Sunday, March 18, 2007

Twelve Best...Dylan Albums in the 1970s (#12)

Over the next week or so, I plan to write about a decade that many gloss over when it comes to the career of Bob Dylan—the 1970s. The most famous album of his from that decade is, of course, Blood on the Tracks but there are many others worth talking about. But there’s also some real junk in there.

Also, I won’t be including Bob Dylan Greatest Hits, Vol. 2 and The Basement Tapes because one isn’t an actual album while the other was recorded in the 1967, so that’d be a little unfair.

To the list!

#12. Dylan

-I’m not being terribly original in putting this dreadful album as the worst thing Dylan released in the 1970s but man, it’s really horrible. There’s a reason it’s not currently in print and relatively tough to find. Thanks to my Discussing Dylan professor, the wonderful Robert Levinson, I got Dylan and was thoroughly mortified and…well, bored.

The story behind Dylan is quite well known amongst fans at this point: Put together by Columbia in order to get back at Bob for switching to Asylum Records, they culled together outtakes from Self Portrait and released it on November 19, 1973—very shortly before Planet Waves was to be released. The result of the album is basic junk that makes one wonder why Dylan would want to ever return to Columbia—except for that whole getting money thing.

The best track on the album is “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” which Bob took from “the Gypsy,” Elvis Presley. The song is terrifically schmaltzy but there is some tenderness behind the schmaltz, which makes it stand out from the other songs. The other listenable tracks would include “Lily of the West,” “The Ballad of Ira Hayes” and “Spanish is the Loving Tongue.”

Unless you’re a completist, there’s no reason to have Dylan in your collection.

5 comments:

Bodgieman said...

another person who believes the hype hey!!
you have just named 4 songs out of ten that you think are listenable on a supposedly unlistenable lp. i'm not sayng it a great lp but its not as bad as all that.. also it has one dylan original(sic) on it - sara jane ..." i've got a wife and five little kids
sara jane..gonna take trip on a big white ship... sara jane.." A sara song people forget about.
re big yellow taxi - didn't some recent group have big hit with that with nearly the same arrangement?
aslo ira hays is well handled as is spanish is the loving tongue - a song that is covered on the basemnt tapes (original real ones) and i think on the b-side of george Jackson
overall there is a consistency to the vocal sounds and the recording quality that is warm
sure it is an anomaly in the career but isn't that one pof the things that makes dylan's ouvre
interesting
next thing you know you will gragging out all the old cliches re self portrait

rob! said...

i actually like the album...am i crazy?

yes, "spanish is the loving tongue" is beyond awful,but i actually really like "Sarah Jane" (i even have it on my current Bob mix CD right now), "Mary Ann", "Ira Hayes", and "A Fool Such As I."

sure, it doesnt really hold up as an album, but in terms of the good songs/stinkers ratio, its no worse than "official" albums like Empire Burlesque or Down in the Groove!

Josh Kurp said...

Bodgieman, I never actually used the word "unlistenable," and outside of "Can't Help Falling in Love," it's not exactly a glowing compliment when I use the word "listenable” to describe all the other tracks on an album. If I had liked the songs, I would have used words like “good” or even “interesting.” As for your believing the hype comment, what hype are you referring to? You mean, my actually listening to the album and formulating an opinion about it?

I could have included “Sara Jane” and “The Ballad of Ira Hayes,” and upon listening to it again last night, I should have. My apologies there. Also, about “Big Yellow Taxi,” the band you’re referring to is the Counting Crows, who had a major hit of it from their Hard Candy album.

As for Self Portrait, I happen to thoroughly enjoy that album and will write about it soon enough.

And Rob!, I totally agree about Down in the Groove which, in my humble opinion, is Dylan’s worst album.

Bodgieman said...

the lp is actually titled "a fool such as i" ( no doubt columbias dig at him ) and not "dylan"
re the hype;- i refer to the hype as just re-iterating an existing and old opinion without trying to contextualise the lp in a new and invigorating way. Of course you have your own opinion on the tracks but they don't appear to add to the general body of knowledge overall.
Instead of taking apart each lp on a dissecting table it might be more interseting to examine themes within them for example dylans use of the cover song,( he has done practiacally 5 lps of covers) and what actually influenced the decision to record the sound of those recordings the way he and Bob Johnson did. Why those particular tracks?
I am not sure i believe they were just left over tracks from self-portrait - they have a differant feel and are very consistent in overall recording sound. they may simply be a session that was shelved for another project -should self-portait have been more popular - but I am conjectufring here.
i don't mean to be petulant about what you are doing but surely the challenge is to come up with a new apprtoach to listening to old bob tracks
re down in the groove - well obviuosly, i think a contractual obligation lp , but the last three tracks
- 90 miles an hour, rank strangers and shanendor are fine performances,
and another strange choice of cover images - all from the "hearts of fire" film
keep up the work - i look forward to your next review!

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