Bob Dylan Countdown #175: “Summer Days”

A title as languid as “Summer Days” in no ways prepares the listener for the rabble-rousing assault that awaits. Featured on “Love And Theft,” this song was as good a place as any for Dylan to show off the crack band assembled for the album. With Charlie Sexton and Larry Campbell acting as dueling gunfighters on guitar, Davd Kemper beating the evil out of the drums, and Tony Garnier pogoing all around them on bass, Bob merely had to spit out some clever one-liners and get out of the way.

Coming three songs into the album, it was a good indication at the direction Dylan was headed, a direction he hasn’t swayed from ever since. Whereas Time Out Of Mind was more of a singer/songwriter type confessional album, the subsequent releases have had a full-band feel, harking back to the heady days of Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde On Blonde in that approach. It’s an approach that has served Bob well in concert also, allowing him to hand off the ball on occasion and take a breather from the spotlight. Whether it was a calculated move or not, it was probably necessary to keep The Never Ending Tour the juggernaut that it is.

On “Summer Days,” Dylan plays the lovable rake with aplomb. While he hints at time’s effect on this freewheelin’ lifestyle (“I got my hammer ringin’, pretty baby, but the nails ain’t goin’ down,”) his spirit is unbowed, as he spends his money, drinks wild toasts, and leaves burned houses behind. If there is anyone who knows “where there’s still somethin’ going on,” it’s this cat. We can only hope that there is band as hot as Dylan’s playing when we get there.

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