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Alan Cross’ music picks: A smooth landing for Bob Dylan’s ‘Rough and Rowdy Ways’

Bob Dylan.
Bob Dylan. Jeffrey R. Staab/CBS via Getty Images

As we watch the last few days of spring slide by, here are a few recommendations to help those still in lockdown pass the time.

1. Bob Dylan, Rough and Rowdy Ways

Bob Dylan might be 79, but he’s still got a lot to say. His 39th studio record (and his first collection of new material since 2012) is a 71-minute double affair that was preceded by Zimmy’s 17-minute account of the JFK assassination. All the reviews have been uniformly excellent with a number of critics giving it five stars. Is a new Dylan album exactly what the world needs right now? Probably.

READ MORE: (March 27, 2020) Bob Dylan drops previously unreleased 17-minute song, ‘Murder Most Foul’

2. Neil Young, Homegrown

Uncle Neil’s archives must be something. Here’s a full studio record recorded over six months beginning in June 1974 that has never seen the light of day until now. The entire project was complete — even the cover had been printed — when Young decided to pull the album from release, deciding instead to release Tonight’s the Night, which had been recorded in 1973 because Homegrown was “just a very down album” due to it being written and recorded when his relationship with actress Carrie Snodgress was on the rocks. Youngephiles consider this a missing link from Neil’s early ’70s output.

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READ MORE: 45 years after it was completed, Neil Young releases ‘Homegrown’

3. Japandroids, Massey F-ing Hall

Recorded at Toronto’s Massey Hall on Oct. 24, 2017, just before the venue shut down for a massive multi-year renovation, the band hopes that this album will offer some brief respite to fans who miss going to shows during the pandemic. The album is out digitally with a vinyl release scheduled for Oct. 2.

4. Braids, Shadow Offering

Montreal’s Braids have been navigating a course between art rock, shoegaze, and indie rock for a decade-and-a-half. And it hasn’t been without conflict. In 2015, keyboardist Katie Lee split from the band over songwriting issues. Seven years later, she and the band got together to talk on the condition that they attend an “anti-oppression workshop designed specifically around racism within a working and arts context” presided over by two mediators. I bring that up because this was the backdrop writing and recording this album. Call it a reconciliation record.

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5. Protest the Hero, Palimpsest

To save you the trouble, “palimpsest” refers to a manuscript that has seen the original writing somehow erased or washed off to make room for more writing. But traces of the original text remain, making it possible to recover. The first PtH full-length studio album in seven years was originally scheduled for June 19, but given that’s Juneteenth, the day that commemorates the end of slavery in the U.S., they decided to release it a day early out of respect.

Bonus Tracks

London Calling: Katy J. Pearson, Take Back the Radio

Katy is from somewhere near Bristol, England, though with some of her songs, you could swear that she’s from somewhere in the U.S. Southwest. Her voice is a bit different, but stick with it and you’ll be rewarded.

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Undiscovered Gem: Melted Wings, Burning White

This is the solo project of Toronto multi-instrumentalist Michael Wynn. His current EP, Wake Me Up Before I Scream, features some help from the guys in Hollerado.

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Throwback Track: Sex Pistols, God Save the Queen

Two Sex Pistols had unfortunate encounters with monarchists during this month in 1977. First, Johnny Rotten was attacked by nine people outside a pub who objected to the Sex Pistols’ views of Her Majesty. Johnny was slashed with a razor and may have been saved from bleeding to death because he happened to be wearing thick leather pants. The next day, drummer Paul Cook was beaten by a mob carrying iron pipes.

Alan Cross is a broadcaster with Q107 and 102.1 the Edge and a commentator for Global News.

Subscribe to Alan’s Ongoing History of New Music Podcast now on Apple Podcast or Google Play