Sunday, 29 July 2018
Bob Dylan - Saved (1980)
Released June 1980
Recorded at Muscle Shoals Studio, Alabama
The second of Bob Dylan's Christian albums, I have always found "Saved", from 1980, far less appealing than its predecessor, the vivacious, dynamic "Slow Train Coming". Firstly, despite its supposed remastering, the sound has aways been far more muffled than the previous album. It is somewhat muddy, the instruments far less defined. Dylan's fervour has lost its initial zeal, to be honest, he is saying the same things again - warning of damnation, of purgatory and cautioning us against sin, willing us to accept the Lord - or else. He played a 100 date tour delivering such on stage sermons, which wasn't his best move (although some of the live recordings from that period are surprisingly good - see "The Bootleg Series Vol 13"). The songs played from this album actually sound much better in concert than they do here.
1. A Satisfied Mind
3. Covenant Woman
4. What Can I Do For You
5. Solid Rock
6. Pressing On
7. In The Garden
8. Saving Grace
9. Are You Ready
The album opens with a short vocal track, "A Satisfied Mind", before kicking into the rocky, powerful title track, full of loud female gospel-style backing vocals and a solid drum, guitar and piano backing. It rocks averagely well, and I always enjoy it when I hear it. "Covenant Woman" is a slower-paced, lengthy rock ballad that doesn't really get anywhere, comparatively. "What Can I Do For You?" is a yearning number in the same sow temp, lifted in the middle by a gorgeous harmonica solo. There is a powerful guitar, drum and bass guitar ending to the song as well. "Solid Rock" has always sounded far too muffled to me, and again it sounds much better played live. It is has an insistent, rocking beat, though, although the vocals are far too down in the mix, as is the bass. You cannot convince me this has been remastered, I'm afraid.
On "Pressing On", a tired-sounding Dylan tells us how he is indeed pressing on, as if to say "I'm gonna carry on doing this, whatever, it's too late to stop now..." to coin a phrase. Again, it is a track dominated by the vocal backing, it almost drowns out Dylan, in a way that it didn't on "Slow Train Coming". As with all the material on the album, I and it somewhat half-baked, as if with a bit more attention, it could have been much better. The same applies to the potentially potent "In The Garden". "Saving Grace" raises the bar a bit, it is probably my favourite on the album. Slow, dignified and moving. Lovely organ backing on it, and guitar too. Dylan's voice on this one is as convincing as it was on "Slow Train Coming". Nice one. The pure gospel of "Are You Ready" very much sounds like an outtake from the previous album. It grinds and plods and again the backing vocalists dominate but it also features a searing guitar solo, mid-point.
The problem for Dylan was, that as an artist who had always trod his own path, oblivious to trends and fashions, he had previously always taken multitudes with him on his journey. Here, though, with this album selling really poorly, he was like a saviour in the wilderness.
NB - despite being supposedly "remastered" for the "Complete Works Box Set", the sound still sounds slightly under par to me, a bit bassier but that's it. For me the only truly decent Dylan remasters are those released as "HDCD" remasters. They all have wonderful clarity and warmth of sound.