It is profoundly untrendy in some quarters to say anything positive about this album. Even the album cover, of a Hand reaching down to save us mere mortals seems to annoy some people? Why? I am not sure. All I can talk about is the conviction and considerable warmth on display throughout this album. This album did not judge, unlike its predecessor Slow Train Coming allegedly did (but that is another review). This record focuses more on the sheer joy that Dylan was experiencing at the time.....and although melody may have taken a backseat to an extent here, we have some songs right here which are among the most moving of Dylan's entire career. Others complain that the live renditions of these songs on Bob's US tour the year before were infinitely superior to these versions. Well, even though I am not sure about that, not having been there and having heard the quality of the live bootlegs in question, I maintain that this album is the only proper record of this set of songs on offer, and when I heard it for the first time I did not find the performances flat or ininspired. In fact many of them are no less than inspirational. From my perspective, one does not have to necessarily share in Dylan's beliefs here....but for sure this album are incredibly moving on most tracks. On 'Pressing On' Dylan sounds both vulnerable yet sure footed. Singing with the conviction of old, but on this occasion, gone are the bitterness, politics or mystique...here is a man simply striving to be happy and fulfilled. Is this not the goal of anyone? The same can be said about 'What Can I Do For You?' and 'Covenant Woman' and most especially on 'Saving Grace' which is just sublime in its heartfelt lyric and delivery and on this occasion a fine melody to boot. It is not too often that Dylan sounds humble....but he does on most of this record...and the effect is very endearing. There are weaker moments like the unsatisfactory throw away cover of 'A Satisfied Mind' (a great song) and 'In The Garden' and 'Are You Ready' which both suffer from lack of melody, although still carrying a considerable emotional punch. But on 'Solid Rock' not only the emotion is there but he rocks like he hadn't done for years, well supported by his band feauring the reliable Jim Keltner among others on fine form. So there we have it. Dylan's most criticized album. And probably at the time (1980) his most ignored. Yet here am I recommending you to buy it! Well all I can say if you appreciate the complex and intriguing personality that this man was and is, how can you ignore such a pivotal period of his career? I recommend this one, the previous one 'Slow Train Coming' (1979) and the next one 'Shot of Love' (1981). All three are special. And it is 'Saved' which is the personal and quietly devotional of the three. This is no 'Blood On The Tracks' but is immensely rewarding piece of work all the same.
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