For a long time, I found this album almost unlistenable and thought Arthur Baker was a pariah for splashing so much pointless crap over Bob Dylan songs. As was the trend at the time, the drums are mixed way too high and sound like somebody bashing an empty cardboard box with a wooden spoon; either that or those new-fangled electronic drums that sound like 'douche!' every time they're hit.
Dylan wasn't on his own. Just about every artiste who emerged in the sixties were releasing albums that sounded like this; Neil Young, Eric Clapton, John Martyn et al. This was either corporate pressure for saleable product, or a genuine desire to sound so. In Dylan's case, I reckon it was the former. But time can do strange things to music, and the 80's don't sound quite as dated as they did ten years ago, quixotic as that sounds.
The album itself was quite a long, drawn out process, so it is a shame that only about half of the songs are what you might call 'good Dylan'. A handful are actually very good indeed, including Tight Connection, Seeing The Real You At Last and the surprising all-acoustic closer, Dark Eyes. Given the price you can pick it up for these days, its worth getting for these songs alone. One song really grates, though....When The Night Comes Falling. Particularly so after hearing the version on Bootleg Series Vol 3, which is excellent. The version on Empire Burlesque is a horrible Frankenstein's monster of a song, the aural equivalent of somebody rattling a money tin right up to your ear.
It is not a truly bad album, but it isn't great either. I would recommend for those who applaud it wholeheartedly to listen to Highway 61 Revisted again for a reality check.