17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One that got away......
After the pleasantly surprising first Wilbury adventure, Bob released the Daniel Lanois-produced Oh Mercy (his finest album of the 80's), and then this (his first of the 90's). Few would have thought that it would be seven years until his next album of original songs, the multi-grammy award winning Time Out of Mind, so in many ways this seemed for many years like a...
Published on 29 Mar 2007 by street-legal
21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars underrated
This is a fascinating album, and, actually, a bit frightening. The singer seems to be trying to recite nurcery rhymes. But he can't help infuse these with feverish Bible-inspired images that whirl around in his head. In other words, a portrait of a singer lost in the lonely graveyard of his mind. It is easy to dismiss this album. Some even find it scandalous. Of course,...
Published on 16 Feb 2000
Most Helpful First | Newest First
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One that got away......,
This review is from: UNDER THE RED SKY (Audio CD)After the pleasantly surprising first Wilbury adventure, Bob released the Daniel Lanois-produced Oh Mercy (his finest album of the 80's), and then this (his first of the 90's). Few would have thought that it would be seven years until his next album of original songs, the multi-grammy award winning Time Out of Mind, so in many ways this seemed for many years like a stuttering final statement.
And perhaps this is why history hasn't treated it kindly for a) it is quite short b) it doesn't sound as 'serious' as its predecessor and c) it didn't sell very well. It seems to lack the intensity and production values of its predecessor. In reality, this rough and ready album sounds far more like the in-the-studio-and-out Bob that we all know and love and is not far removed from his current (Modern Times/Together Through Life) sound.
Lyrically, much has been made of the childlike lyrics and imagery and has been put down to a dearth of inspiration or laziness. Dylan alludes to Hansel and Gretel, The Man In The Moon, The Grand Old Duke Of York, Noah's Ark and the Cat In The Well. He doesn't try to mask it either. But then, fairy tale is a part of the folk medium and has been present in Dylan's most celebrated work ('Cinderella sweeping up on Desolation Row' etc). Now his voice had changed, the lines were delivered in a particularly creepy Grimm style and imply that any fairy tale in a world gone wrong will end in tears.
Of the remaining songs, Wiggle,Wiggle is daftly inconsequential enough that it could have opened Wilbury's Vol 3. Unbelievable presents Dylan's view of America's lost dream. TV Talkin' Song is an amusing tale of the author listening to soap-box preachers in Hyde Park. God Knows concerns the fragilty of life itself and Handy Dandy is a wonderful portrait of a cad and his frailties, possibly a tad autobiographical).
And I haven't mentioned Born In Time. A beautiful song about a lost love,though a better version can be found on Bootleg Series Vol 8.
Compared to his absolute masterworks it does come across as lightweight, but I called this review 'the one that got away' because, as an album, it has escaped serious critical appraisal.It contains his most vividly surreal images since 1978's Street Legal so let it go at your loss; for it is a wonderfully curious bridge between Oh Mercy and his two 'folk revival' albums of the early 90's, Good As I Been To You and World Gone Wrong.Its crepuscular atmosphere suggests the end of an era. In fact it is the start of a new one.
21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars underrated,
By A Customer
This review is from: UNDER THE RED SKY (Audio CD)This is a fascinating album, and, actually, a bit frightening. The singer seems to be trying to recite nurcery rhymes. But he can't help infuse these with feverish Bible-inspired images that whirl around in his head. In other words, a portrait of a singer lost in the lonely graveyard of his mind. It is easy to dismiss this album. Some even find it scandalous. Of course, all the smooth frases from "Oh Mercy" are nowhere to be found. But the album is coherent in its own way, and very listenable. The point is perhaps that the listener is free to analyse, but he can't ever fully comprehend. (That is, a real Dylan album.)
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Weird but not without merit,
This review is from: UNDER THE RED SKY (Audio CD)When I first listened to this album, I thought it had the craziest, most nonsensical lyrics I had ever heard. Admittedly, some of the tracks still don't make much sense to me, but a few surprisingly good songs give this album a solid depth that is too little appreciated. Certainly, this is not the moralizing philosopher Dylan of old, but that's OK. It's pretty cool to hear Dylan playing a few songs seemingly just for fun. "Wiggle Wiggle" is total nonsense, but it's a pretty cool, catchy song nonetheless. "Under the Red Sky" does seem to be some kind of musical tribute to nursery rhymes, but its meaning quite escapes me. "10 000 Men" and "Cat's in the Well" are also weird songs with seemingly no meaning. The other tracks have varying degrees of substance to them. "Handy Dandy" confuses me somewhat, but if I had to interpret it, I would lean toward the autobiographical line of thought and steer clear of the Ronald Reagan "theory," in large part due to the fleeting echo of "Like a Rolling Stone" it exhibits. "Unbelievable," "TV Talkin' Song," and "God Knows" are pretty good tracks, with "God Knows" possessing a somewhat comforting quality to it. My two personal favorites here are "2 x 2" and "Born in Time," both of which happen to feature David Crosby's distinctive background vocals. "2 x 2" doesn't make a lot of sense, but the bridges with their unique blend of Dylan and Crosby vocals fill me with delight for some reason. "Born in Time" must be singled out for particular attention. I consider it one of Dylan's best songs of the 1990s, featuring particularly strong and powerful bridges.
I really like this album, but it is definitely one of Dylan's weirdest releases. Dylan wrote every single song, so he must have had some purpose in mind, even if that purpose was to surprise his fans yet again or to just confound his critics. Overall, this music is not bad at all, and Dylan's vocals are strong if gravelly. A strong list of contributing musicians sometimes makes this feel like a fun jam session, with Dylan sometimes just having a good time making lines rhyme without reason. Among the notables who contributed to this album were George Harrison, Slash from Guns 'n' Roses, David Crosby, Bruce Hornsby, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Elton John. Clearly, this is an album only Dylan could have made, and its unique qualities make it one of the more interesting chapters in this incredible musician's long career. Despite the quality of these musicians, however, the whole sound of the album seems rather generic and uninspired, and I consider this the album's most telling weakness.
I would not suggest you rush out to buy Under the Red Sky immediately, but on the other hand I would urge Dylan fans not to cross it off their purchase lists arbitrarily. After all, any album widely disparaged by the critics must have some merit to it.
9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars just like sugar and candy,
This review is from: UNDER THE RED SKY (Audio CD)This album was savaged by the critics when it came out, and continues to be rubbished by Dylan fans. I too thought it was awful the first few times I heard it. Then suddenly I got it, and it is now up there with my favourite Dylan albums. It's easy to dismiss it as throwaway but I think it's a concept album reflecting his usual doom and gloom world gone wrong view but mixed in with nursery rhymes and counting songs. The closing 3 tracks - God Knows, Handy Dandy and Cat's in the well - are possibly the finest ever conclustion to a Dylan album - essential!!
5.0 out of 5 stars Spot on!,
This review is from: UNDER THE RED SKY (Audio CD)Not my favourite Dylan album by a long chalk but as a bit of a Dylan fan I just wanted it for my collection. However, the service was great and drlivery was very quick!
5.0 out of 5 stars Best album,
This review is from: UNDER THE RED SKY (Audio CD)This has to be one of the best albums Bob Dylan has ever recorded. Each song is instantly likeable. Brilliant
3.0 out of 5 stars FUNK..!!,
This review is from: UNDER THE RED SKY (Audio CD)Love it or loathe it. Well its okay but Under the Red Sky may be known for the sleeve covering insert and its song of the same title but the rest of it contains mostly "funky" rock stuff that aren't tiediously lengthy if you are willing to accept my fair points.
4.0 out of 5 stars 'They said it was the land of milk and honey, Now they say it's the land of money',
This review is from: UNDER THE RED SKY (Audio CD)I love Dylan, I mean I have the lot, everything he's done, but I never gave this one the time of day. Why? Well... it's Under the Red Sky, I mean it's a dud, right? Well actually no, it's isn't half bad. Of course if you're going to compare this with The Freewheelin' or Desire or "Love & Theft" it's utterly disposable, if you're looking for faultless Dylanesque poetry then Wiggle Wiggle and Handy Dandy aren't going to make the grade. But! If you can take this album for what it is then you're in for a nice surprise; this is Dylan doing what he wants; this is his 90's Nashville Skyline, or maybe his John Wesley Harding, if Oh Mercy had signaled and end to Dylan's desperately trying to sound contemporary (Empire Burlesque, Down in the Groove etc), then Under the Red Sky is a continuation of that 1989 gem.
One irony is that Oh Mercy and this album lack any stone cold masterpieces, on his much weaker albums we have Dark Eyes, Brownsville Girl, Every Grain of Sand, Jokerman etc, whereas everything here is of a consistently great but never spectacular nature. Born in Time is perhaps the most enduring tune here (a superior version can be found on Tell Tale Signs though), Wiggle Wiggle isn't half as bad as the name infers, TV Talking Song is another stab at Tweeter & The Monkey Man, and there are a bunch of nursery rhymes. And fundamentally that's what this album is, Bob Dylan singing nursery rhymes in a funky 90's style, he'd just had a child (or so i'm led to believe), he was singing for his kids, and if that isn't a worthy sentiment then what is?
2.0 out of 5 stars Under The Red Sky: Bob Dylan - Unbelievable...,
This review is from: UNDER THE RED SKY (Audio CD)Dylan's 27th studio album, released in 1990, had many expectations and totally failed to live up to them. Dylan parted company with Danny Lanois after his previous album, the superb `Oh Mercy'. This was a mistake, and it would be 3 albums, 7 years and a reunion with Lanois before Dylan produced another worthwhile album with 1997's Time Out Of Mind.
The album has a set of rocky bluesy tunes with a very childlike air. There is a cast of guest musicians (unusually for Dylan) including Stevie Ray Vaughn, George Harrison, Elton John and Slash. These just serve to make the record feel a bit fragmented. Dylan himself sounds almost disinterested. And the songwriting is poor. There really isn't a standout song here that sticks in the mind, apart from the opener Wigge Wiggle, which sticks in the mind for all the wrong reasons.
Not quite as bad as `Good As I Been To You' in that there is not much truly bad here, just nothing at all that is particularly good. 2 stars.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Sure it's fluff, but it's fun fluff. Handful of the songs are as good as anything he's written.,
This review is from: Under the Red Sky (Audio CD)At the end of the 1980s, Dylan's most critically reviled decade, he went out on a high note, the critical darling OH MERCY. Expectations were running high that Dylan would continual the new found streak that he had started with OH MERCY. This proved to be not the case, however. Dylan dispensed with Lanois, hired Don Was for the producer, and recorded a brief, thirty five minute album comprised of some rather silly songs.
While OH MERCY sounded like the arty, coffee-house poet sound that the critics so desperately craved, with rich, atmospheric sound so rarely heard before from Dylan, UNDER THE RED SKY sounds more like Dylan calling up some old friends and well-known rockers and jamming to nursery rhymes. It sounds like someone just happened to record them than it does a serious and substantial release. Dylan, just like the rest of us, need a chance to blow steam and just have a good time, and that's what this record is: pure, simple minded fun. But this is a Dylan record, and he manages a couple of just fantastic songs (tellingly, one of the top songs here, "Born in Time", is an outtake to OH MERCY, and is as good as anything on that record).
Gianmarc Manzian, in an Amazon review from January 2000, said essentially that not everything Dylan records should be up for consideration in the next "Norton Anthoylogy of Literature," and bluesman recorded simple one or two chord rockers with simple rhymes and still made great music. Although I generally agree with Gianmarc Manzione in his Dylan reviews, his five star rating of this particular album, to me, seems a little over generous, to say the least. As for his comparison of it to BLONDE ON BLONDE, I can only shake my head at that comment. However, much of what he says holds true for this album. Not everything Dylan does should have to find a nice, little cozy literary allotment that anthologies generally tend to give artists. ("Now we come to Lord Byron, one of the leading romantic poets because . . ..")
Dylan's always been one for confounding expectations, and this is no exception. Coming off the heels of OH MERCY, Dylan's biggest critical success in years, this was immediately perceived as a disaster and essentially panned by critics and fans alike. It may have not received such harsh treatment as it did had it not come immediately after OH MERCY.
Dylan himself commented on the record being difficult to make and unfocused sessions. He was working on WILBURYS III (perversely the second and last album from that super group) during the day and recording this at night. Extremely unusal for Dylan as well was that the album featured a large number of celebrity cameos.
UNDER THE RED SKY, while far from a masterpiece, is a jaunty little record with loads of guest stars and sounds like Dylan's just having a high old time. The lyrics, considered by many to be banal coming from the man who wrote "Tangled Up in Blue," "Visions of Johanna," "Desolation Row," and literally dozens of others, do come across as childish and rather stupid - with the prerequisite in mind that everything Dylan does must be like the aforementioned songs.
Taken as a simple little record recorded in the spirit of fun and songs largely pertaining to children, this record is quite an enjoyable record and a very breezy one at that. "Wiggle Wiggle," "Under the Red Sky," "Born in Time," and "Handy Dandy" are my top tracks. The interpretation that "Handy Dandy" is about Ronald Reagan has quite a bit (i.e. textual evidence) going for it. Who says Dylan doesn't write political songs any more? And here of all places! It's a very good song. "Born in Time" was covered by Clapton on his (panned) PILGRIM CD. It's another good song. "Talkin' TV Song" is the most awkward song here, with a serious message to it that goes against the record's spirit. But it's an alright track in and of itself. "God Knows" is the great OH MERCY outtake, "Unbelievable" is as good as the OH MERCY material, and "Under the Red Sky" Dylan would return to in concert numerous times. Dylan seems to like the record, as he has sung "Cat's in the Well" as the opening song at his concerts for the past several years.
Coming from the man who gave us BLONDE ON BLONDE, he's almost inviting us to see if we can find any substance here. If you haven't heard, I'll tell you: there's about as much substance here as there is to cotton candy - and that's not necessarily a bad thing, as Gianmarc points out.
When it comes to longevity, this will be one of the first (along with KNOCKED OUT LOADED and DOWN IN THE GROOVE) to perish if any of Dylan's releases slip into obscurity. But while it's around and you just want some lighthearted music for your kids or your grandkids, give this a spin. Trust me, this won't be one of those that you spend all night trying to decipher meaning from Dylan's lyrics. But it will be one you can enjoy listening too for its uncharacteristic breeziness. While Dylan would nowhere near be the legendary icon that he is if all his music was this light, but hearing such featherweight music from his makes for a very interesting, if not necessarily great, or even good, record.
If you get out of the mindset that Gianmarc describes, it can be an enjoyable little record. If not, then prepare yourself to be disappointed. Just think, Dylan recorded a single album of lightweight, cotton candy music that doesn't have a lot of substance too it. Most, though to be fair not all, of Paul McCartney's solo career is made of cotton candy music. [Paul McCartney in his solo career recorded too many records to count that are insubstantial.]
(Dylan recorded the nursery rhyme "This Old Man", very much in the same vein as UNDER THE RED SKY, for the 1992 Aids benefit album FOR OUR CHILDREN, which also featured songs from Springsteen and McCartney.)
Most Helpful First | Newest First