Although it's fair to say all well established artists should have their own well defined style/priniples when it comes to the creative process, the mid - eighties was a very strange time generally on the music front. Bob Dylan's own brand of singer/songwriter ideals at the time was deeply unfashionable and like Mick Jagger, Neil Young and Lou Reed he felt the only way for his music to be heard was to make concessions to the contemporary sounds of the day. The fact that Bob was not on top form in a songwriting sense at that time anyway may be purely coincidental or as a result of feeling completely at odds with the musical climate of the time. Producer Arthur Baker's sound and the general eighties instrumentation was quite uncompatable when revealing the true strengths of Bob's talent.
The opening and closing tracks are my favourites 'Tight Connection To My Heart' and 'Dark Eyes' although the first song was far more effective in its original form when demoed for 'Infidels' as 'Someone's Got A Hold Of My Heart'. It's not necessarily a truly bad album but it is a piece of works which fails to reflect those things that make Bob a unique artist.
'Empire Burlesque' is probably at its most enjoyable if the listener is unaware of Bob's pedigree - it can then be listened to on its own terms and perhaps be occasionally enjoyed.
Unfortunately 'Empire' represented the beginning of a very uninspiring period for Bob in which he'd release 'Knocked Out Loaded', 'Down In The Groove' and the live 'Dylan And The Dead'.
Really though 'Empire Burlesque' is merely a symptom of its time when Bob decided it was probably best to stop swimming against the tide. When the musical landscape changed somewhat in the nineties and singer/songwriters and more traditional sounds were more accepted again Bob once again returned to what he does best and released some cracking albums.