Saturday, 18 August 2018

Bob Dylan - Shot Of Love (1981)


Released August 1981

After two devoutly Christian-themed albums, Dylan slightly tempered down the devotional message with this third in the supposed trilogy. It is accepted by many to be the best of the three. It is certainly superior to "Saved", but personally I prefer "Slow Train Coming". A problem I have always had with the album is in regard to the sound. It has supposedly been remastered, but it certainly doesn't sound like it to me, certainly not in comparison with "Slow Train Coming". There is a harshness to the sound that I have always found off-putting. I can never truly "get into" the album because of this. The next album, "Infidels", sounded so much better.


1. Shot Of Love
2. Heart Of Mine
3. Property Of Jesus
4. Lenny Bruce
5. Watered-Down Love
6. The Groom's Still WaitingAt The Altar
7. Dead Man, Dead Man
8. In The Summertime
9. Trouble
10. Every Grain Of Sand

Never mind, on with the music. The title track opens the album on a devotional note, with some excellent gospelly backing and Dylan's convincing, passionate vocal delivered over an insistent, pounding mid-paced beat. "Heart Of Mine" is a secular ballad, for the first time since 1978, and a good one is too - tuneful and tender. Some cynics have said that these non-religious songs were included on here to bring sales back up. I'm not sure about, personally I just feel Dylan's religious fervour was slightly waning. Subsequent albums would seem to back this up.

"Property Of Jesus" was clearly a return to the Christian theme. It is sonically muffled and the beat is grinding and uninspired, sounding very much like track from "Saved", to be honest. It has some excellent guitar at the end, though. The stark, slightly hissy, piano-led "Lenny Bruce" is a mournful paean from Dylan to the "alternative" New York comedian. It was hailed by many as a "return to form". It has to be said it is a very moving, atmospheric song. Dylan gets all nostalgic for those old Greenwich Village days, and, for the first time, his voice shows real sings of the ageing croaky tone that would be with him for the rest of his recording career. It is a much "older" voice now, certainly even from that on "Slow Train Coming". Funnily enough, Dylan's relating of the tale of Bruce was remarkably similar to that which he had been telling about Jesus Christ for the last few years.

"Watered-Down Love" featured some funky-style guitar and a lively tune and vocal from Dylan. It was another "regular" song, and another good one. It suffers from poor production, but it certainly was a bit of a relief to hear Dylan singing this sort of stuff again. He sounded lively and as if he were enjoying himself. He had started interjecting more and more non-religious material into his live shows too. Check out "Trouble No More". Another good thing was to hear him delivering a storming, searing slice of blues rock again, and he did this with the vibrant, rocking "The Groom's Still Waiting At The Altar", which features some great bluesy slide guitar. "She could be respectably married, or running a whorehouse in Buenos Aires..." was a thankful return to those great classic Dylan couplets of the past.

"Dead Man, Dead Man" was a religious, gospelly number with reggae tinges, parping saxophones, swirling organ breaks and an infectious, catchy beat. Yes, it is a devotional song, but, like the title track, was a damn good one. Again, Dylan sounds as if he is enjoying himself as opposed to fingerprinting and didactically preaching. I really like this one. "In The Summertime" is just gorgeous. A harmonica gives us our Dylan back as his voice comes in - mournful, sad, yearning, meaningful. Listening to this, it is as if the last three or fours year had never happened. I don't like the "return to form" cliche, but this really was one. "You were closer to me than my next of kin" - Dylan's voice just sounds so good at that point. One then knows why one sticks with him, through thick and thin.

"Trouble" is a warning of damnation, but again is an appealing one - big, powerful, bluesy and potent.   It has an exhilarating, thumping beat and more convincing backing vocals. It has a power to the sound and the delivery which is good to hear.

Like Van Morrison, there is always a moment on each Dylan album when you think "wow". On this one it is with the beautiful "Every Grain Of Sand". Yes, it is devotional and hymnal, but is dignified, stately, soulful and deeply moving. Dylan's voice is resonant and the backing melodic and uplifting. As his harmonica comes in half way through, your soul rises. Dylan still has the power to do that.

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.


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