Bob Dylan’s 40th Best Studio/ Bootleg Album

Dylan sitting onstage with a guitar

Down In the Groove
1988
Grade – D+

The mid 80’s were dark times for the Dylan fan base; having to be subjected to an artist having incredible writer’s block and a lack of control over his own product. The classic Dylan ‘one-take’ style was, as Robert Christgau put it, “patented and by now meaningless”. The album was fully panned by critics as his worst work to that point, and looking back, certainly had the least to offer from the collection.

The songs put forth were mostly co-written, or songs he’d decided not to record previously, and a couple of new compositions of his own. Full Force, a popular hip hop group, helped with the sound (as well as the backing vocals on “Death is Not the End”) but it wasn’t any use. Dylan seemed to be running on fumes, running out of the magic that made him great.

Not to say the album was a complete disaster, as no Dylan album fully is. “Silvio” was modestly successful, with backing from the Grateful Dead, it became one of the artist’s greatest hits, and thus becoming popular while on tour.

“Sally Sue Brown” and “Let’s Stick Together” have some charm, but the absence of real song-writing was far too much to handle otherwise.

“When Did You Leave Heaven”, was so obviously not written by Dylan, as instead of his patented “vagueness”, he sings a series of bad pick up lines written by Richard Whitting and Walter Bullock.

“Ugliest Girl in the World” was written by head of the Graterful Dead (Robert Hunter) and Bob. The song is one of the most shallow and irritating ditties in both of their collections, as Dylan sings about how much she loves this woman, even though she’s so damn ugly. One of the few songs I skip on my shuffle.

Overall, this album is pretty awful. The writing isn’t there, the drive of the artist from the 60’s and 70’s isn’t there, and the sound definitely isn’t there. There’s “Silvio” and one or two other decent songs, but not one I recommend for non-Dylan fans.

Silvio – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_2tCGRdZ5d8&feature=kp

Have a listen, as this is assuredly one catchy song.

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