Saturday, 2 June 2018

Bob Dylan - Desire (1976)


Released January 1976

Recorded in New York City

There is a strange story around the genesis of the violin-dominated 1976 album, "Desire". Apparently Dylan was being driven around Manhattan and saw violinist Scarlet Rivera carrying violin around Greenwich Village in a case. Dylan stopped to talk to her and she ended up playing a huge part on this album, contributing a great deal to the unique sound. Rivera herself has said that if she had been a few seconds earlier or later, the whole thing would never have happened. Such is fate, and, indeed, musical mythology. I would like to think it is true. She says it is.


1. Hurricane
2. Isis
3. Mozambique
4. One More Cup Of Coffee
5. Oh, Sister
6. Joey
7. Romance In Durango
8. Black Diamond Bay
9. Sara

I am a big fan of Dylan's "story songs" and there are two great ones here - the tale of wrongly accused boxer Rubin "Hurricane" Carter in the iconic "Hurricane" (which also features Emmylou Harris on backing vocals) and "Joey" an over-romanticised tale, based on true events, of an Italian-American mobster, Joey Gallo, who met his end in a "clam bar in New York". Great narrative song though. Other songs with something of an evocative, cinematic quality are the Mexican-flavoured "Romance In Durango" and Dylan's plea for forgiveness to his wife, "Sara". Also "Mozambique" and "One More Cup Of Coffee" evoke many different images.

"Isis" is packed full of all sorts of images too, as are many of Dylan's songs as indeed is "Black Diamond Bay". Overall, the album is a tuneful, interesting one, musically, with debts to Middle Eastern music. Mexican music and Caribbean melodies. The use of violin is a masterstroke, but not one that would be repeated. Next up, on "Street Legal" it would be the saxophone taking centre stage. Lyrically, it is a treat if you like narrative songs, great characterisation and multiple uses of all sorts of imagery.

The sound on the edition I have is excellent, it is the one from the "Complete Albums Collection" but the SACD release from 2004 is similarly impressive.


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