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Sunday, April 27, 2008

Songs From the Invisible Republic

If you're a fan of Theme Time Radio Hour, you're going to want to look into Songs from the Invisible Republic: The Music That Influenced Bob Dylan.

Invisible Republic is a 2-CD set issued by a Repertoire Records, based out of Hamburg, Germany. The 45 cuts on the set (a full set list, courtesy of Heyday Mail Order, is below) include artists as diverse as Odetta, Slim Harpo, Bing Crosby, and Curtis Mayfield. The common thread tying all together... Bob Dylan.

If you've read the various speculations and commentaries on the musical influences on the songs of "Love and Theft" and Modern Times, here's the means to listen to all their antecedents in one package: Gene Austin's The Lonesome Road; Slim Harpo's Shake Your Hips; Bing Crosby's Where the Blue of the Night (Meets the Gold of the Day); Billie Holiday's Having Myself a Time. And more, including the hard-to-find Uncle John's Bongos by Johnny & Jack, which inspired probably the most nakedly transparent music appropriation Dylan has made to date: Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum.

While hard-core Dylan fans may find nothing particularly new in Invisible Republic (for example, the roots of Modern Times were thoroughly covered by the excellent Live Roots and Wounded Flowers bootleg of 2006), the chances are that you'll hear at least one surprise. For me that was Chuck Berry's Too Much Monkey Business, a piece of music that somehow I had never heard before, and a clear influence on Subterranean Homesick Blues.

Of course, that's one of the delights of Theme Time, hearing music you've never heard before, and connecting it to other music. And it's one of the delights of Invisible Republic. If you want to listen to a Theme Time Radio Hour with the theme of "Roots," you couldn't do better for source material than Invisible Republic.

The link to the set from Amazon U.S. is above. At a currently pricey imported cost of $40.98, I'd first look into buying it from one of the various resellers, who are offering it from around the more reasonable $20+ and up.

And I'd like to put in a plug for the U.K. mail order house where I purchased Invisible Republic: Heyday Mail Order. Nick's service at Heyday is personalized, courteous, and prompt: I had my copy of the CDs a little over a week after ordering. And at £13.99 (around $28 bucks at the current dismal exchange rate when VAT is discounted and shipping to the U.S. figured in), Heyday's price is very reasonable. And if for no other reason, we should support small businesses. So if you're in the U.K. or Europe, go check out Nick, please.

Songs from the Invisible Republic: The Music That Influenced Bob Dylan.

Track list (courtesy of Heyday Mail Order)

CD 1 1. Odetta: Another Man Gone Done 2. Sam Lightnin’ Hopkins: Automobile Blues 3. Muddy Waters: Rollin’ Stone 4. Johnny & Jack: Uncle John’s Bongos 5. Slim Harpo: Shake Your Hips 6. Tommy Duncan: Daddy Loves Mommy-O 7. Chuck Berry: Too Much Monkey Business 8. Bill Munroe: Blue Moon Of Kentucky 9. Ramblin’ Jack Elliott: Diamond Joe 10. Bert Jansch: Nottamun Town 11. Karen Dalton: Ribbon Bow 12. Stanley Brothers: Man Of Constant Sorrow 13. Hank Williams: Alone And Forsaken 14. Frankie Laine: That Lucky Old Son 15. Curtis Mayfield : People Get Ready 16. B.B. King: The Thrill Is Gone 17. Graham Brothers: Hard Times (Come Again No More) 18. The Ink Spots: We Three (My Echo, My Shadow And Me) 19. Gene Austin: The Lonesome Road 20. Josh White: The House Of The Rising Sun 21. Billie Holiday: Strange Fruit 22. Louis Armstrong: St. James Infirmary

CD 2 1. Woody Guthrie: 1913 Massacre 2. Lonnie Johnson: Tomorrow Night 3. Tampa Red: It Hurts Me Too 4. Bing Crosby: Where The Blue Of The Midnight (Meets The Gold Of The Day) 5. Leadbelly: In The Pines 6. Curtis Jones: Highway 51 Blues 7. Mississippi John Hurt: Stack-O-Lee 8. Hank Williams With Audrey Williams: The Pale Horse And His Rider 9. Bukka White: Fixin’ To Die Blues 10. Muddy Waters: Rosalia 11. Blind Willie McTell: Delia 12. Muddy Waters: Rollin’ And Tumblin’, Pt.1 13. Reverend Gary Davis: Baby, Let Me Lay It On You 14. Richard ‘Rabbit’ Brown: James Alley Blues 15. Sam Lightnin’ Hopkins: Someday Baby 16. Charley Patton: High Water Everywhere, Pt. 2 17. Robert Johnson: Little Queen Of Spades 18. Billie Holiday: Having Myself a Time 19. Blind Arthur Blake: You Gonna Quit Me Baby Blues 20. Mississippi John Hurt: Louis Collins 21. Jack Kelly’s & His South Memphis Jug Band: Highway 61 Blues 22. The Mississippi Sheiks: Sitting On Top Of The World 23. Josh White: Barbara Allen


Unknown said...

never heard tmmb?

you must be some kind of communist


Fred@Dreamtime said...

Just woefully uninformed, Pete. :-)

Thanks for your comment.