By ELI JACE >
Bob Dylan, the man myth legend and hopefully healthy & safely quarantined songwriter has released another epic storysong.
“Murder Most Foul” is Dylan’s first release in eight years and appears to be another offering of good tidings from a musician in this strange moment in history. The timing is perfect, because this song is nearly 17 minutes and hardly a second passes without a lyric. This will be one to unravel.
“Murder Most Foul” comes together with some cautious piano playing.
Dylan utilizes a small elemental band to swirl around him, each member in differing modes of winding up or down, on a slow jazz rush. The drummer comes in splashing the cymbals with brushes, a violin bow slices up and down, piano keys bristle.
Seconds in Dylan breaks through with that old gremlin growl of his. “It was a dark day in Dallas, November ’63,” he sings, “A day that will live on in infamy.” In the song, Dylan plays out the gruesome assassination of John F. Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States–the most heinous and still unsolved event in the country’s history.
“They blew out the brains of the king / Thousands were watching, no one saw a thing.”
He forcefully describes the scene, offering possible motive. “You got unpaid debts, we’ve come to collect.” Dylan sometimes plays loose with the facts in his songs, so I wouldn’t allude to him having any Secret Service knowledge, but you can’t say there’s no wisdom in that grumble. The scene continues, through the limousine ride, arriving at Parkland hospital to Vice President Lyndon Johnson’s swearing in to office on the tarmac in Air Force One.
Dylan drafts a direct line between the country’s need to heal in the aftermath and the eruption of the counterculture. “The Beatles are comin’, they’re gonna hold your hand,” he tells us before examining the remaining years of the 60s and 70s: Woodstock in the Aquarian Age, Altamont, Tommy can you hear me? I’m the Acid Queen. It’s all “a party beyond the Grassy Knoll,” Dylan sings. Colorful references of the time are dropped throughout, but Dylan brings each verse back to that fateful day in Dallas when the country broke.
Most listening to the entirety of “Murder Most Foul” will be encyclopedic Dylanologists and will love it.
It’s just always a blessing to hear the master’s voice and know he’s breathing somewhere in a recording booth. But this is special because he sings about his contemporaries during another American era.
Everyone else might find it hard to keep their interest apace. There is no shift in tempo, no change in instrumentation, no real chorus aside from the lyrical sequence ending with the song’s title, and Dylan shuffles lines over every measure. But, what else is there to do? Play it and listen. Dylan’s last album was Tempest in 2012.