Album of the Day: Bob Dylan (4/9/69) 41 Years!

Nashville Skyline wasn’t Bob Dylan’s best album by any stretch, but it did top out at #3 in the U.S. and a surprising #1 on the U.K. charts (find Bob in The Playlist Vault, here). Recorded in Nashville (where else?) with a cadre of local session musicians and released on April 9, 1969, the album includes a duet (a remake of “Girl From The North Country”) with Johnny Cash and reflects the emergence of the country-rock sub-genre and the early shift of pure country music toward the pop mainstream.

Nashville Skyline spun three singles onto the pop charts, with “Lay Lady Lay” the only one to see significant chart action. The other two (“Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You” and “I Threw It All Away”) were pretty decent slower country tunes, but Dylan wasn’t a country artist and Nashville Skyline was far from a rock album, so one shouldn’t be surprised that the singles didn’t hit. But that’s the whole point. The album was smack in the middle of the early development of country-rock, and Dylan was on the forefront along with the Byrds, Gram Parsons and Neil Young.

And Bob Dylan’s best? My money’s on Blonde On Blonde, with Highway 61 Revisited at #2 and Blood On The Tracks #3. Your bias can be registered on DrRock.com. Nashville Skyline can be purchased as a CD or mp3 downloads on Amazon or iPod files on iTunes.

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  1. #1 by wallernotweller on April 10, 2010 - 1:25 am

    great blog fella. I just finished reviewing Infidels on mine http://wallernotweller.wordpress.com/

    BOB DYLAN Infidels (Columbia)

    This record is almost defined by what is not on it, the four outtakes that finally surfaced on The Bootleg Series Volumes 1-3 (Rare And Unreleased) some eight years later are considered to be amongst Dylan’s greatest songs from his difficult eighties period. Whilst I agree that Foot Of Pride, Someone’s Got A Hold Of My Heart and Tell Me are all solid enough tunes it is only Blind Willie McTell that would add a further golden nugget in the crown of Bob Dylan’s most treasured songs. Perhaps it was left off the album because this blues based number has its lyrical themes based in the past when the majority of Infidels proper has it’s foot firmly planted in 1983. Perhaps Bob was just being Bob, I think he must get a kick out of making these odd decisions and expanding on his own myth in the process. He didn’t get to this point by sheer fluke.

    But what of the numbers that made it onto Infidels itself. Well, how much you like this record may depend on how much you appreciate Mark Knopfler from Dire Straits, not only his smooth production style but also his slick guitar playing which saturates most every nook and cranny. A quick listen to the introductory moments from Sweetheart Like You reveal an uncanny resemblance to Straits’ Sultans Of Swing. On the whole it only succeeds in averting focus from what really matters on this album. And what matters is Dylan’s return to form from his previous two below par gospel based long players Saved and Shot Of Love. If I wanted Dire Straits I would listen to Dire Straits, it’s a little too heavy handed and is the one thing that spoils the record for me.

    The songs themselves are a joy. His twenty-second album kicks off with the six minute Jokerman, which is up there amongst the very elite tunes in the Dylan songbook, from the very first listen the chorus sticks in your head and all further listens each reward you with a new discovery, a lyric here, an alternate drum pattern there. It must have been an electric day in the studio. Watching playback of the David Letterman show he performed the song on I didn’t even realise it was Jokerman until the chorus kicked in. Although it had an urgent up-tempo feel, with different musicians backing him the spark was gone, goes to show how bad Infidels could have turned out if the conditions weren’t right.

    Many critics attribute this return to form on Infidels to Rolling Stones guitarist Mick Taylor who added a raunchy feel to numbers such as Neighbourhood Bully and a saucy swagger to I And I but really it’s the departure from the overtly religious themes that make this record such a landmark. You can sense the relief of the long term Dylan heads as the final notes of Jokerman end. They have their Bob back again. It’s only on Man Of Peace where he treads the Christian line once more but the path this time is less in your face and abstract enough to be taken as an opinion rather than a bible bashing fact. It’s far more appetising.

    Another track of high merit here is Sweetheart Like You. There is a hint of sexism throughout where Bob informs us that “A woman like you should be at home, that’s where you belong, taking care of somebody nice”. Even in 1983 this sort of behaviour was not acceptable and yet I like that about Dylan, you know where you stand with him, he may not follow trends or be politically correct and in fact you can bet that if something he was part of became in vogue he would drop it for new pastures fresh. Now I’m not implying that if he released an album full of Roy ‘Chubby’ Brown pastiches I’d buy it, but with Infidels he became reliable again, even if reliable means he turned into a grumpy old fart at the age of forty-two. I’d take that over Dylan the born again preacher any day.

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