Disc Review: Bob Dylan, Metallica, Death Cab for Cutie

There's layers of delight in Bob Dylan's Tell Tale Signs that reveal themselves upon each listen.

Bob Dylan album cover 88 248 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Bob Dylan album cover 88 248
(photo credit: Courtesy)
BOB DYLAN Tell Tale Signs -Bootleg Series Vol. 8, 1989-2006 (NMC) It's easy to take Bob Dylan for granted. He still plays millions of shows a year, he's still releasing albums touted as career highlights, and he's still as enigmatic as ever. So it's a good thing that an event like Tell Tale Signs comes along once in a while to enable us to take stock of what a treasure he remains. Volume 8 in the bootleg series of previously unreleased songs alternates versions and live recordings, focuses on 1989 through 2006. It's simply unfathomable how so many good songs like could have been left off albums Oh Mercy and Time Out of Mind. "Red River Shore" from the latter is a sublime, old-style ballad with a mariachi rhythm, and "Born in Time" from the former is a heartfelt love song. The two alternate versions each of "Dignity" and "Mississippi" are equally revelatory, especially the solo piano attempt at "Dignity" in which Dylan sings with such conviction that it brings him back to Greenwich Village. A live cut from 2003 of "High Water (For Charley Patton)" also rivals his mid-60s shows with The Band for sheer rocking intensity. There's layers of delight in Tell Tale Signs that reveal themselves upon each listen. Even more than Modern Times or Love & Theft, this is the Dylan album to get if you want to know what he's been up to. You'll be stunned. METALLICA Death Magnetic (Helicon) Metallica gets their groove back on Death Magnetic, a ferocious return to the band's early sound, only tempered a bit by maturity and experience. Powered by the lead guitarist's Kirk Hammett's manic soloing and the solid rhythm section of longtime drummer Lars Ulrich and newcomer bassist Robert Trujillo, the album may have received its biggest spark from its producer - Rick Rubin. The producer who artists go to for career inspiration, Rubin directed the band back to its roots, and songs like "That Was Just Your Life" and "The End of Line" rock with a sense of purpose long missing from the band. James Hetfield is in fine vocal form, still offering angst-ridden lyrics that a 14-year-old adolescent can relate to. Although it's impossible to take the band too seriously anymore after seeing the 2004 documentary on them, Some Kind of Monster, it's nice to know they're surviving and thriving. Here's hoping they're still attending group therapy sessions. DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE Narrow Stairs (Hatav Hashmini) Indie pop cover boys Death Cab for Cutie take a welcome darker turn on Narrow Stairs. Their 2005 major label debut Plans had propelled them into stardom, landing them as the house band for popular TV show The OC, and providing them with a Grammy nomination. Instead of taking the easy route with a predictably sounding follow-up, the Ben Gibbard-led band utilizes long instrumental passages and troubling lyrics to enhance and contrast their pop hooks. Like a younger cousin to Weezer's River Cuomo, Gibbard is able to plumb the depths of his soul while making you hum along. "No Sunlight" and "Cath" are two good examples, with the toe-tapping power pop belying the somber, lyrical content. Narrow Stairs is a grower - the more you listen, the more you'll want to hear.