Together Through Life

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Together Through Life
A black-and-white photo of the backseat of a car with two men lying in it
Studio album by Bob Dylan
Released April 28, 2009 (2009-04-28)
Recorded December 2008
Genre Folk rock, blues rock
Length 45:33
Language English
Label Columbia
Producer Jack Frost (Bob Dylan pseudonym)
Bob Dylan chronology
The Bootleg Series Vol. 8: Tell Tale Signs: Rare and Unreleased 1989–2006
(2008)
Together Through Life
(2009)
Christmas in the Heart
(2009)

Together Through Life is the thirty-third studio album by singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, released on April 28, 2009 by Columbia Records. The album debuted at number one in several countries, including the U.S.[1] and the UK. It is Dylan's first number one in Britain since New Morning in 1970.[2][3]

Dylan wrote all but one of the album's songs with Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter, with whom he had previously co-written two songs on his 1988 album Down in the Groove. In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Dylan commented on the collaboration: “Hunter is an old buddy, we could probably write a hundred songs together if we thought it was important or the right reasons were there... He's got a way with words and I do too. We both write a different type of song than what passes today for songwriting.” The only other writer Dylan has ever collaborated with to such a degree is Jacques Levy, with whom he wrote most of the songs on Desire (1976).

Rumors of the album, reported in Rolling Stone magazine, came as a surprise, with no official press release until March 16, 2009 — less than two months before the album's release date.[4] Dylan produced the record under his pseudonym of Jack Frost, which he used for his previous two studio albums, "Love and Theft" and Modern Times. The album was rumored to contain "struggling love songs" and have little similarity to Modern Times.[4]

In a conversation with music journalist Bill Flanagan, published on Bob Dylan's official website, Flanagan suggested a similarity of the new record to the sound of Chess Records and Sun Records, which Dylan acknowledged as an effect of "the way the instruments were played." He said that the genesis of the record was when French film director Olivier Dahan asked him to supply a song for his new road movie, My Own Love Song, which became "Life is Hard" - indeed, 'according to Dylan, Dahan was keen to get a whole soundtrack's worth of songs from the man'[5] - and "then the record sort of took its own direction." [6]

Dylan is backed on the album by his regular touring band, plus David Hidalgo of Los Lobos and Mike Campbell of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.[6] Dylan commented on Campbell's guitar work in his interview with Flanagan: “He’s good with me. He’s been playing with Tom for so long that he hears everything from a songwriter’s point of view and he can play most any style.” [7]

"Beyond Here Lies Nothin'" was available as a free download for one day on Monday, March 30, 2009 via Dylan's official site.

"I Feel a Change Comin' On" was released for streaming on Monday, April 6 on The Times Online website, as well as the third installment of his interview with Bill Flanagan.[8]

In the interview with Bill Flanagan, Dylan discusses the only known outtake to "Together Through Life", "Chicago After Dark". Apparently, this song was in the running to be on the album but was left off the final version, as Flanagan talks about the song as if it is on the album. The song is not circulating among collectors.

The album received two Grammy Award nominations in Best Americana Album category and "Best Solo Rock Vocal Performance" category for "Beyond Here Lies Nothin'".

The album also is significant as the only album by Dylan to top the US and UK charts consecutively.

The album's cover photo is the same as that on the cover of American author Larry Brown's short story collection, Big Bad Love.

Sources and quotations[edit]

As with some of Dylan's albums before Together Through Life, Dylan has adapted lyrics from other songs and incorporated them into his own lyrics—if with perhaps a 'slightly diminished use of the light-fingered lift', compared with 'Dylan's lyrical approach from recent albums'.[9] The phrase "If you ever go to Houston, you better walk right" is taken from the folk song "Midnight Special": Dylan played harmonica on Harry Belafonte's 1962 recording of the song. 'The one time he overtly used someone else's song as a springboard for his own - Billy Joe Shaver's "Ain't No God in Mexico", a clear template for "I Feel a Change Comin' On" - he openly acknowledged the debt to historian Douglas Brinkley'.[9]

Several lyrics in "Jolene" also originated in songs, including "Rolene," recorded on Mink DeVille's album Return to Magenta.[10]

Reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars [11]
Blender 5/5 stars [12]
Drowned in Sound 7/10 [13]
The Guardian 3/5 stars [14]
Mojo 4/5 stars [15]
Pitchfork Media 5.4/10 [16]
Robert Christgau B+ [17]
Rolling Stone 4/5 stars [18]
Spin 3/5 stars [19]
The Times 4/5 stars [20]
Tiny Mix Tapes 4/5 stars [21]
Uncut 5/5 stars [22]

Reception has been favorable. The record maintains a score of 76/100 at critic aggregator MetaCritic ("Generally favorable reviews").[23] During the Flanagan interview, Dylan gave his own thoughts about how the record would be received: "I know my fans will like it. Other than that, I have no idea".[6]

Rolling Stone gave the album 4 stars out of 5. Describing the album as a "murky-sounding, often perplexing record" David Fricke of Rolling Stone writes, "Dylan, who turns 68 in May, has never sounded as ravaged, pissed off and lusty".[24] BBC noted that the album is "a masterful reading of 20th century American folk, albeit shot through with some mischievous lyrical twists" and compares it to "some Chicago urban blues tribute". According to Mojo, "Together Through Life is an album that gets its hooks in early and refuses to let go". The reviewer described it as "dark yet comforting".[25] Uncut and Blender both gave the album 5 stars out of 5, saying that it was "unbelievably good." iF Magazine.com says it "explores the bluesy side of his skills in a slight, but delightful set of ten originals."

Versions[edit]

The album is available as a one-CD version containing only the new material that Dylan recorded, or as a 3-disc deluxe version including the album itself, the "Friends & Neighbors" episode of Theme Time Radio Hour and a DVD featuring an interview with Dylan's first manager Roy Silver (recorded for the Martin Scorsese documentary No Direction Home, but unused).

There is also a two-LP deluxe vinyl version, containing the same songs as the CD. In the US, the CD will be included as part of the vinyl package.

Track listing[edit]

Disc one

All lyrics written by Bob Dylan and Robert Hunter, except where noted, all music composed by Dylan.

No. Title Length
1. "Beyond Here Lies Nothin'"   3:51
2. "Life Is Hard"   3:39
3. "My Wife's Home Town" (Willie Dixon, Dylan, Hunter) 4:15
4. "If You Ever Go to Houston"   5:49
5. "Forgetful Heart"   3:42
6. "Jolene"   3:51
7. "This Dream of You" (Dylan) 5:54
8. "Shake Shake Mama"   3:37
9. "I Feel a Change Comin' On"   5:25
10. "It's All Good"   5:28

When pre-ordered from iTunes, consumers also got a bonus track of a studio rehearsal of "Lay Lady Lay" recorded in 1969.

Disc two
Theme Time Radio Hour: Friends & Neighbors
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Howdy Neighbor" (Porter Wagoner & The Wagonmasters) J. Morris  
2. "Don't Take Everybody to Be Your Friend" (Sister Rosetta Tharpe) M.Gabler/R. Tharpe  
3. "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" (T-Bone Burnett) L. Robin/J. Styne  
4. "La Valse de Amitie" (Doc Guidry) O. Guidry  
5. "Make Friends" (Moon Mullican) E. Mcgraw  
6. "My Next Door Neighbor" (Jerry McCain) J. McCain  
7. "Let's Invite Them Over" (George Jones & Melba Montgomery) O. Wheeler  
8. "My Friends" (Howlin' Wolf) C. Burnett/S. Ling  
9. "Last Night" (Little Walter) W. Jones  
10. "You've Got a Friend" (Carole King) C. King  
11. "Bad Neighborhood" (Ronnie & The Delinquents) Caronna/M. Rebennack  
12. "Neighbours" (The Rolling Stones) M. Jagger/K. Richards  
13. "Too Many Parties and Too Many Pals" (Hank Williams) B. Rose/M. Dixon/R. Henderson  
14. "Why Can't We Be Friends" (War) S. Allen/H. Brown/M. Dickerson/J. Goldstein/L. Jordan /C. Miller/H. Scott/L. Oskar  
Disc three
No. Title Length
1. "Roy Silver – The Lost Interview (DVD)"    

Personnel[edit]

Additional musicians
Technical personnel
  • David Bianco – recording, mixing
  • Eddy Schreyer - mastering
  • Bill Lane – assistant engineering
  • Rafael Serrano – engineering
  • David Spreng – engineering
  • Rich Tosti – assistant engineering

Charts[edit]

The album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, selling 125,000 copies in its first week of release. It then reached number one on Top Internet Album, Top Digital Album, Tastemaker, Top Rock Album, and Most Comprehensive Album. In the US the album has sold more than 302,000 copies to date.[26][27]

Year Chart Peak Position
2009 Argentina Albums Chart [28] 1
Australia Albums Chart [29] 5
Austria Albums Chart [30] 1
Belgium Albums Chart [31] 2
Canada Albums Chart [32] 1
Denmark Albums Chart [33] 1
Dutch Albums Chart [34] 3
Finland Albums Chart [35] 6
France Albums Chart [31] 9
Germany Albums Chart [33] 2
Ireland Albums Chart [36] 2
Italy Albums Chart [34] 6
Japan Albums Chart [37] 2
New Zealand Albums Chart [38] 3
Spain Albums Chart [38] 4
Sweden Albums Chart [32] 1
Switzerland Albums Chart [39] 2
UK Albums Chart [40] 1
U.S. Billboard 200 [27][41] 1

References[edit]

  1. ^ Caulfield, Keith (2009-05-06). "Bob Dylan Bows Atop Billboard 200". Billboard. Retrieved 2009-05-07. 
  2. ^ "Bob Dylan Beats the Enemy to Number One". NME.com. Retrieved 2009-05-03. 
  3. ^ Lindsay, Andrew (2009-05-04). "Bob Dylan's first UK #1 in 39 years". Stereokill.net. Retrieved 2009-05-04. 
  4. ^ a b "Bob Dylan's New Album: Together Through Life". rollingstone.com. 2009-03-16. Retrieved 2009-05-01. 
  5. ^ Clinton Heylin, Behind the Shades: The 20th Anniversary Edition (London 2011) p. 837
  6. ^ a b c Flanagan, Bill (2009-03-16). "Bob Dylan talks about the new album with Bill Flanagan". bobdylan.com. Retrieved 2009-03-16. 
  7. ^ Beyond Here Lies Nothin' Songfacts
  8. ^ Flanagan, Bill. "Bob Dylan on Barack Obama, Ulysses Grant and American Civil War ghosts""Times Online", 2009-04-06. Retrieved on 2009-04-08
  9. ^ a b Heylin, p. 838
  10. ^ Goon Talk. "Vive le Vol: Bob Dylan and the Importance of Being Ernest Hemingway." July 21, 2013. (Retrieved 9-19-2013.)
  11. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. Together Through Life at AllMusic
  12. ^ Blender (magazine) review
  13. ^ Drowned in Sound review
  14. ^ The Guardian review
  15. ^ Mojo (magazine) review
  16. ^ Pitchfork Media review
  17. ^ Robert Christgau review
  18. ^ Rolling Stone review
  19. ^ Spin (magazine) review
  20. ^ The Times review
  21. ^ Tiny Mix Tapes review
  22. ^ Uncut (magazine) review
  23. ^ "Together Through Life by Bob Dylan". metacritic.com. Retrieved 2009-10-11. 
  24. ^ Fricke, David (2009-04-13). "Bob Dylan: Together Through Life". rollingstone.com. Retrieved 2009-05-01. 
  25. ^ Eccleston, Danny (2009-04-17). "New Dylan Album: The First-In-Depth Review". mojo-4-music.com. Retrieved 2009-05-01. 
  26. ^ "Bob Dylan Christmas Album Coming". Billboard.com. 2009-09-14. Retrieved 2012-01-13. 
  27. ^ a b Caulfield, Keith (2009-05-06). "Bob Dylan Bows Atop Billboard 200". Billboard. Retrieved 2009-05-06. 
  28. ^ [1]
  29. ^ "Australia Albums Top 50 - Music Charts". Acharts.us. 2012-01-09. Retrieved 2012-01-13. 
  30. ^ "Austria Albums Top 75 - Music Charts". Acharts.us. Retrieved 2012-01-13. 
  31. ^ a b "Belgium Albums Top 50 - Music Charts". Acharts.us. Retrieved 2012-01-13. 
  32. ^ a b "CANOE – JAM! Music SoundScan Charts". Jam.canoe.ca. 2012-01-05. Retrieved 2012-01-13. 
  33. ^ a b "Denmark Albums Top 40 – Music Charts". Acharts.us. 2012-01-06. Retrieved 2012-01-13. 
  34. ^ a b "Dutch Albums Top 100 - Music Charts". Acharts.us. 2012-01-07. Retrieved 2012-01-13. 
  35. ^ Suomen virallinen lista
  36. ^ "Ireland Albums Top 75 - Music Charts". Acharts.us. Retrieved 2012-01-13. 
  37. ^ "洋楽アルバム 週間ランキング-ORICON STYLE ランキング". Oricon.co.jp. Retrieved 2012-01-13. 
  38. ^ a b "Representando a la Industria Argentina de la Música". CAPIF. Retrieved 2012-01-13. 
  39. ^ Steffen Hung. "Bob Dylan – Together Through Life". swisscharts.com. Retrieved 2012-01-13. 
  40. ^ "UK Albums Top 75 - Music Charts". Acharts.us. 2012-01-08. Retrieved 2012-01-13. 
  41. ^ Caulfield, Keith (2009-05-06). "Bob Dylan Lands Fifth No. 1 Album". Billboard. Retrieved 2009-05-06. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
The Fame by Lady Gaga
UK Albums Chart number-one album
May 3, 2009 - May 17, 2009
Succeeded by
21st Century Breakdown by Green Day
Preceded by
Deeper Than Rap by Rick Ross
U.S. Billboard 200 number-one album
May 16, 2009
Succeeded by
Epiphany by Chrisette Michele