21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Back on the Tracks,
This review is from: Love And Theft (Audio CD)
Bob is back, just when we thought it was impossible to produce two decent albums in a row. The signs were all good, his current touring band, who provide the backing, are stunning in their technique, sensitivity and versatility. His last album and academy award-winning single Things Have Changed were lauded by critics and returned Dylan to the charts. The only fear with Mr Zimmerman is, despite all the odds in his favor, he was just as likely to produce a stinker as a masterpieces. Fortunately, he opted for the latter.
This is a back-to-basics album produced with clarity by Mr. Dylan himself in the guise of Jack Frost. The arrangements are more song-focused than Daniel Lanois' atmospheric production on Time Out of Mind, a move that suits these rootsy up-beat songs, which are peppered with surreal, playful, jokes and literary and Biblical allusions.
Musically, this is a journey through the 'Old Weird' America last heard on the Basement Tapes, with splashes good ole' country music of the Nashville Skyline model and flourishes of Chicago electric blues and swing ballads.
The first indication of the penchant for latter of these musical forms was Bob's resurrection of If Dogs Run Free and the similarly jazzy re-invention of Time out of Mind's Trying To Get To Heaven, both recently performed in concert. Dylan sings jazz, nice.
Each of the 12 songs are minor gems and a few are true classics destined to stand alongside A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall, Tangled Up in Blue, Blind Willie McTell, Man in the Long Black Coat and Its Not Dark Yet.
Mississippi is a re-worked song left off the last album because of musical differences with the producer. From the evidence here, Bob was right to seek a more straightforward reading of the track. It has a simple but engaging melody and some evocative lyrics that need to be heard clearly.
High Water evokes Dylan's own Crash on the Levee (Down in the Flood) and has an epic sweep of Old Testament proportions. Sugar Baby is the song Time Out of Mind-lovers will embrace as it shares that album's gloom and soul searching with a pinch of the venom of songs like Idiot Wind and Positively 4th Street.
Still, there is much to enjoy in the 'lesser' tracks, such as the hard-rocking Lonesome Day Blues, the beautiful fiddle playing on Floater (Too Much To Ask), the subtle humor of Po' Boy and Dylan-as-crooner on the sweet love-song Moonlight.
Whilst it may never re-capture the legendary status accorded to his Sixties albums, this is an album of mature music from an old man unafraid to admit his irrelevance to modern music and happy to carry on forging his own inimitable route.
He told us the answer is blowing in the wind. On Moonlight he states 'the wind has blown', and asks 'Won't you meet me out in the moonlight alone?'. The sensible answer to that is 'Yes, Bob, so long as you bring your guitar...