Saturday, December 28, 2013

Making sense of '80s era Bob Dylan, the good, the bad, and the ugly.

 It wasn't a particularly good decade, although it started out with some potential. "Infidels" featured more substantial writing than "Shot of Love', which, while decent and somewhat catchy, is mostly notable for not being as Christian as "Saved". 

After "Infidels", though, it goes downhill fast with the virtually unlistenable, "Empire Burlesque", followed by the still bad "Knocked out loaded", these two being Dylan taking on '80s mainstream  rock in a horrible, horrible, way.

Things look up a little bit in "Down in the Groove", which is actually well done, even if the lyrics aren't up to par usually. The drum machines and synths of "Empire Burlesque" and "Knocked Out Loaded" are no longer there.

The albums improve quite a bit with "Oh, Mercy!", which can tentatively be called one of his best, which introduced new writing, good lyrics, and a new sound that would form the basis for the more positive departures that Dylan would go down in the late '90s and 2000's.

But first, before that, there came "Under the Red Sky", whose badness is so epic that it deserves a category all its own. If looked at as "Outsider Art", i.e. by the mentally ill, "Wiggle wiggle" and the title song could get more appreciation.

Dylan, though, got back on it with two albums of covers of old, old, folk songs, first with "Good as I've been to you", then with the, in my opinion, better done and more worthwhile "World Gone Wrong". These two albums anchored Dylan back in the folk country tradition.

Combined with the vibe from "Oh, Mercy", set the stage first for the Grammy Winning "Time Out of Mind", and then " 'Love and Theft' ", the two classic albums that reestablished him as a relevant artist who was still doing interesting things.

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