Monday, September 17, 2007

Classic Pick:-->Bob Dylan "Desire" (1976)

"I married Isis on the fifth day of May...
But I could not hold on to her very long.
So I cut off my hair and I rode straight away...
For the wild unknown country where I could not go wrong."
Bob Dylan
From a very early age, I developed a very eclectic taste in the CDs I now enjoy, thanks in part to growing up with an obsessive musical family. And I dare say, I have probably heard more Bob Dylan albums than most of my peers.

But as big a fan as I am, it may surprise you, that there are few Dylan albums I truly enjoy from beginning to end. My favorite...and the one I recommend to the oft forgotten "Desire".

Released in 1976, "Desire" was amazingly recorded in just a few nights after several chaotic rehearsals guided BD to go with a "less is more" route...with first-takes usually being sufficient. Along with his band, Dylan invited the gorgeous voice of Emmylou Harris and the haunting violin play of Scarlet Rivera into the studio which seems to have provided the magic and verve necessary for Bobby D. to deliver arguably one of his top three truly great albums.

Opening with “Hurricane”, a driving rock song and most well-known track on the CD, the listener is greeted by a soft-strumming guitar, soon joined by an ominous violin.

Then urgent pounding drums announce the entrance of Dylan as he angrily spews eight minutes of rhyme describing, in detail, a real life crime involving boxer, Rubin “Hurricane” Carter.

“Here comes the story of The Hurricane, The man the authorities came to blame, For somethin' that he never done. Put in a prison cell, but one time he could-a been the champion of the world“.

(Carter was found guilty, served several years in prison, was twice re-tried, and eventually released, but not exonerated from the crime). The fact that Dylan could so precisely describe a questionable injustice, in rhyme, without a wasted word for over eight minutes, is a testament to his legend. Simply awesome.

On “Isis”, Dylan never sounded so self-assured as he recalls a journey filled with mystery inspired by his ex-wife. Still a fresh wound and one of two songs attributed to her.

Listen to the cocky piano provided by BD as he sings, “A man in the corner approached me for a match. I knew right away he was not ordinary. He said, "are you lookin' for somethin' easy to catch?" I said, "I got no money." he said, "that ain't necessary." A great song and is worth the price of admission.

“Your breath is sweet. Your eyes are like two jewels in the sky. Your back is straight, your hair is smooth on the pillow where you lie”. (“One More Cup Of Coffee”) has an Arabian feel, both dreamy and haunting, with Emmylou providing trademark harmony.

Beautiful violin and harmonica blend in the gentle “Oh Sister” as Bobby/Emmylou sing, “Oh, sister, am I not a brother to you. And one deserving of affection? And is our purpose not the same on this earth, To love and follow His direction?”
Dylan performing "Oh Sister" - Must Watch!

“Joey”, is an eleven minute hard luck story about the unjustly done-in gangster, Joey Gallo. This song is often pointed to as a weak track but I find it epic and smart.

Check out this rhyme. “The police department hounded him, they called him Mr. Smith. They got him on conspiracy, they were never sure who with. "What time is it?" said the judge to Joey when they met. "Five to ten," said Joey. The judge says, "That's exactly what you get." Extremely astute.

The album closes with the heartrending “Sara”, an ode to his ex-wife filled with bittersweet memories and full of emotion. This is a very personal song. A final plea, perhaps, for her not to leave him.

“Now the beach is deserted except for some kelp. And a piece of an old ship that lies on the shore. You always responded when I needed your help. You gave me a map and a key to your door“.

Bob Dylan
has never sounded so powerful and yet, so vulnerable as he did on this unforgettable CD. “Desire” reached number one in early 1976, and then, but for the opening track, was seldom heard on any radios again.

Dylan, obviously has a surfeit of great songs and many good albums in his catalog, however this offering is the one I keep returning to and could easily be the introduction a newcomer needs to fall under the spell of this word smith. Good Stuff!


Bob Dylan:-->"Isis" (Desire) (1976) (Must Own)


whiteray said...

Top three? Hmmm. I'd have to start with "Blood on the Tracks" and go to "Blonde on Blonde" after that. And boy, I think "Oh Mercy" or "Love and Theft" or "Highway 61" come next. But that's one of the joys of Dylan: We all hear him differently! Nice post, and it is a good album!

Marshwiggle23 said...

i agree it's a brilliant album but joey is a weak link

Casey said...

WhiteRay...There's nothing like using the word..."arguably" to sneak in one's agenda, huh?
And Blood On The Tracks was one of my other 3 choices.

a.v.koshy...More than any song..."Joey" seems to be the one that bothers people the most. Perhaps the rhymes are more forced than usual with this one...but I still dig it!
Thanks for the comment.