Desire by Bob Dylan

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Desire by Bob Dylan
Desire by Bob Dylan

Album Released: 1976

Desire ::: Artwork

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4.One More Cup Of Coffee (Valley Below)3:43
5.Oh, Sister4:05
7.Romance In Durango5:50
8.Black Diamond Bay7:30


Wow, this is a unique specimen! Have you heard anything quite like it? It shows Bob Dylan performing lengthy story-songs with a pop flavor to them.

But there's one thing that pops out at every listener the first time they put on this album - there's someone noodling around with a very fluid-like fiddle throughout, and I mean, this fiddle sounds positively golden. Story is that he met this violinist, Scarlet Rivera, by happenstance.

There is a lot of controversy surrounding this album, which probably explains why it became one of Dylan's best sellers (it reached Double Platinum, a feat not even shared by Highway 61 Revisited). It contains a protest song about the imprisonment of boxer Rubin Carter, who was accused of murder and serving a life sentence. Dylan very bluntly tells us in the song that Carter was innocent and the people who put him in jail were racists. Whether or not Carter was actually innocent, the song ended up drumming up a lot of support for Carter, eventually resulting in his release from prison in 1985. Perhaps this is one of the few examples in the world where a protest song can claim to have achieved something! But who cares about the lyrics when the melody is catchy as hell, it's upbeat in spite of the lyrics. Of course it's hard to ignore lyrics in a Bob Dylan album, but if you just feel like dancing to something, he creates quite an infectious groove. If this doesn't make your toe tap, then nothing will.

Maybe a bigger point of controversy among Bob Dylan fans is that he collaborated with someone by the name of Jacques Levy on these songs, who mainly helped write the lyrics. That seems a little bit like Billy Joel helping Paul McCartney out with melodies, but whatever. If there's one thing true about Dylan throughout his career, it's that he did whatever he felt like. The partnership could also explain a song like “Mozambique”, with lyrics that sound like it was taken from a cheeky tourism video, but wow I love that song! The melody is pure POP in a way I've never heard him do before.

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

Despite the title, only a few songs are about Dylan's ex-wife, the obvious one being the famous "Sara", that's alternately nice then mean to her (easy to look at, but so hard to define). Whilst this is a good record, it's something of letdown after the last masterpiece, being full of squeaking violin courtesy of Scarlet Rivera, something that can get grating after a while.

That Dylan felt it necessary to bring in lyricist Jacques Levy to co-write these songs is distressing, as they result in lyrics that are among Dylan's simplest, and unfortunately, sometimes his dumbest too. The sound is fuller and more country rockin' than on the previous album, which works well on the great opener, an 8-minute epic titled "Hurricane", about an unjustly sentenced heavyweight boxing champion.

Unfortunately, the companion piece to "Hurricane" is the 11-minute "Joey", a sentimental ode to the gangster Joey Gallo. So Dylan thought Joey Gallo was some sort of hero? Now that's taking your Edward G. Robinson pictures a little too seriously.

There are nine songs, lasting nearly an hour, and for every decent tune there's one that's not that good. Case in point: the unbearable and endless "Isis", that can't shut up and just drones on forever - in other words, it's the prototype for a type of song Dylan would inflict on his audience now and again for the next two decades. His earlier rambling epics were at least interesting - he would never write another "Desolation Row" though.

There are some lightweight throwaways that are at least musically adventurous enough to keep things interesting (meaning 'musically adventurous' by Dylan's standards - let's face it, sonics have never been the man's strong point. Brian Wilson he ain't) ... such as the flamenco-flavored "Romance in Durango", and the absurd "Mozambique". I mean, that last song has to be tongue-in-cheek, right? After all, Mozambique is a famine-stricken African nation that Dylan probably only knew from a map, not anybody's idea of paradise.

A few years later he converted to Christianity and forgot how to write good songs, though I'm sure those two happenings are unrelated.

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by Reviewer: Creative Noise (blogging at Creative Noise)

Only months after releasing Blood on the Tracks, Dylan was already looking forward, searching for a new sound. He could've just made Blood on the Tracks Pt. 2, but instead he found an exotic violin player called Scarlet Riveria, and she effectively became the 'lead guitar' player for this set of recordings.

Dylan still played acoustic and sang of course, talented musicians Rob Stoner and Howard Wyeth made up the rhythm section, and EmmyLou Harris sings backing vocals. The result is a damn fine-sounding record - I so love the sound this group of musicians create, especially the violin - it's an unusual but very effective touch.

Desire would almost be guaranteed a place in the history books just for the stupendously exciting "Hurricane", a song that screams out 'classic' as soon as the opening bars kick in. Then "Isis" makes it two classics in a row, both songs clearly following on from the writing techniques used for Blood on the Tracks.

It's difficult to keep track of or make sense of what's going on lyrically, but this is a much more varied album compared to Blood on the Tracks, whose songs were pretty much in the same style, it wasn't so much of a 'musical' album as such, though some songs such as "Tangled Up In Blue" were supremely musical. Nothing like Desire's "Mozambique" however, where EmmyLou Harris is audible on backing vocals, and the violin perfectly suits the exotic 'foreign' feel of the music. Likewise, on "One More Cup of Coffee", the violin is key to the haunting melody, a fantastic song.

Though it's another interesting song, especially lyrically, and another exotic mixture of sounds musically, the 11-minute "Joey" could conceivably try the patience of even the biggest fan of the sound of this record - it does drag on! I can't criticise it too much though, the blending of Dylan and EmmyLou Harris's voices in the chorus is a thing of beauty.

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