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Bob Dylan In the 70s: Early One Morning the Sun Was Shining

And into the 70s we go with Bobby’s first fully fledged disaster and lots of second guessing by the world at large culminating in Robert Christgau memorably dubbing him a “boozy-voiced misogynists in (their) late thirties” and ending with Dylan seeing the light.

Self Portrait (1970)
And you thought we were pissed when he went electric! Well, I was thirteen at the time and I thought “Self Portrait’ was a knock out because if you doubted Dylan’s sincerity with this mix of pop classics and tin pan alley you weren’t paying attention when he called himself a song and dance man. I adore at least half of this double album though I think what was probably happening was that “Nashville Skyline” had taught him how to sing pretty and he was giving his new voice a workout. Or maybe he wanted to please Mommy and here is something you don’t know: my friend Dede Smith from Minneapolis was friends with Dylan’s Mommy and told me he was a very attentive son. Grade: “B+”
New Morning (1970)
And this isn’t the knockout everybody claimed it was because they were relieved he wasn’t doing Paul Simon covers any more. The best song was already available on “All Things Must Pass” and everything else was a bit inside baseball still his gift for the gab hadn’t forsaken him. Grade: “B”
Greatest Hits Vol II (1971)
This is an incredible must buy album with “You Ain’t going Nowhere” “When I Paint My Masterpiece” “Down In The Flood” and one of Dylan’s very best: “Watching The River Flow” -his best songs since 67. It’ll really shake you. Grade: “A”
Pat Garret and Billy the Kid (1973)
From the movie, mostly incidental music but it did have “Knocking On Heaven’s Door” and he would use the entire experience for a true masterpiece “Brownsville Girl”. Grade: “C+”
Dylan (1973)
A self-portrait without the self and without the portrait! Just Dylan croacking away. It is currently out of print. Grade: “C”
Planet Waves (1974)
This is a goodie and not just because of the fast/slow “Forever Young” (written for his kids legend has it)but also the suicidal “Going, Going Gone” and the ungrammatical “Something There Is About You” and sexy “On A Night Like This”…. And “Planet Waves is stripped off so many expectations it can just stand alone as a strong collection of songs by a master songwriter. Grade: “A”

Before The Flood (1974)
People say he was pissed of because of his divorce or Watergate or something but maybe he was just pissed off and taking it out on the audience with his back up the band at the heights of their power this was the honest roar of rock and roll. Grade: “A+”

Blood On the Tracks (1975)
If this shit is easy why did he re-record the entire record with session musicians from Minnesota or Buffalo or somewhere in the boondocks? And why does it sound better the second time round? Grade: “A+”

The Basement Tapes (1975)
Recorded in 67 we ponder in vain as to why he didn’t release it then. A uniquely American vision of a counter-contemporary pop vision.

Desire (1976)
I read Lester Bang’s hit job on this album as well and he has a point about “Joey” (career criminal Joey Gallo) being a pack of lies though really myth is myth and you might as well complain about “Isis” being a pack of lies or even “Sara” (oh, yeah, he did) or “Hurricaine”. Well, “Hurricaine” sounds like myth and truth and the same time. Back to “Joey”: other peoples tragedies, his victims, is a tough subject to sort out. That was my point about if U2 want to save the world to fund space exploration because it is stomach turning but true that death is all about proximity first an numbers second and it doesn’t really matter to me if Joey killed one or a hundred people or if two million people died in rwanda or six million died in Nazi Germany compared to how many lives both born and not yet born will be saved 200 years from now through making another planet livable. So anyhow Lester, this album isn’t a masterpiece but “Isis” and “Hurricaine” sure are. And you were right, Joey Gallo was a psychotic hoodlum and good riddance but I blame Jack (sic) Levy. Grade: “B+”

Hard Rain (1976)
From his Rolling Thunder travelling concert tour. Decades later he would release many more songs from the tour at much better affect(ion) as part of his Bootleg series but he chose the wrong ones for this initial offering. Grade: “B”
Street Legal (1978)
Dylan’s least good moment? In retrospect this searching through signs and symbols, tarot cards and medievel symbolism was setting the stage for his Born Again moment and in a very I was lost and now I’m found manner he seems to be floundering here and rather than living down to Christgau’s misogynist crack, Dylan seems to be as confused as ever as to what he is willing to offer women. On a song as good as “Stop Your Sobbing” like I could care. Grade: “C+”
Masterpieces (1978)
Really, this was only Dylan’s third greatest hits package. How restrained can you get even if it is a triple album? It goes back as far as “Don’t think Twice, It’s Alright” and as current as “Sara” (not really a greatest anything) and includes a handful of new releases and if I remember correctly I freaked over “Can You Please Crawl Out My Window”. Grade: “B+”

Bob Dylan at Budokon (1979)
Well, it was no “Before the Flood” but it was no “Hard rain”. What it was was tough, workingman like live versions of Bob’s ever increasing catalogue. Grade: “B”

Slow Train Coming (1979)
I sware, as God is my witness, I adored this album when it first came out. I said 79 was a great year for music and this fit in with “Closer” and “Metal Box”: a beautifully sung, strongly constructed set of songs of faith. Grade: “A+”
So I guess that’s it for the 70s, not his greatest decade, I thought both the 80s and the 00s were better, but pretty wonderful any way. Dylan in the 80s will be coming soon in creation where one’s nature neither honors nor forgives.

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