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