Soundtrack: Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid by Bob Dylan

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Soundtrack: Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid by Bob Dylan
Soundtrack: Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid by Bob Dylan

Album Released: 1973

Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid ::: Artwork

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1.Main Title Theme (Billy)6:05
2.Cantina Theme (Workin' For The Law)2:56
3.Billy 13:55
4.Bunkhouse Theme2:15
5.River Theme1:28
6.Turkey Chase3:34
7.Knockin' On Heaven's Door2:32
8.Final Theme5:23
9.Billy 45:03
10.Billy 72:08


It's for good reason that Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid was never considered a quintessential Bob Dylan album. That reason of course, is because it's a soundtrack, and it's filled mostly with instrumentals.

As is the nature with many soundtrack albums, its pieces weren't designed to be listened to but rather listened 'with'. Nevertheless, surprisingly, this album provides plenty of moments that are well worth their weight in gold (or perhaps that's not so surprising, since Bob Dylan was still riding high on his awesome streak).

The weightiest song on the album is “Knockin' on Heaven's Door”, which I'm sure even the most modest rock'n'roll fan knows by heart. It's so notable that I expect many people think of Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid only as *that* album with the Country & Western classic “Knockin' on Heaven's Door” on it (an impression intensified by the fact that it's one of only two songs here ... the other song - “Billy” - gets repeated a few times). But there's a good reason why people only remember this album for “Knockin' on Heaven's Door” - its atmosphere is heavenly, and the melody is the sort of thing that sticks the first time it's heard. Surely, any C&W superstar would readily give his left foot for such a song, and many have made cover versions of it.

However, I won't lie to you and pretend that this is the most fascinating album that ever lived. Many of these tracks are long sparse instrumentals played on simple acoustic guitar, that frankly contain little to keep my mind from wandering away. But maybe these tracks are supposed to make our minds wander? Where they take my mind is to the fresh-aired Wild West, touring the countryside on a trotting horse. I've never seen the movie, but they couldn't possibly be for scenes other than that. These tracks are usually sweet, gritty, and surprisingly atmospheric in spite of their sparseness.

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by Reviewer: Don Ignacio (blogging at Don Ignacio's Album Reviews)

The only way I'd assess this soundtrack album is to judge it as just that ... a soundtrack album. I don't care about the movie or the history, or the fact this is Bob Dylan.

Compared to today's soundtrack albums, this one is a little short, a little on the light side. It isn't any heavy project, but the songs are nice diversions nevertheless, all well put together and showcasing how melodic Dylan's music can be.

Mind you, when Dylan is involved, expectations distort the mind to the point where objectivity is almost impossible. So, although this album's status within the Dylan catalogue is minor, you may find it outweighing some of the more 'major' albums because of what it's like to actually listen to.

Apart from a couple of tracks, this is an entirely instrumental LP, so it's something of an anomaly in the Dylan catalogue because of that. That it happens to contain one all-time classic song is probably what helped it stay in print.

That classic is of course "Knockin' On Heaven's Door", a song so simple anybody could've written it, yet it took Dylan to match the tune and the performance - none of the cover versions really come close. On the album, it's followed by one of the best instrumental cuts, called "Final Theme", with its acoustic guitar, backing vocals, and flute, making for a very pretty melody.

A song as lyrically good as "Billy 4" is a little movie in itself, it's a minor masterpiece. The song presages (with a little imagination) parts of Blood on the Tracks, being a stripped-back acoustic affair much in line with classic Dylan.

Despite saying at the start of this review that I didn't care about this being a Dylan album, or a soundtrack, what is music without context? Without context all music is just background that doesn't connect emotionally, yet some of these brief instrumental excerpts, along with a couple of the songs proper, do connect.

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by Reviewer: Adrian Denning (blogging at Adrian's Album Reviews)