes from Derek Barker of Isis magazine guide you along and fill in these songs’ back stories. The only thing missing is Dylan himself. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing: sometimes a great artist knows it’s best to step out of the way.

Take this for a long drive, and get lost in the sounds of the past. Or play it at your next party. With Bob Dylan picking your records, how can you go wrong? He may not do weddings and bar mitzahs, but he’s a pretty great DJ.

4 Comments

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  1. I would purchase every theme time cd IF it had the actual broadcast with Bob Dylan speaking and not just a bunch of songs without his commentary. His commentary is what it is all about. Love Bob Dylan;)

  2. I love Theme Time Radio Hour and I already bought the last two series. I agree with dylanesque about Bobs commentary. I think it would be great if we could hear them, but I can also live without them. I’ m sure there’re great songs on it. Most of the songs I would have never heard without that broadcast.
    Thanks to Bob and all the others that were working on TTRH.

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