Some readers may think I've boxed myself into a corner here ... by giving Planet Waves
a 2 star rating surely Dylan
has to score significantly lower?
Even Dylan himself in Chronicles
describes this album with bemusement, although he's careful not to actually criticize it. What confuses me is that this album was released by Columbia during a period when Dylan was no longer with the label, apparently as 'revenge', yet it's actually a fairly strong release.
I've dug into my Dylan sessionography to find out exactly where the songs on Dylan
come from. A few are out-takes from Self Portrait
, the rest come from the New Morning
sessions. That information may not fill fans with confidence, but then the better moments from both albums were absolutely great.
Dylan doesn't necessarily always choose the best songs for his albums, I don't think he's ever been obtuse about that, he's just not sure of what his own best work is. So although it's blindingly obvious that they're not amongst his very best work, the out-takes from New Morning
are all perfectly respectable. And the tracks from Self Portrait
(the final three basically), are just a bit of fun.
And to counteract the accusation that both Self Portrait
and this album were deliberate acts of career sabotage, Dylan does actually properly sing here - he's not giving half-hearted vocal performances. Besides, some people like him doing the odd trad/arr and cover version. "Lily of the West" for example has a speedy little rhythm, with Dylan playing harmonica, and is a proper tune. Sure, he wasn't so hot at songwriting at this stage and he mumbles some of the words, but it works really well - it sounds like Dylan.
by Reviewer: Adrian Denning
(blogging at Adrian's Album Reviews