Saturday, 2 June 2018
Bob Dylan - Street Legal (1978)
Released June 1978
Recorded Rundown Studios, Santa Monica, California
This review is for the fantastic remastering of the 2003 Greg Calbi release and not the remastering that appeared in 2013’s “Complete Works” box set. For some reason, that remaster is infinitely inferior to the 2003 one, in my opinion. This one blows the more recent one out of the water. It is full, bassy, punchy and brings songs like “New Pony” and “No Time To Think” to new life.
Back to the album. Released in 1978, following from “Blood On The Tracks” and “Desire”. Hmmm. Tough ask. In many ways, though, this is my favourite Dylan album. As a young punk in 1978 I loved it. I loved the saxophone-based sound, played by Spector (and Mink De Ville) veteran Steve Douglas. I loved the romance of many of the songs and also the urgency in Dylan's delivery. Many find the album too dominated by the saxophone, too sort of poppy in its approach and that it utilises too many gospelly female backing vocalists. They criticise another of my favourites, the same year’s “Live At Budokan” for the same reasons. Personally, these are some of the reasons I like it.
1. Changing Of The Guards
2. New Pony
3. No Time To Think
4. Baby Please Stop Crying
5. Is Your Love In Vain?
6. Señor (Tales Of Yankee Power)
7. True Love Tends To Forget
8. We Better Talk This Over
9. Where Are You Tonight (Journey Through Dark Heat)
“Changing Of The Guards” is a stormer of an opener - “on midsummer’s eve, near the tower”- then that thrilling saxophone riff. I love this song, its glorious imagery and its celebratory tone. “New Pony” is a repetitive but appealing blues and it now sounds great. Check out that guitar sound. “No Time To Think” is an eight minute, piano driven masterpiece. Again packed with imagery and enhanced, in my opinion, but the female backing vocalists (as I said, I know that there are many do not share that opinion). “Baby Please Stop Crying” was a surprise hit in the summer of 1978. It shouldn’t really be a surprise, as it had a laid-back radio-friendly sound.
The old “side two” began with the beautiful saxophone and yearning lyrics of “Is Your Love In Vain?” before we progress to another of the album’s cornerstones - “Senor (Tales Of Yankee Power)” - with its much-quoted line of “tell me where is it you're heading, Lincoln County Road or Armageddon?”. Great percussion backing on this and Dylan’s mysterious, questioning vocal. “True Love Tends To Forget” is another lovely, romantic, saxophone-dominated goodie. “We Better Talk This Over” is a melodious, laid back piece of soulful easy rock and the closer, the magnificent “Where Are You Tonight (Journey Through Dark Heat)”, with its insistent Paul Simon-esque rhythms and New York references. I once walked along Elizabeth Street one evening just because Dylan mentions it in this song. Again, there is a wonderful atmosphere and images on this song. One of my favourites on what is a favourite album of all time.
Many will say that there are deep religious references buried in the lyrics of songs like “Senor” that would provide a pointer to Dylan’s new direction - a salvation that would pre-occupy him for the next four years. There was a slow train coming.
- June 02, 2018