Top positive review
21 people found this helpful
on 2 March 2012
This album has more or less been written out of critical history '1984' style, because the one that followed cast such a long shadow over it. When Blood On The Tracks came out, it more or less cancelled out anything Dylan had released in the previous five years. Planet Waves, its immediate predecessor, was not so much left in the shade as kicked into a dark corner.
It is time for it to come crawling back out again, for not only is it the one single time Dylan recorded a studio album with The Band, it is also clear that he had at last found the 70's voice which would lead him to his next renaissance. The soft edges of his country croon have all but disappeared, replaced by his trademark acidic punch.
There are a handful of songs that have Dylan soul-searching, asking questions of himself, reaching into the past. Among these are Going Going Gone, Something There Is About You (which mentions 'the phantoms of my youth' and 'the old hills of Duluth'), Dirge (with its amazing 'I hate myself for loving you' opening line) and to some extent Forever Young. They are undoubtedly the most compelling selections. About half of the songs are slightly more basic paeans to lurve (On A Night Like This, Tough Mama, Hazel, You Angel You, Never Say Goodbye) but the whole is carried along with an infectiously buoyant, almost bouncy, musical style, which is where The Band deserves considerable credit.
Most Dylan albums either start or close with a particularly strong statement. Sometimes both, if we're lucky. In this tradition, on Planet Waves it is perhaps the final song whose chord strikes deepest: The Wedding Song. It is the only all-acoustic track, and it is a very dark love song to his wife. It is so rough and raw, it almost sounds like a rehearsal...his cuff button repeatedly catches the guitar...but some of its power comes with retrospect ('now that the past is gone'), for within the year they would be separated. It portrays 'woman' as almost a Christ-like saviour, a theme he would continue with on Blood On The Tracks and eventually chew up and spit out on Street Legal.
As on New Morning, Dylan occasionally seems to strain for something he wants to write about, but Planet Waves has a strident power about it, a musical confidence; it emboldened Bob to tour for the first time in 8 years, again with The Band. Definitely worthy of multiple hearings.