Under the Red Sky
had a stormy reception upon release, and indeed, it is lyrically unambitious, musically fairly simple, and the production and mixing border on synthetic.
Still, Dylan is joined by Don Was, George Harrison, David Crosby, Slash, Bruce Hornsby and the legendary Al Kooper. So Under the Red Sky
is pretty solid technically, and often actually impressive, particularly Bruce Hornsby.
Crosby's voice sits under Dylan's, harmonising so quietly as to be a whisper, it works very well. And Kooper can clearly be heard on the pleasing "Handy Dandy", a much-needed boost, as by the second half the record gets tiring to listen to.
Dylan's vocals are slightly thin, but his voice holds up pretty well, lending the songs an edge, a sense of foreboding. That's in contrast to many of the lyrics, which are seemingly preoccupied with childhood nursery rhymes, and the accompanying music is often relaxed and laidback.
That's not to say this is an album of ballads, but even the rockers sound slightly constrained due to the Don Was production. There's a nice accordion mixed in, but sonically Under the Red Sky
as a whole sounds rather anemic. It just doesn't impress on that level.
There's no rough edges here - Don Was has tried to make a professional Dylan album, yet the result isn't as pleasing as it might've been. It seems that Under the Red Sky
is content to be what it is, rather than try to live up to any kind of reputation.Rated:
by Reviewer: Adrian Denning
(blogging at Adrian's Album Reviews