Desire (1976)


 
1. Hurricane 2. Isis 3. Mozambique 4. One More Cup of Coffee (Valley Below) 5. Oh, Sister 6. Joey 7. Romance in Durango 8. Black Diamond Bay 9. Sara

 

As the middle of the seventies plodded on, Dylan found himself a bit rejuvenated in terms of his popularity. All of the sudden, his music was finding itself in the forefront of FM radio and his albums were selling, once again, in mass quantities. This album, released in 1976, was probably his last "big" release of the decade and at the time his audiences ate it up. Many today don't consider it to be one of the high points of his catalog, and it retrospect, it's easy to see why, even though he does deliver the goods as expected.

It's a lot different from Blood on The Tracks, his last studio release, yet this seemed to be his goal every time he released an album (i.e. making it sound nothing like its predecessor). Incorporating a regular group of musicians called "The Rolling Thunder Review", he takes on the style of music that somehow sounds very consistent, yet at the same time the songs are all over the place, incorporating many styles and feels. There are two things that really stand out on this album, and this reviewer's opinion, they do slightly more harm than good. One is Scarlet Rivera's violin playing on every song, and the other is Emmylou Harris' accompanying vocals on, what it seems anyway, every song as well. Both of these additions should be welcome, but their presence is mixed too much in the forefront to where we feel overwhelmed. Emmylou Harris is a beautiful singer, yet when she accompanies Dylan, she simply overwhelms him, and one wishes her presence is toned down several notches.

Songwise, there's....well....a lot here. A lot of different styles and a lot of volume. This single album clocks in at almost an hour and every song feels like its at least seven minutes in length (only four actually are, but they all feel like it). Take the best, and most known song, Hurricane. If, for whatever reason, you haven't heard the song, it's a song about the seemingly wrongful conviction of boxer Reuben "Hurricane" Carter. It goes on at almost eight and a half minutes. Dylan is majorly pissed in the song and doesn't hide anything behind a subtle concoction of allegories or metaphors. No, he tells it like it is, and no one can miss the point here. Fortunately it's a great song, and managed to raise awareness to the tragedy, mainly because of the bluntness of the song.

Other's don't fair quite as well. Joey about mobster Joey Gallo is simply too long, too tiring and simply too much. This time the "hero" is definitely questionable. Dylan tries to go for a bit of an Italian feel, but with Harris' country croon and the ever present fiddle/violin, the overall package just doesn't seem to work. Isis is a bit of a weird one. Like the above two, it's a story song, but I don't have the slightest idea what it is he's talking about in this weird mythological yarn. The music on this one isn't bad, and since it's only seven minutes in length, it's a bit easier to enjoy.

My two favorites are One More Cup of Coffee (Valley Below) and Oh, Sister that show more of Dylan's sentimental style, and are more about emotion than linear story telling. I'd like to have heard a recording without Emmylou hogging the mike or that, by now, very redundant violin. The whole package is a mixed bag, good songs overall, but songs that time has shown may have been better. Still, maybe this was just perfect for the mid nineteen-seventies.

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