Sunday, October 14, 2012

Indistinct Dylan: Another Side Of Bob Dylan Leaves Little Impression

The Good: ? Seriously, this one pretty much strikes out even lyrically.
The Bad: No real growth from prior albums, Vocals, Generally substandard lyrics, Blah
The Basics: When Dylan goes mostly apolitical for Another Side Of Bob Dylan, he ventures into repetitive-sounding territory and a mostly bland album, which is not worth your attention.

Wow. So, after the first few days of listening to Bob Dylan, he's growing on me more and more, despite my not being grabbed by The Times They Are A-Changin', when I pop in Another Side Of Bob Dylan. And oh my, was it bad. Straight out bad. With his previous album, I was on the fence, with Another Side Of Bob Dylan, yuck. Just yuck.

To be fair to Another Side Of Bob Dylan, despite growing up hearing folk-rock music in the background almost constantly, the only song on this album I knew before listening to this album was "It Ain't Me Babe." With only eleven tracks, clocking in at fifty and a half minutes, Another Side Of Bob Dylan continues the singer-songwriter's trend of writing all of his own works, playing all his own music and presenting music that is essentially a man, his guitar and his harmonica.

So, when I popped in this album, I had no real preconceptions of what to expect (I like the cover art better than with his prior album!), but with his fourth endeavor out, Bob Dylan solidly strikes out. By the time "It Ain't Me Babe" comes up on the album, it's long past the time when I cared or would notice it. Indeed, the terrible ten tracks that precede it taint its usually pleasant sound.

Another Side Of Bob Dylan is an odd mix of what the listener has heard from Bob Dylan before and music that sounds nothing like him. And the drawl is in full effect with his vocals on this album, making it the first album that is fairly consistent with the stereotypes of Dylan's sound. I had resisted buying into the whole "Dylan can write, but not sing" mentality, but wow, it's hard not to with this album.

"I Shall Be Free No. 10" is pretty much the only song on this album that stands out as worthwhile Dylan. On that song, Dylan sings a song that is reminiscent of stanzas of "Talking World War III Blues" or "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" from The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan. It's a rambling song that lacks the politics of either song and is singing about being a political singer. It's clear, direct, tells a story and is sung to the same type guitar and harmonica theme that defined Dylan two albums prior.

But outside that, the album is a weird parody of what Dylan had been before this point. "All I Really Want To Do," which opens the album sounds like a Tom Leher parody of Bob Dylan with the stereotypical drawl and mumble. When Dylan sings about just wanting to be a friend, he sounds strangely ridiculous (and I'm someone who has agonized about how people do not believe one when they express a simple desire to be friends with another).

The other songs are stories, but they are generally not political, making the album come across as a weak rock album lacking the momentum and passion of a folk album. The poetics mention politics only as an afterthought, like on "Motorpsycho Nitemare," where Dylan sings about spending the night at a place he does not want to be (when Rita tries to seduce him), "Well, I couldn't leave, unless the old man chased me out / 'Cause I'd already promised him that I would milk his cows / I had to say something to strike him very weird / So I yelled 'I like Fidel Castro, and his beard." It certainly lacks the passion of "Blowin' In The Wind" or "The Times They Are A-Changin'!"

The exception to this archetype of parody of Dylan meets with only one other exception, "Black Crow Blues." "Black Crow Blues" sounds almost identical to early David Bowie (Best of Bowie is reviewed here!), which I understand is inverted as Dylan precedes Bowie, but the song sounds so atypical of Dylan it just does not work.

The other songs are storylike like most folk songs, but they are more interpersonal relationships as opposed to politics. And maybe I just didn't drink the Kool-Aide, but I can't figure why others like this album. Sure "It Ain't Me Babe" is classic, but the rest of the album . . . it's bland. It's indistinct. I mean, it is so bland that it took me listening to the album four times before I realized that "My Back Pages's" line of "I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now" was somehow familiar.

This album might be fine for those who have not heard any other Bob Dylan albums. But as one who is listening their way through his collection, this album illustrates no originality, no spark, no passion and it's just . . . bland and forgettable. And "It Ain't Me Babe" appears on innumerable compilations, so there are much better places to get it!

"It Ain't Me Babe" is the only truly worthwhile track, the other songs are just filler. This is Dylan's first true, solid musical failure.

For other Bob Dylan reviews, be sure to check out my takes on:
The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan
The Times They Are A-Changin’


For other music reviews, check out my Music Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2012, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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