Given Dylan's mysterious pre-release comment 'the lyrics are the grid which holds this record together', everyone was dubious that at this late stage in his career he could pull off two great records in a row, and so expected another Under the Red Sky
. Instead, they got another Desire
. Well, nearly.
This is actually a fraction less enjoyable and less high quality than Time Out of Mind
, due to the immensely silly nature of many of these songs ... rockabilly! rock'n'roll! Maybe Dylan took the comments about his previous album being 'sombre' to heart, as this is by far and away his 'happiest' sounding record since Desire
. So, where did that come from!?
"Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum" sets the album's tone - it's supremely silly but sounds fantastic, and the lyrics are just grin-inducing. Then a much more serious moment arrives with "Mississippi", a true modern-day Dylan classic that could easily sit on any future 'Best of' compilation, it's virtually flawless, as good a song as any he's written.
"Summer Days" is pure rockabilly, and just - well, it's just good fun, and very well recorded, that's the best thing about it. More great silly lyrics, of course. Then "Bye and Bye", with its charming descending melodies, completes a strong opening to the album.
That's followed by "Lonesome Day Blues", which I suspect is more sound than substance; "Floater" has a haunting violin to it, with more silly charming melodies; "High Water" even includes a little country picking guitar! This is all of musical history - well, Dylan's musical history anyway - this album pretty much covers it all.
by Reviewer: Adrian Denning
(blogging at Adrian's Album Reviews