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Customer Review

on 28 November 2002
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.
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