Sunday, 19 August 2018

Bob Dylan - Knocked Out Loaded (1986)




Released July 1986

After treading water somewhat with the eighties production- blighted “Empire Burlesque”, Dylan couldn’t really get away with it twice, and he certainly didn’t with this comparatively average album.

TRACK LISTING

1. You Wanna Ramble
2. They Killed Him
3. Driftin' Too Far From Shore
4. Precious Memories
5. Maybe Someday
6. Brownsville Girl
7. Got My Mind Made Up
8. Under Your Spell

“You Wanna Ramble” is a regulation upbeat gospelly blues, full of backing vocals and a repetitive riff. It is lively and pleasant enough, but certainly no work of genius. “They Killed Him” is a cover of a Kris Kristofferson song and has a strange appeal, a deep drum sound and a blasting gospel chorus. The backing sounds great on this one, but Dylan’s voice is strangely distant. The use of a children’s choir is a bit incongruous, to be honest.

“Driftin’ Too Far From Shore” is again a lively one, with those backing vocals turned up to the max. Again, it is an ok track, but nothing remarkable. The ”filler” on this album is not as impressive as the previous album’s “filler”. “Precious Memories” is a reggae-influenced number, but nowhere near as convincing as the Reggae he dabbled in on “Infidels”. “Maybe Someday” is another somewhat half-baked number, dominated by the backing vocals once more and just not seeming to get anywhere. A few listens, however, and you find that it has hidden lyrical depths in its Biblical imagery and you get into it a bit more.

Then there is “Brownsville Girl” - eleven minutes of cinematic Dylan narrative majesty in the “Lily Rosemary & The Jack Of Hearts” tradition. I love these lengthy, image-packed Dylan songs. This one is jam packed with Western imagery about Mexico, The Rockies, Amarillo, The Panhandle, someone called Henry Porter and a Gregory Peck movie. The album is worth it for this bona fide gem alone. The rest of the material just doesn’t really pass muster in comparison, I’m afraid. “Empire Burlesque” was a much better album.

The last two are not too bad, however. “Got My Mind Made Up” is actually quite a rousing, rocking number, with lots of  “woohs” from those girls again, and a kind of shuffling, upbeat “Not Fade Away” rhythm. “Under Your Spell” is the usual laid-back romantic number to close the album. It has the same full, pounding backing as “They Killed Him”, with a strong bass and an equally strong Dylan vocal. It has to be said it is nothing special, though. Neither is the album, really. Certainly not dislikable, but just not anything inspirational, save “Brownsville Girl”.

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.

C-

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