Dylan's previous release Down in the Groove
marked both a critical and commercial low-point for him - the album had failed to chart, and was derided by music writers, commentators, and even the most loyal of Dylan fans. Still, the Travelling Wilburys - the project that rejuvenated George Harrison - helped Dylan too.
Factor in a guy who knew how to handle the studio - U2 producer Daniel Lanois - and that was one less thing for Dylan to worry about. So the first noticeable thing about this album is how GREAT it sounds, and in light of the often inappropriate production of Dylan's 80's albums, it's fantastic to have a Dylan album that sounds both contemporary and timeless at the same time.
Unfortunately, the songs aren't always as good as they sound, but there are some fine moments here in terms of writing ... the opening "Political World" despite sounding great seems slightly half-formed in terms of its structure; "Where Teardrops Fall" manages to be so very emotionally affecting in a way no Dylan song had been since around 1980, at least.
"Everything Is Broken" is another under-developed melody, although the performance is great - it rattles along!; and "Ring Them Bells" takes me back, a truly timeless and stunningly beautiful song with an accomplished and appropriate Dylan vocal.
"Man in the Long Black Coat" wraps up the first side, and it's stupendous, with haunting guitar and harmonica amidst the atmospheric opening section, a rough but affecting Dylan vocal delivering some of the finest lyrics he'd written - well, ever. A true return to form in every way possible, and also sounding great in terms of performance and production.
by Reviewer: Adrian Denning
(blogging at Adrian's Album Reviews