important work in color
1962: Bob Dylan. 1963: The Freewheelin Bob Dylan. 1964: The Times They Are a-Changin * Another Side of Bob Dylan. 1965: Bringing It All Back Home * Highway 61 Revisited. 1966: Blonde on Blonde. 1967: Greatest Hits * John Wesley Harding. 1969: Nashville Skyline. 1970: Self-Portrait * New Morning. 1971: Greatest Hits, Vol. 2. 1973: Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid * Dylan. 1974: Planet Waves * Before the Flood. 1975: Blood on the Tracks * The Basement Tapes. 1976: Desire * Hard Rain. 1978: Street Legal. 1979: Dylan at Budokan * Slow Train Coming. 1980: Saved. 1981: Shot of Love. 1983: Infidels. 1984: Real Live. 1985: Empire Burlesque * Biograph (Box Set). 1986: Knocked Out Loaded. 1988: Down in the Groove. 1989: Oh Mercy * Dylan & the Dead. 1990: Under the Red Sky. 1991: The Bootleg Series (Box Set). 1992: Good as I Been to You. 1994: World Gone Mad. 1995: Unplugged. 1997: Time Out of Mind. 1999: Destiny. 2001: Love and Theft.
The deluge of media coverage of the boomer generation and their icons, which has been a reflection of the boomers self-interest their interest in what they liked and bought insured the elevation of neo-folk heroes to unprecedented levels of scrutiny and propagated an unrelenting continuance of 60s marketing campaigns. Currently we are on the threshold of a Beatles sales ploy announcing "You havent heard everything yet," a slogan much better than "Were scraping the bottom of the barrel now," for instance. This doesnt mean that every time the media gears up to cover another Pink Floyd tour the result is simple iconization, although the prominence of the bands new promo shots on the cover of every magazine in sight may exude the trappings of deification. Luckily, pop writers are a prickly lot and feel compelled to drag their feet, gripe a little about the nature of the beast theyre grappling with, sticking in an insult here and there. Sometimes a knife.
Critical revisionism in popular music comes with the ascendancy of unpopular and neglected artists (Otis Redding, Richard Thompson, Tim Buckley, Book T. and the MG's) and a growing lack of interest in those once popular (The Supremes, Creedence Clearwater, Pink Floyd); yet the fact that the former were never extremely popular perpetuates their cult status just like mass popularity insures the higher profile of the latter artists. When dealing with heroes of high stature on the way down its tempting for the hip critic to be the first to notice. Any survey of pop critics will reveal attempts to dismiss acts as passé long before their artistry has diminished. Artistic slumps are depicted as signs of worthlessness. A bad album is offered as proof that a once great artist is no longer viable. There is a tendency among pop critics to cite an unpopular work as a sign of artistic negligibility, when the opposite is true: artists may have their better seasons, but there is definitely more than one. Bob Dylan, for instance, has been written off repeatedly. The 1997 appearance of Time Out of Mind should not have been a surprise, yet it was for many listeners. Time Out of Mind represents the possibility of all sixties survivors: but it is only Dylan, a supremely iconized performer, who gets credit.
Bob Dylan has been more critically controversial than many other artists, though his stature has allowed for ebb and flow in his work. The negative criticism of Dylans work weighs in with complaints that Dylans spontaneity of style leaves much to be desired: his recordings are sometimes never much worked on; the splendid extremes of high-fidelity are never tweaked; there is no rapturous, stereophonic, multi-tracked, tonal glory. No Beatlesque hooks, few production complexities, no musical innovations, and no shining instrumental passages. There is the suggestion that Dylans language-oriented art is less likely to induce ecstasy of the get-up-and-get-crazy variety. When a listener looses himself in an Otis Redding song or a Beatles song, there is one kind of feeling; when lost in a Dylan song, there is another, lesser result. Appreciation perhaps, but not intoxication. Dylan moved from folk to rock, from Another Side of Bob Dylan to Bringin It All Back Home, in an attempt to give his songs more impact, more of the rock and roll synergy he heard around him. If lesser artists could raise hell with bad simulations of the blues, or simple declarations of love, obviously he could do the same with his more attuned love of roots music and his gift for writing lyrics full of wild, caterwauling, detailed import. But still, his detractors would say, in the time it takes to decipher Dylans cross-references and multi-faceted meanings, we would already have been thrown around the room in rolling ecstasy by any number of other bands. Dylans work is often cerebral, which doesnt denigrate it, but it does make certain Dylan recordings like John Wesley Harding, The Times They are aChangin, even parts of Highway 61 Revisited, dry musical entertainment rather than ecstatic entertainment. They are dry in that way we often think of folk music as dry: too much emphasis placed on serious formal intelligence rather than pop music melody and musical wit. Dylans word-power shifts emphasis away from the power of music to the power of language. When a Dylan lyric is good, as opposed to great, the art seems to suffer unnecessarily.
In pursuing these ideas Jon Landau used a critical tool that never seems to make much sense: he said, "the music on [Planet Waves] doesnt hold a candle to the worst music by The Band, let alone anything so majestic as "The Weight," "King Harvest" or "Stage Fright." That Landau finds a good album somewhat diminished next to a classic shouldnt surprise anybody, but you can easily counter the complaint without diminishing the stature of the Band by pointing out that the best music on The Bands Islands doesnt hold a candle to the worst music on Planet Waves.
Landau was one of many who hoped to pierce Dylans armor; he suggested that Dylan wrote "no single cut to equal Elvis Presleys "Mystery Train," Chuck Berrys "Johnny B. Goode," Jerry Lee Lewiss "Breathless," or Little Richards "Long Tall Sally;" but again, even if Dylans best song is one hundred notches below these songs, it may not necessarily denude Dylans own effectiveness (and obviously Elvis never wrote a song as good as even a lesser Dylan tune like "Forever Young" simply because Elvis didnt write songs). Landau may have been drawing a battle line between generational tastes: he often spoke as a critic whose appreciation of music tended towards neo-retro rock & roll, in which case there is a subjective point to be made; but flipping the table reveals that none of the above artists ever recorded a series of albums as sturdy as Bringing It All Back Home, Blonde on Blonde, The Basement Tapes, New Morning, Planet Waves and Blood on the Tracks. (Comparing the Dylan Biograph/Bootleg anthologies to the Beatles anthologies,or to Presleys Sun Recordings boxed set, or to Chuck Berrys boxed set, suggests that pop music's enthusiasm does transcend Dylans personality in many respects, but not in all respects.)
Landau wrote, "the uptempo rock and roll cuts on Bringing It All Back Home are so ragged that they dont even sound like competent demos and pale in comparison to parallel work done by the Byrds."
Reducing the comparison down to a simple production denominator avoids whether or not the the Bryds Mr. Tambourine Man, released in the same year as Dylans Bring It all Back Home and Highway 61 Revisited, is actually superior to both of Dylans records. After all, the title alone pitches Mr. Tambourine Man as an homage to Dylan, and the album is full of cover tunes written by other artists; look closely at the self-penned tunes by the Byrds and you can see they are not as artistically rarefied or personalized as Dylans work - work which was dragging pop & roll towards a different rendezvous than the one that the members of the Byrds had in mind. Landau considered Dylan to be in the singer-songwriter category of musicians, a category he doubted had little lasting value given this aside: "how any of them will finally stand as recording artists no one can yet say." But if Dylan is merely a singer-songwriter, then so is Chuck Berry.
Going from maximal to the minimal, Landau, in what he acknowledged was petty, complained:
"The number of Dylan recordings that have been wasted in part or entirely by the intrusion of his frequently horrible harmonica playing. His handling of that instrument gave a little color to his solo, voice and guitar performances, [but] when pitted against a full band and played in the upper register, it sounds like a bleating sheep."
Yet Dylans harmonica and his acoustic guitar keep him rooted spiritually in the music that spawned him; no matter how urbane, cerebral, or sophisticated Dylan gets, theres always a bit of the Appalachian, the rural, the down-home, in his aesthetic. Whether broadcasting a dire emergency or bowed in humble praise on Slow Train Coming and Saved, or wailing desolately in the windy, barren landscape of John Wesley Harding, or taunting his live audience with irritating triples of self-effacement on Real Lives "It Aint Me Babe," or drunkenly maneuvering his way through the Americana of The Basement Tapes, theres a consistent appropriateness that makes him a more expansive, conceptually emotive harmonica player than almost anybody else in the business. Dylans color rests, quaintly perhaps, on the power of his voice in tandem with harmonica, guitar, words and rootsy arrangements. No matter how large and musical and ornate his big arrangements have grown at times, his strengths still reside in this foundation.
Dave Marsh is harder to contend with because he hardly ever engages in analysis, and is content with top-of-his-head opinions that generally have the ability to piss you off without adding anything to the argument. In the 1979 version of Rolling Stone Record Reviews (Rolling Stone Press), Marsh gets the emphasis wrong when he says Dylans "original love songs, particularly "Dont Think Twice, Its All Right" and "Girl From the North Country," were lyrically far beyond anything any other popular or folk writer had attempted. This is the type of incredible hyperbolic, yet naïve, statement you expect to precede an ideological crucifixion. It cant be understated how insulting this is to every other writer, folksy and otherwise, who came before Dylan, and Dylan would probably be the first person to admit it. When a vast array of critics greeted Dylans Blood on the Tracks with open arms, Marshs comment was "I suppose its all a matter of what youre willing to settle for." Marsh ruins the good points of received ideas: he cavalierly claimed that, up until Desire, Dylans women were either bitches or angels. But Dylan has given women plenty of quality space in his songs. The envy and admiration Dylan feels for the protagonist in the ironically titled "She Belongs to Me" is a recognition of real talent, not imaginary, and the womans freedom is well-earned; the starkness of "North Country Blues" belongs to the folk tradition; the mothers dire straits are depicted within a harrowing portrait that has nothing to do with an angel or a bitch; "Boots of Spanish Leather" has a love affair at its center that slips away so slowly, anger never has a chance to grow, and intimations of loss are again pinned on a womans freedom that is not begrudged; "All I Really Want to Do" may be a canny attempt to get into a girls knickers, but Dylans sneakiness seems both sincere and self-effacing, and suggests a worthy adversary not an easily convinced target (does he even convince her?); "To Ramona" is pitched as friendship and support for a person who seems a hurt friend as much as a lover; "I Dont Believe You" is an inspection of hypocrisy, not "bitchiness" (at least on the original version), and Dylan seems more dumbfounded than pissed; "It Aint Me Babe," although testy and chiding, is a tale of selfishness and would-be possession that threatens the characters own sense of freedom; "Love Minus Zero/No Limit" is an appraisal of constancy and service, it praises a feminine archetype, not an individual and is an assessment of morality, not a standard any particular person has to live up to. One can run down the list of Dylans pre-Desire songs, and disprove Marshs case. Dylans awareness of the travails of femininity has always been a mark of his sophistication and seems pretty faultless even at its most extreme (in "Like a Rolling Stone" Dylan provides enough details to flesh out all of his characters; its up to the listener to figure out what the journalistic/poetic details say about the woman in question. This is not marginalizing; this is exactly the opposite). It is this complexity that makes Dylan a fascinating songwriter.
The most extreme, formal, negative criticism of Bob Dylans work never equals the flack that Dylan is met with by the average listener. The "God-the-man-cant-sing" aversion to Dylans voice is never echoed in the "academic" criticism of Dylans weaknesses, and many, if not most, of his detractors consider him one of pops best vocalists, something that may not be easy to hear in the hit or miss listening opportunities the passive listener is subject to. Even as Dylans voice over the years has lost tone and range, he finds ways to get behind songs: the staccato delivery of "Man in the Long Black Coat," the narrative devices played against the sweeping grandeur of "Brownsville Girl," the snappy poetics of "Political World," the resoluteness of "Got My Mind Made Up," the chromatic melodiousness of the punchy "Solid Rock." Even his most recent album - Love and Theft - show him singing his heart out, though he has next to nothing to work with.
Janet Maslins summation of Bob Dylan in the Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock and Roll (Random House 1976) does an even-handed job of defining the artists strengths and weaknesses. She starts precariously by calling Dylan "the most widely influential poet and performer of his generation" a questionable approach since Dylans poetry, even at its wildest and most intellectual, appealed mostly to people who didnt read poetry, and owed more to Chuck Berry and Jack Kerouac, than to Robert Lowell, T.S. Elliot, or Allen Ginsberg. Reiterating the "voice-of-a-generation" tag, Maslin noted that Dylan seemed to understand "how concerned young Americans felt about nuclear disarmament and the growing movement for civil rights," but she thought people were often let down by Dylan because they "overestimated the extent of his dedication;" a theory that suggests opportunism on the part of Dylan, but also suggests that Dylan was more committed to pursuing his Muse that satisfying the expectations of his fans.
Maslin took a negative slant when noting "though many of his songs have become standards, many diminish with time in a way that George Gershwins or Cole Porters or Lennon and McCartneys or for that matter Woody Guthries do not." Dylans ascendancy as a convention-defying lyricist came at a time when few rock and rollers were listening to Gershwin or Porter. These listeners were largely unfamiliar with the wit, humor, irony, and overall stylistic complexity of Dylans American predecessors (and that includes his folk, blues and country predecessors whom were often quite stunning artists).
Maslin says Dylans words "couldnt survive on the printed page, cut off from the seductive power of his voice," a rather pointless insight since it is true of every pop lyricist except Leonard Cohen. She also oversteps when saying that none of Dylans work after his motorcycle accident in 1966 "has the same old resonance." Certainly The Basement Tapes include some of Dylans most colorful songwriting ("Million Dollar Bash," "Clothes Line Saga," "Down in the Flood," "Tiny Montgomery," "You Aint Goin Nowhere," "Nothing Was Delivered" and "This Wheels on Fire," etc.). If his lyrics lost force as the times became less defined, at least he didnt stick with the dry vagaries of John Wesley Harding, and his music found a looser, more player-friendly framework on New Morning, Planet Waves, Desire and beyond. Only when Dylan was carrying on with his boring religious sentiments has he seemed less than compelling. Maslin was certainly wrong when she claimed that Dylans "greatest songs after Blonde on Blonde would carry less weight than his most idle noodling from 1966." After all, shes talking of not only The Basement Tapes and Blood on the Tracks, but songs that include everything form "All Along the Watchtower" (1968) to "Senor (Tales of Yankee Power)" (1978) to "I and I" (1983) to "Man in the Long Black Coat" (1989).
Where the undissenting positive side of Dylans biggest fans crashes into the negativity of Landau and Marsh can be found the elements that have some of the most important bearing on revisionism and Dylans place in pop & etc. history as it now stands. Clinton Heylin in Bob Dylan: Behind the Shades (Summit Books, pg. 247 1991) writes about Blood on the Tracks:
"For here Dylan had released an album at least the equal of his masterpieces from the mid-sixties. No other artist in white rock and roll can be said to have done that. When individuals or bands hit their stride and begin producing their "classic albums, it becomes self-fulfilling prophecy that they had better exploit the streak of genius while they can because they will never recapture it. The Rolling Stones would never top the four albums from Beggars Banquet through Exile on Main Street; neither Lennon nor McCartney would come close to the quality of Revolver, The White Album or Abbey Road; David Bowie would never match his early seventies trilogy; Bruce Springsteen would never again reach the heights of Born to Run and Darkness on the Edge of Town. And so on."
Very telling is Heylins dwelling on obvious artists with overweening public stature. No one else is invited to play the game. Not to denigrate Dylans achievement, but among the artists who delivered possible trans-decade masterpieces are Captain Beefhart, Van Morrison, The Grateful Dead, David Bowie (if you think Station to Station and Low deserve their rep; and I'd definitely include the masterful Hours), John Lennon (if you think The Plastic Ono Band deserves its rep), Paul Simon, Fleetwood Mac, Lou Reed, Jethro Tull, The Kinks, Procol Harum, Grace Slick, the Rolling Stones (considering they had already had a string of 60s classics before they started the second string with Beggars Banquet), Roxy Music, Santana, Paul Simon, Richard Thompson, the Who, the Jefferson Airplane/Starship, Leonard Cohen, Neil Young and Yes.
The most obvious thing about this list is how linguistically superior Dylan was to just about everybody else. Whats also obvious is how superior so much of the other music is to Dylans spontaneous, rootsy frameworks. Worth noting is the linguistic/poetic/musical integration of other artists. Robert Hunter/Jerry Garcia, Paul Kantner, Grace Slick, Captain Beefhart, Ray Davies, Ian Anderson, Jagger/Richards and Van Morrison may not have equaled Dylan in prodigious, effusive, madcap elocution, but they have often offered poetic feelings through language mixed with musical metaphor, musical description and musical concepts that transcend Dylans master of the bon mot.
Jon Landau showed a bit of snobbery in praising Dylans "rebellion against the folksinger ethos from which he was trying to make his break." After all, Dylans love of the folk ethos is present in just about everything hes ever done. The total neglect of the folk music scene of the late fifties to mid sixties by most pop critics makes that scene the most underrated aspect of sixties' pop music not Motown or Stax or or British Invasion rock and roll. Paul Evans in Rolling Stone Album Guide (Random House 1979) called Dylan "the most significant American rocker since Elvis, Bob Dylan ranks alongside the Beatles as a 60s cultural revolutionary." He says Dylan invented "an entirely new language for popular music." But Dylans language was the language of the blues and the folk music that came before him; it was not without precedent except in its individualized extremes. When Patrick Humphries wrote in Absolutely Dylan, "He infused the teenage form with adult wisdom," he doesnt mention that he got that adult wisdom from folk music. Folk music was a grown up art. In Rock 100 (Grosset and Dunlap 1977) Lenny Kaye and David Dalton point out that "Get Off of my Cloud," "Jigsaw Puzzle," "I Am the Walrus," "Strawberry Fields," or "Come Together" would not have been written without Dylans example. Dylans own songwriting inspiration was fueled by the emphasis on storyline in "House of the Rising Sun," the traveling, "Hard Rain" like cataloguing of events in songs like "Banks of Marble," the wind-whipped landscapes evoked by Mike Seegar and Hedy West on "Young McAfee on the Gallows'or "The Brown Girl" - landscapes that are mirrored in "North Country Blues" and on John Wesley Harding. Inspiration also came from the communal, humorous, anti-hypocritical, inaptly named, "finger-pointing" songs of Utah Phillips, The Weavers, Pete Seeger, and Woody Guthrie. They influenced Dylans political sensibility all the way up to his most recent writing.
If Landau was right to suggest that Elvis, Little Richard and Chuck Berry shouldnt be unjustly left behind due to Dylans ascension as an artist, the same has to be said of Dylans folk predecessors. No matter how far Dylans rep extends, his accomplishments dont negate the gospel, folk, quasi-classical beauty of the Weavers harmony singing; Bill Monroes eerily cosmic earthiness; Dave Van Ronks total vocal immersion in blues bellowing that made his debut album stronger than Dylans; Phil Ochs second besting of Dylan on the political front; Spider Johns astral projection into different times and bodies; or the presence of mature women as major players in the folk game in a way which they were not in rock and roll (Ronnie Gilbert, Mary Travers, Odetta, Sylvia Friker, Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, etc.).
Given a closer scrutiny of folk artists, Dylans earliest releases may not be quite as unique as some have claimed, but Dylan definitely fused together some diverse elements. Dylans debut album in 1962 showcased a writer with considerable talent ("Song to Woody" and "Talking New York") and an inspired, calamitous (perhaps a bit too cocky) performer. Dylans political musing peaked on The Times They Are a-Changin. The follow up Another Side of Bob Dylan spoke of abdication ("Chimes of Freedom," "My Back Pages," "It Aint Me Babe"), and abdication isnt all that interesting a personality trait. Dylans more personal tunes brought him down to a level within grasp of many other folk performers. "Spanish Harlem Incident," "To Ramona," and "Ballad in Plain D," without the color of rock arrangements, were even more striped down than the folk music of some of Dylans peers.
If The Times They Are A-Changin made Dylan a supreme folky, Bringin It all Back Home one side electric, one side folk put him in striking distance of rock and roll. Its definitely remains a breakthrough crossover for a folk artist, a feat much harder to pull off than some may imagine since personality and style are usually hopelessly wedded forever. Perplexing is Tim Rileys suggestion in Hard Rain that this was the advent of a new kind of acoustic music the only things new were Dylans lyrics and the overtly (sometimes covertly) autobiographical elements they represented.
The more highly esteemed Highway 61 Revisited went 100 percent electric, but "Desolation Row," "Just Like Tom Thumbs Blues," and "Tombstone Blues" all put a drag on the album with pseudo-poetic, surreal cataloguing that seems tediously self-conscious. Dylans cataloguing often became a crutch, a lead idea extemporaneously belabored to death. And Dylans conceptual language continued to keep conceptual music at bay.
Blonde on Blond is an unargued classic, much more personal and down to earth. The Basement Tapes are too much fun to argue with.
John Wesley Harding is another matter. Unlike the weak songs on Highway 61 Revisited, the "poetry" seems meaningful and well thought out. But Dylans masterful state-of-the-human-soul is without emotional and musical dimension. Upon the release of the record, in Rolling Stone Magazine, Gordon Mills original interpretations of Dylans songs are classic examples of misreading. Mills mistook the protagonists line in "As I Went Out One Morning" "I will secretly accept you; and together well fly south" as another characters line. He mistakes Tom Paines line "Im sorry for what shes done" as the protagonists. Not that it makes much difference: Dylans success with ambiguity and imagery are more spotty than successful here, and misreading is a natural and forgivable result of anybody digging for meaning. The difference between whats great about Dylan, and what is headache-inducing, may not be all that much. Better explication of the text of John Wesley Harding would have been helpful, but little has been written and none has been particularly insightful in kicking this album up a notch or two. And if the text doesnt work on Harding, not much else is left. (Greil Marcus somehow manages to write about the greatness of John Wesley Harding without ever mentioning anything about the actual album - and his ineffectual praise is actually the most the album has stirred up during all these years).
After John Wesley Harding, Dylans career means different things to different people. Blood on the Tracks and Desire seem worthy of the higher accolades theyve received. The underdogs are New Morning, Planet Waves, Street Legal and Infidels, and a large number of songs he wrote for other albums. New Morning is a bourgeoisie classic, an inspection of middle-class virtue. On "Day of the Locusts," Dylan is better praised by natures lull and peace than by notorietys judges (the academy); the reward for Dylans labor is having a private abode to escape to. "Time Passes Slowly" when youre lost in a dream takes on added resonance considering Dylan was singing about an idle that no longer exists now that hes on the Never-ending Tour. "Went to See the Gypsy" features Elvis as a faith healer Dylan doesnt begrudge the involvement of the people in that "little Minnesota town" hes captivated himself. Dylan notices the necessity, the attraction of the idol; hes part of the audience, but, of course, he's also Elvis. The title track is a celebration of the fruits of success, with only token ambiguity. "Sign on a Window" is an unconvincing excuse for disengagement. "The Man in Me" is a witty, self-deprecating boast, welded to intense need. Its also an apology ("The man in me might hide sometimes to keep from being seen/Thats just because he doesnt want to turn into some machine.") "Three Angels has great atmosphere; "Father of Night is a prayer. His singing is gruff, yet tonally warm throughout. Dylans domestic landscapes had clarity of vision because the peace and quiet were relatively new to him. While similar songs by James Taylor seem smug or irrelevant, New Morning is heightened by Dylans restless, rambunctious personality. The lyrics on New Morning, though not extremely ambitious, are crafted better than lyrics by most other writers. Songs that float on Dylans sensibility, even underwritten tunes, often connect because Dylans involvement is always, in voice and words, emotionally intelligent. New Mornings retirement bliss was/is contagious, even if it is no match for the neurotic temperament displayed on other records.
Planet Waves includes the sure-handed syncopation of The Band even if they sound a bit incomplete without the explosive community of voices they contributed to The Basement Tapes. "Tough Mama," "Something There is About You," and "Never Say Goodbye" all seem underrated in the Dylan canon. The accusations of simple-minded domesticity that have plagued the album dont seem accurate given its thoroughly downbeat nature.
I have had a hard time throwing Street Legal into the dustbin of history because I played "Changing of the Guard" every day for weeks on end, and I still like it though I have never come any closer to its meaning. Also scintillating are "Senor (Tales of Yankee Power)," "True Love Tends to Forget" and "Where Are You Tonight?" There is resignation of a harrowing variety here that has colored all of Dylans subsequent work. Dylans truthfulness has seldom been so gloomy. Its a great downer album, garish, and not for all tastes.
Dylan still defends the songs he wrote during his religious conversion. Slow Train Coming, Saved and Shot of Love had a popular folk appeal that seemed to flatter Dylan. He won a Grammy Award for the first release, which contains curmudgeonly examples of born-again finger pointing with none of the ecstatic high points that more gracious gospel can offer, and without the distance that makes culturally entrenched gospel more exotic. Dylans usual ambiguity and depth are replaced with a shallow acceptance of born again clichés. Predictably, Dylan back-pedaled at a steady rate.
In fact, Dylans career since 1980 has not been all that controversial. The great songs are still to be found, but not in quantity. Many other 60s artists have been more consistent, and a few have transcended him. Biograph and The Bootleg Series shored up Dylans legend with prodigious examples of his early output. But Time Out of Mind and the two albums of blues and folk standards that led up to it, are more than a strong resurgence.
(See the reviews page for more recent Dylan albums)
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