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
ReleasedApril 28, 2009 (2009-04-28)
RecordedDecember 2008
StudioGroove Masters
GenreFolk rock, blues rock
Length45:33
LanguageEnglish
LabelColumbia
ProducerJack Frost
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 33rd studio album by singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, released on April 28, 2009, by Columbia Records. The release of the album, which reached number 1 in multiple countries, was unexpected and surprised fans. Dylan co-wrote most of the songs with Robert Hunter, and recorded with musicians including Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' Mike Campbell and Los Lobos' David Hidalgo. The genesis of the album was a request by director Olivier Dahan to contribute a song to the film to My Own Love Song.

Composition and recording[edit]

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.[1] 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”.[1] 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 in 1976.[1]

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.[2] 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".[2]

Release and promotion[edit]

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.[3] 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.[3]

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

Artwork[edit]

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.[4] It is a picture taken by photographer Bruce Davidson.[4]

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'.[5] 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'.[5]

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".[6] Indeed, 'according to Dylan, Dahan was keen to get a whole soundtrack's worth of songs from the man'[7] - and "then the record sort of took its own direction".[6]

Reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
SourceRating
AnyDecentMusic?5.6/10[8]
Metacritic76/100[9]
Review scores
SourceRating
Allmusic4/5 stars[10]
The A.V. ClubA-[11]
Blender5/5 stars[12]
Mojo4/5 stars[13]
Paste8.1/10[14]
Pitchfork Media5.4/10[15]
Robert ChristgauB+[16]
Rolling Stone4/5 stars[17]
The Times4/5 stars[18]
Tiny Mix Tapes4/5 stars[19]
Uncut5/5 stars[20]

Reception has been favorable. The record maintains a score of 76/100 at critic aggregator Metacritic ("Generally favorable reviews").[9] 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".[21]

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".[17] 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".[13] 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".

Corey DuBrowa of Paste Magazine, in his 8.10/10 review, stated: "Dylan's never spent much time contemplating the rearview mirror, but Together Through Life finds him more resolutely focused on the treacherous horizon ever before: Song after song decries the mess we're in (the sneering, sarcastic jump-blues 'It's All Good,' in which Dylan's ravaged voice attacks the clichéd phrase as if it represented every banker, politician and Ponzi-scheme cheat he could conjure; 'My Wife's Home Town,' a bluesy jaunt that surveys the current economic wreckage as if from the passenger-side window of a car up on blocks) without forsaking the idea that love—and the comfort we find in shared misery—is essentially all we have left when a lifetime of ambition and achievement are swept away by the winds of change. You'd have to go all the way back to 1974’s Planet Waves—which Dylan summarized as 'cast-iron songs & torch ballads'—to find a record on which he sounds so simultaneously anxious and enervated. Indeed, when Dylan croaks in 'I Feel a Change Comin’ On,' '[I’ve] got the blood of the land in my voice,' you can hear quite plainly the sadness, disappointment and exhaustion of which he sings".[14]

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 is included as part of the vinyl package.

Track listing[edit]

Disc one

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

No.TitleWriter(s)Length
1."Beyond Here Lies Nothin'" 3:51
2."Life Is Hard" 3:39
3."My Wife's Home Town"Willie Dixon, Dylan, Hunter4:15
4."If You Ever Go to Houston" 5:49
5."Forgetful Heart" 3:42
6."Jolene" 3:51
7."This Dream of You"Dylan5:54
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.TitleWriter(s)Length
1."Howdy Neighbor" (Porter Wagoner & The Wagonmasters)J. Morris 
2."Don't Take Everybody to Be Your Friend" (Sister Rosetta Tharpe)Milt Gabler, Rosetta Tharpe 
3."Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" (T-Bone Burnett)Leo Robin, Jule Styne 
4."La Valse de Amitie" (Doc Guidry)Oran Guidry 
5."Make Friends" (Moon Mullican)E. Mcgraw 
6."My Next Door Neighbor" (Jerry McCain)Jerry McCain 
7."Let's Invite Them Over" (George Jones & Melba Montgomery)Onie Wheeler 
8."My Friends" (Howlin' Wolf)Chester Burnett, S. Ling 
9."Last Night" (Little Walter)W. Jones 
10."You've Got a Friend" (Carole King)Carole King 
11."Bad Neighborhood" (Ronnie & The Delinquents)Caronna, Mac Rebennack 
12."Neighbours" (The Rolling Stones)Mick Jagger, Keith 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.TitleLength
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 1 in several countries, including the U.S.[22] and the UK. It was Dylan's first chart-topping album in Britain since New Morning in 1970.[23] The album debuted at number 1 on the Billboard 200, selling 125,000 copies in its first week of release. It then reached number 1 on the Top Internet Album, Top Digital Album, Tastemaker, Top Rock Album, and Most Comprehensive Album listings. In the U.S. the album has sold more than 300,000 copies by August 2009.[24]

Year Chart Peak Position
2009 Australian Albums (ARIA)[25] 5
Austrian Albums (Ö3 Austria)[26] 1
Belgian Albums (Ultratop Flanders)[27] 3
Belgian Albums (Ultratop Wallonia)[28] 13
Canadian Albums[29] 1
Danish Albums (Hitlisten)[30] 1
Dutch Albums (GfK Dutch Charts)[31] 3
Finnish Albums (Suomen virallinen lista)[32] 6
French Albums (SNEP)[33] 9
German Albums 2
Irish Albums[34] 2
Italian Albums (FIMI)[35] 6
New Zealand Albums (RMNZ)[36] 3
Norwegian Albums (VG-lista)[37] 2
Spanish Albums (PROMUSICAE)[38] 4
Swedish Albums 1
Swiss Albums (Schweizer Hitparade)[39] 2
UK Albums Chart[40] 1
U.S. Billboard 200[22] 1

Certifications and sales[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Ireland (IRMA)[41] Gold 7,500^
United Kingdom (BPI)[42] Gold 100,000^
United States 358,000[43]
Summaries
Worldwide N/A 1,000,000[44]

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Bob Dylan Talks About Working With Robert Hunter On 'Together Through Life'
  2. ^ a b Flanagan 2009, p. 2
  3. ^ a b Kreps 2009
  4. ^ a b Bob Dylan: Best album covers
  5. ^ a b Heylin 2011, p. 838
  6. ^ a b Flanagan 2009, p. 1
  7. ^ Heylin 2011, p. 837
  8. ^ "Bob Dylan: Together Through Life". AnyDecentMusic?. anydecentmusic.com. Retrieved 13 June 2018.
  9. ^ a b Together Through Life by the Bob Dylan: Critic Reviews (Metacritic)
  10. ^ Erlewine
  11. ^ Phipps 2009
  12. ^ Sheffield
  13. ^ a b Eccleston 2009
  14. ^ a b duBrowa 2009
  15. ^ Wolk 2009
  16. ^ Christgau
  17. ^ a b Fricke 2009
  18. ^ Paphides 2009
  19. ^ Chadwicked 2009
  20. ^ Jones
  21. ^ Flanagan 2009, p. 6
  22. ^ a b Caulfield 2009
  23. ^ Bob Dylan beats The Enemy to Number One
  24. ^ Prince 2009
  25. ^ Bob Dylan – Together Through Life (australian-charts.com)
  26. ^ Bob Dylan – Together Through Life (austriancharts.at)
  27. ^ Bob Dylan – Together Through Life (ultratop.be/nl)
  28. ^ Bob Dylan – Together Through Life (ultratop.be/fr)
  29. ^ "CANOE – JAM! Music SoundScan Charts". Jam.canoe.ca. 2012-01-05. Retrieved 2012-01-13.
  30. ^ Bob Dylan – Together Through Life (danishcharts.com)
  31. ^ Bob Dylan – Together Through Life (dutchcharts.nl)
  32. ^ Bob Dylan – Together Through Life (finnishcharts.com)
  33. ^ Bob Dylan – Together Through Life (lescharts.com)
  34. ^ "Ireland Albums Top 75 - Music Charts". Acharts.us. Retrieved 2012-01-13.
  35. ^ Bob Dylan – Together Through Life (italiancharts.com)
  36. ^ Bob Dylan – Together Through Life (charts.org.nz)
  37. ^ Bob Dylan – Together Through Life (norwegiancharts.com)
  38. ^ Bob Dylan – Together Through Life (spanishcharts.com)
  39. ^ Bob Dylan – Together Through Life (hitparade.ch)
  40. ^ "UK Albums Top 75 - Music Charts". Acharts.us. 2012-01-08. Retrieved 2012-01-13.
  41. ^ "The Irish Charts - 2009 Certification Awards - Gold". Irish Recorded Music Association.
  42. ^ "British album certifications – Bob Dylan – Together Through Life". British Phonographic Industry. Select albums in the Format field. Select Gold in the Certification field. Type Together Through Life in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
  43. ^ "Upcoming Releases 2013". Hits Daily Double. September 6, 2012. Retrieved October 14, 2020.
  44. ^ "Nytt album fra Bob Dylan - Fallen Angels - slippes 20. mai! - Sony Music Norway". Ntbinfo.no. Retrieved 21 May 2019.

References[edit]

External links[edit]