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street-legal (Leeds, England)

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Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid
Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid
Price: £5.49

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, 24 Mar. 2012
I am a huge Dylan fan, but not a completely uncritical one. And despite a 5 star review this wouldn't come way up in my list of recommendations of his work,for the simple fact that it is not a 'Bob Dylan album' per se. Its one to get when you have heard his classics (if you want my opinion on those, send me message). Still, I understand its relative obscurity; it is compiled mainly around several themes of the same song, and the film itself didn't exactly do great business, although as a bonus it did have Dylan himself in a minor role. But it is nevertheless a beautiful album. The second track, for instance, could go on for twenty minutes longer and I would still love it. It has quality musicians all over it, Roger Mcguinn is there for instance, as is the ace drummer Jim Keltner, who has since admitted it was the one and only time he has cried whilst playing. It is quite stunning music, and if you appreciate the western genre, more so. It is also very interesting to hear Knocking On Heaven's Door in its original humble origins; it was never meant to be a generationally inspiring anthem, and I always do prefer to hear it here amongst similar sounding music.
So, as I have said, get it after the true classics have been listened to. This is a soundtrack album, but it is a gorgeous one at that.


Planet Waves
Planet Waves
Price: £5.12

22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sound Waves, 2 Mar. 2012
This review is from: Planet Waves (Audio CD)
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.


New Morning
New Morning
Price: £3.99

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A New Morning indeed, 26 Feb. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: New Morning (Audio CD)
Although Dylan seemed keen to quickly release something to cancel out the terrible reception for Self Portrait, this album which came out later in the same year was, incredibly, conceived with a similar intent in mind; that is, to create an album which mixed covers and self-penned material.*
Fortunately, that never happened. New Morning is all self-composed and, what is more, contains some very fine material indeed. Although some of the lyrical themes sound like a slightly forced form of happiness (marriage and domesticity don't necessarily spark great inspiration), this is probably the warmest album he ever made. The best - or worst - example of this pretty nothingness is the opening track, If Not For You; musically pleasing on the ear, but a bit vacant lyrically. Other songs serve his tremendous poetic gift far better; The Day Of The Locusts (about picking up an honorary degree), Went To See The Gypsy (supposedly about meeting Elvis), and Three Angels, which is a wonderfully surreal yarn and almost totally overlooked. For some songs, the music is the key....New Morning, One More Weekend and The Man In Me are all incredibly uplifting.
It is also a great melting pot of musical styles; jazz, blues, pop, gospel, rock, folk...even a waltz! Amazingly though, it doesn't sound like the mish-mash you might expect, and is actually quite a unified piece. Dylan was apparently suffering a heavy cold during the sessions, and his voice has a rough huskiness throughout which seems to suit the material - strange as that sounds. He also seems to have composed the vast majority of songs on the piano and it is the dominant instrument on the album, which gives New Morning that extra bit of individuality in his considerable catalogue.
There are a couple of songs I can live without, most notably When Dogs Run Free, but that's just personal taste. Overall this is a very decent effort that is overshadowed by later 70's triumphs, when he had new issues to sing about that he could really sink his teeth into.

*some of the covers surfaced on the 1973 album 'Dylan' aka 'A Fool Such As I'. Not easy to get hold of these days.


Self Portrait
Self Portrait
Price: £5.99

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A trip to the gallery...., 25 Feb. 2012
This review is from: Self Portrait (Audio CD)
Ironic, quixotic, short of ideas or whatever else....Self Portrait is a real mixed bag, whichever way you care to look at it. The title itself perhaps only describes his own highly recognisable brush strokes adorning the sleeve, although there is a school of thought that the music a songwriter covers tells as much about the artist as the songs they write. But where Dylan is concerned, when you start to over think his motives, you are more than likely going way off track.
For the uninitiated, this is an album (an ex-double lp) of covers, self penned material, a couple of knockabout instrumentals, and live performances from the Isle Of Wight Festival 1969. The covers are split between contemporary writers (Gordon Lightfoot, Paul Simon, The Everley Brothers etc) and much older songs (Copper Kettle, Blue Moon). All seem to have been jumbled together, mixing styles - even vocal ones - without, it seems, too much thought into how they sounded together. In the face of being b***legged like nobody else of his generation he just threw it all in, knowing it would find its way out anyway. This, I feel, is why this album came in for such a drubbing on release. I don't think anybody begrudged Dylan a little indulgence in a singing a (mainly) covers album, it was the execution of it which grated; the title of it most of all, which was completely misleading.......Which is all a bit of a shame, because there are some genuinely wonderful performances on here. I won't list them all, but special mention has to made of Alberta, Days Of 49, Early Morning Rain, Belle Isle, Living The Blues, Copper Kettle and Minstrel Boy.
The live performances, as mentioned, come from his Isle of Wight show with The Band. It wasn't the best gig he ever played by any means, but nowadays we can look back and appreciate how historically important it was to be documented; to this day, Self Portrait has been its only outlet. Dylan gave up touring in 1966 and didn't start again until 1974. In the meantime, the Isle Of Wight performance is pretty much all we have that fills the gap for live shows, unless we also count his sizeable contribution to George Harrison's Concert For Bangladesh in 1971.
So all in all something of a curate's egg, but not without some considerable intermittent charm. Dylan is clearly enjoying himself on a number of tracks (on Days of 49, it always make me smile when he shouts 'Oh, my goodness!' off mic). It is certainly not the complete disaster that it is reputed to be. Its failures concern sequencing, a bloated track list (it would have made a very good single album), and a seeming lack of purpose. Given the price it can be obtained these days, it is certainly worth a punt once his bona-fide classics have been enjoyed.


Love And Theft
Love And Theft
Price: £5.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Love Of Theft, 19 Feb. 2012
This review is from: Love And Theft (Audio CD)
As I currently write over a decade later, the release of this album was a beautiful thing at a very bad time. The music is confident, uncluttered, varied, witty. This Jack Frost producer guy really knew how to get the best out of Dylan. It was only later I realised that it was a pseudonym for Bob himself. However, I remember the release date too, September 11 2001. Most people, myself included, remember that date for something else now, and I recall how spooky I found it that the lyrics of one song actually say 'Sky full of fire/Pain is falling down....'
But enough of that. I fell in love with this straight off, in a way that I never did with the slightly monotone Time Out Of Mind. In fact, that sounds like an hour long dirge next to this. Love and Theft fades in with what is actually rather a silly little song, a rocking nursery-rhyme affair. As I stated in my review of Under The Red Sky, that particular musical form and folk go hand in hand, but here it is fully realised. He grabs you and throws you into the midst of the best album he had made since....I would say Street Legal. Take your pick.
The next song, and possibly the best here is Mississippi. This had been tried and tested during the TOOM sessions. Dylan later claimed he cared too much about the song for it to be a victim to a Lanois drum pattern*....Either way, it sounds very strident on here and contains some wonderfully crafted lines. And the rock and roll/blues songs on here absolutely rock! Summer Days, Lonesome Day Blues, Honest With Me and Cry A While all have a tremendous vitality to them and a kind of humour Dylan seemed to have buried in the 60s (Drivin' in the flats in my Cadillac car/The girls all say you're a worn out star). In fact, there are quite a number of jokes and quips spread throughout.
There are also some quite endearing, almost 20's ballads...Bye and Bye and Moonlight, and Floater (in a similar vein) is brilliantly charming, with cascading lyrics and such a laconic delivery. Another one, Po' Boy, has regularly been voted as a fan favourite; Dylan's ability at this time to shift into varying personalities was quite a wonder. Here he is a somewhat simplistic man, useless at everything, but in love with his woman. When he sings the line, 'All I know is I'm thrilled by your kiss/I don't know any more than this' it is absolutely heart breaking. All of this in a song that contains a knock,knock joke....
The last song, Sugar Babe, almost (almost) harks back to Blood On The Tracks. It is very sparsely arranged and a lyrical cousin to that album. The difference being that Dylan of 2001 is nearly twice the age of Dylan 1974 and it puts a whole new slant on things.
It later transpired that there were certain lines that Dylan seems to have 'borrowed' from various poetical sources. Its fine by me though, I love the album as it is. The only downside for me is that Dylan's voice occasionally sounds rather shot, more so than usual.

*On Dylan's Bootleg Series Vol 8, there are three versions of this (on the 3cd version). All differ completely from each other, and the one on Love and Theft is totally different again!


Time Out of Mind
Time Out of Mind
Price: £3.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Oh Mercy 2.0, 19 Feb. 2012
This review is from: Time Out of Mind (Audio CD)
This multi-grammy award winning album contains a handful of bona-fide later Dylan classics. They are Standing In The Doorway, Trying To Get To Heaven, Not Dark Yet and Highlands. They straddle the running order like tent poles holding the whole thing up. These four songs alone make this a worthwhile buy; each portrays a yearning for the past, or a real tangible regret which make you wonder for their writer's sanity. Highlands, the longest studio song he has ever written, stands apart for its wonderfully conceived section involving the protagonist having a surreal conversation with a waitress. It is the most engaging piece of writing on here.
Another couple of songs are very good indeed; Love Sick, with its tick-tock arrangement, and Cold Irons Bound with its throbbing bass line and pulsing drum track, which really came into its own as a live favourite. Dotted here and there are three very similar (to the point of being fairly interchangeable) songs that plod to the same tempos, Million Miles, 'Til I Fell In Love With You and Can't Wait that actually drag the experience down a notch. It is a pity, because they all seem to have evolved, or devolved, from one song that got scrapped, 'Dreamin Of You', which was a genuinely exciting piece of music.
In fact, this album is a treasure trove of lost opportunities; the fantastic 'Mississippi', 'Red River Shore' and 'Marchin To The City' all fell by the wayside. The first two of those songs are among the best he's written and Time Out Of Mind is poorer for their absence. Especially when dross like Make You Feel My Love was included; a dreary Clinton's Card sentiment song. I know a lot of people love it, but I cannot warm to the song at all. It is really third rate to me.
Despite its flashes of brilliance, when compared to 'Love and Theft', its follow up, Time Out of Mind comes over a bit stodgy. There is little variation in the slow tempo throughout, like wading through the swamp that it evokes. Whereas the sound on Oh Mercy (its nearest cousin) was stark and clear, here it is occasionally murky. Producer Daniel Lanois had many fallouts with Dylan during its creation, and although it was universally applauded, Dylan himself regarded it with some criticism.
One thing is certain; from now on, Bob Dylan was to produce his own albums himself.

As with Oh Mercy, it is recommended you accompany this with The Bootleg Series 8 to find out about all of those wonderful tracks that didn't make it on the album.


Oh Mercy
Oh Mercy
Price: £5.99

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hallelujah!!!, 18 Feb. 2012
This review is from: Oh Mercy (Audio CD)
After five years of sub-par product, Oh Mercy has Dylan throwing over a few tables, shaking off cobwebs, and giving us what for. Despite, once again, some career defining songs mysteriously not appearing (Series Of Dreams, Dignity, God Knows, Born In Time) he still put out a five star ground breaking album. It all happened (apparently) on stage at a gig in Locarno, Switzerland; an epiphany of the soul - a realisation that he had found a voice and a purpose that was the new Dylan.
In all honesty, all of this aside, the fact is that the songs were flowing once more. That's what mattered. They were brilliantly swamped up by Daniel Lanois and they fit perfectly with Dylan's new Leonard Cohenesque delivery. Gone was Dylan the ageing rock star - here was Dylan who could spin his age around to his advantage.
Moments like Ring Them Bells, Man In The Long Black Coat, Most Of The Time and Shooting Star show that he really meant business. Most of The Time in particular showcased his new style, one that more or less crops up to this day. Wistful, slightly sentimental, tinged with an aching form of regret....it is simply engaging. We find ourselves hanging on to his every word because he speaks for all of us at some point in our lives. But in truth there isn't a bad song on here and it doesn't outstay its welcome. It was a perfect way to end an imperfect decade; the fact that several masterful songs were absent only makes it all the more impressive.
(I would recommend Bootleg Series Vol 8 as an accompaniment to this. It contains quite a few out-takes and missing songs from this period).


Down in the Groove
Down in the Groove
Price: £6.80

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Down in the Mouth, 18 Feb. 2012
This review is from: Down in the Groove (Audio CD)
First of all, I prefer this as an album to Knocked Out Loaded. Considerably so.
It doesn't have a single song on it with anything like the appeal of Brownsville Girl, but as an album it stands up better. It is a basic rock and roll and folk collection; and with much looking to the skies and saying 'thank you', the worst excesses of 80's production such as horrible drum sounds and swathes of irritating synths, are largely absent. For these reasons, it is perfectly listenable throughout and mostly enjoyable.
Nevertheless, there is still something half-assed about the whole affair. Death Is Not The End is a slightly turgid Infidels reject (directly so, the band is identical), and there are two songs where Robert Hunter has written the lyrics (Ugliest Girl in the World and Silvio). Based on this evidence alone, Robert Hunter can write lyrics about as well as I could rewire a house (I couldn't and wouldn't want to try) and one wonders why he was asked*. There are some pretty good knockabout rock songs; Had A Dream About You Baby springs to mind, for instance. But it is the last three songs, all covers, that actually impress me. Dylan sounds like he really cares about the material and does a rather good job on them, especially the closer - Rank Strangers To Me. I saw him sing this live in 1997 at Wembley Arena and it was probably the one song that really brought the house down, despite it being an excellent all-round show.
One of the reasons why music tends to change subtly over time is that events in the future shape the past as much as the reverse. In 1988, nobody knew that Dylan was less than a year and a ride to New Orleans away from a full critical revival. At the time, Down In The Groove was further proof that Bob Dylan was descending slowly into a sad anonymity, who could now sing covers far better than write his own songs. Now it can be enjoyed for what it is in full knowledge that the descent never happened; a short but reasonably enjoyable collection of covers and self penned ditties.

* he did a slightly better job on 2009's Together Through Life, admittedly.


Knocked Out Loaded
Knocked Out Loaded
Price: £3.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Thank God for Brownsville Girl!, 18 Feb. 2012
This review is from: Knocked Out Loaded (Audio CD)
It is difficult to review an album you have spent a long time avoiding. I find this album as a whole to be the nadir of Dylan's 80's; far more so than its follow up, Down In The Groove (reviewed separately). Clearly devoid of a batch of decent ideas, Dylan didn't hang around waiting for inspiration. He just kept releasing albums in a perhaps misguided attempt to prove that something was better than nothing.
Had this been an e.p. containing the four better songs - You Wanna Ramble, Brownsville Girl, Got My Mind Made Up and Under Your Spell it would have been a reasonable critical success. But the four tracks not included in that list drag this album down, and worse, they all run concurrently. They Killed Him is just awful, with a children's choir sounding something like a Sesame Street sing-along. Driftin' Too Far From Shore has that nasty 80's drum sound as if somebody is bashing an empty cardboard box with a wooden spoon, and the other two sail past without making any impression whatsoever.
The good ones are a different matter altogether. You Wanna Ramble is actually quite a cool opener, a great little rock and roll shuffle. Got My Mind Made Up was co-written with Tom Petty (who recorded his own version) and definitely sounds that way. Its almost a pre-Wilbury, Wilbury track. Under Your Spell is co-written with Carole Bayer-Sager and, while not earth-shattering, is a perfectly respectable love song. Had it appeared on something like Infidels it would have achieved far more credit than it got.
Which brings us to Brownsville Girl, a collaboration with Sam Sheppard. Once upon a time, Dylan would have been proud to have kicked the album off with this, or at least finished with it, but for some reason it is buried somewhere on what used to be called side 2. I don't normally go for this kind of overblown production, but this song seems to call for it; the protagonist half remembering a movie and then telling his life like he was living in one. Some of the lyrics are absolutely killer Dylan (The one thing we knew for certain about Henry Porter is that his name wasn't Henry Porter), and even at 11 minutes it seems too short. It manages single handedly to turn a rough, badly sequenced album into an average one. Not a bad feat.


Empire Burlesque
Empire Burlesque
Price: £3.99

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Thump, thump, douche!, 18 Feb. 2012
This review is from: Empire Burlesque (Audio CD)
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.


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