I came to listen to 'Desire' with no previous knowledge of Bob
Dylan's music. Of course, I had heard of him and was aware that he had written a number of classic songs, but I had never heard his music.
Anyway, 'Desire' is now one of the best albums in my collection, and is unfairly overshadowed by 1975's 'Blood on the Tracks', the second Dylan album I heard.
'Desire' features some original violin from Scarlet Rivera, and haunting harmonies from country singer Emmylou Harris. But it is Dylan's songs that stand out. He certainly does not have the most conventional of voices, but he works around this and produces a stellar collection of songs - I wouldn't want it any other way.
"Hurricane" and "Joey" tell of gangster land and murders, both apparently true stories and both told with Dylan's opinions (he strenuously protests boxer Hurricane Carter's innocence after he was accused of a triple murder back in the 1960s) in mind. "Mozambique" and "Oh, Sister" are both highly pleasant songs and highlights, but they aren't as powerful or immediately awe-inspiring as the rest of the material.
"One More Cup of Coffee (Valley Below)" is haunting and sounds mildly Eastern, with great harmonies from Emmylou Harris. "Black Diamond Bay" is upbeat and breathlessly tells a story set in Greece, while the Latin-flavoured "Romance in Durango" shows how diverse Bob Dylan can be.
"Isis" is a major highlight of the record, with some mystical imagery and a lingering melody. Finally, "Sara" features some of Dylan's most tuneful vocals and is a heartfelt ode to his wife, whom he separated before the making of 'Desire'. The album also carries a gypsy vibe, in part thanks to the Rolling Thunder Revue of 1975, a travelling medicine show with a number of highly regarded musicians including Dylan, Joan Baez and Joni Mitchell.
'Desire' is certainly one of Bob Dylan's greatest records and just as good, if not better, than 'Blood on the Tracks'.