Monday, December 10, 2018

INTRODUCTION



WELCOME! Here, I will be attempting to review and write about every Bob Dylan record, and rate every song on every Dylan STUDIO album. How could someone do this, you ask? Easy. Very easy. I will also be eating my dinner while I do this, which is ever easier, but harder to type on occasion.

I WILL BE UPDATING THIS WEEKLY (perhaps 2 a week on occasion when the hunger strikes!)

Bob Dylan was born Robert Zimmerman in Duluth, MN and took the world by storm in the early '60s. He continues to write, record, and tour to this day. For additional information on Bob Dylan, please refer to outside sources accessible in under 1 minute or less.

Each song is accompanied with a numerical rating as follows:
5- PERFECT
4- ALMOST PERFECT THERE, ZIMMY
3- I'LL TAKE IT, ZIM!
2- ZIMMERMAN!!! GET IN HERE AND EXPLAIN YOURSELF!
1- GET OUF MY OFFICE, ZIMMY. YOU'RE FIRED! 


With that I say, happy travels, safe listening, and MANGIA! (Italian for "chewy your food slowly"... if you do not chew slowly you may choke on your food. If you find yourself in this situation, please refer to the international sign for choking)
 

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Knocked Out Loaded (1986)

KNOCKED OUT LOADED
(Columbia Records, 1986)


MY DINNER


(Spaghetti with garlic marinara sauce, a helping of Texas Toast, and a glass of Valpolicella)

Holy "Scenes From an Italian Restaurant", Busboy!  Another italian themed dinner you say! Last go round, pizza, now pasta. What's the deal? The deal is I need to surround myself with comfort foods to get through this volume of unholy, comfortless albums.

Well, have we all recovered from the agida we received from Dylan's '85 Empire Burlesque? Have you let the synth drums sink into our souls, and then purged them enough to continue on the journey? Well, by George I hope so because we're about to enter a phase in which critics basically took a Dixon-Ticonderoga eraser to Bob Dylan's legacy and declared him artistically dead. And, we STILL have '88's Down in the Groove to get through before there's some scattered sunbeams over the horizon!

Yes, friends, we are on the downward trajectory of a rollercoaster without a harness. Can you feel the pain? Give in, succumb to the blandness, the scattershot nothingness. The sky's the limit.


(Ride full of Dylan fans heading into "Knocked Out Loaded" with nothing to lose)


Following Dylan's Alzheimer spasms into disco, funk, and pop synthetics that choked any life out of Empire Burlesque, we arrive at one of Dylan's most dismissed albums. Knocked Out Loaded is possibly the most critically panned... no, FORGOTTEN LP in the catalog. On his religious awakening trilogy, people at least debated over fact vs. fiction intent. On '83s Infidels, some batted lashes and prayed the troubadour was back. On Empire Burlesque, the critics and historians raised a stink about merit and the albums intentions of keeping up with the times. But here, we find a hodgepodge of bland songs, scattered about on slabs of wax for the purpose of what? Filling landfills?


(The album reached No. 53 on the Billboard charts by selling 100,000 copies directly to this landfill in Clawson, Michigan... maybe)

WAYYY back in the "dinner days" (sentimental times of dinners past), I find myself in a moment of recollection over the LP; Dylan. On Dylan, I went off about how it contained 9 measly cover songs, was never repressed on CD in the digital age, and serves as a weird footnote in Dylan lore of audio nothingness. I even ate WHITE RICE, to protest how worthless it was. The thing that sets these 2 records apart? Dylan never intended Dylan to be released in the first place! For Knocked Out Loaded on the other hand, Dylan was quoted as saying in '85, "I think the next record is going to sound even better [than Emprire Burlesque]"  Oh Bobby, what have you done.

For this record, Dylan essentially contributes ONLY 2 original songs (hell, the LP only has 8, so whatever). The rest are a 3 collaborative efforts, plus 3 covers.  One begins to wonder the reason for its incarnation; to raise his post Live Aid profile, to promote his newly established tenure in the super group The Traveling Wilburys? The only thing I can figure is Dylan set forth on an anti-environmental frenzy to scorch the earth of such valuable materials as cardboard stock and vinyl to put more matter into the world!

(Scorched-Earth Zimmy self-pressing copies of Knocked Out Loaded)

On the recoding side of things, the entire record is a mash up of finished product, spanning 30 different recording sessions from 1984-1986. 30 sessions, 2 years, and the best they could come up with was this (hateful) 8?

Basically, the storied path of these sessions, in theory, should sound like this:


But come out more like this:



Real quick on the dinner, again, I'm going comfort over decadence. I have a plate of angel hair pasta, covered in marinara sauce (straight from the jar, baby. Just like grandma used to make it), and added some fresh roasted garlic for that "old country" stylee. I've heated up a piece of Texas Toast (in the microwave, like our forefathers did before us), and topped it off with  Parmesan cheese (the kind that's only legally considered cheese in about 12 states). I've brought along a little friend of mine called Wine. It's a dark glass or Valpolicella, a three grape wine from the province of Verona, Italy (Vintage: 2017!). How much did this bottle cost me, you ask? Well, $99.99, I do say. Oh, sorry. One to many 9s!


(The number 7 doing it's own Dinner with Dylan, eating one of my 9s)


The cover of this is by and large the best thing of the record. Supposedly a recreation of an image found in an old Pulp Magazine, the record at least LOOKS like it could potentially sound cool. I mean, a woman is about to smash a jug on the head of a dude choking the living shit out of another dude. In fact, this is essentially an allegory for Dylan's creative concussion that's practically put him in a fucking coma! Based not he cover, this sound could be Dylan's punkest record yet. Unfortunately, it sounds like the way this guys smells.

(GG Allin miming the lyrics to Dylan during the recording of "We Are The World," circa '85)



Anyway, now that the sight of GG Allin has rid me of my appetite, lets dive into this white paint bucket of record and forge ahead. Bottoms up!


SIDE A:
You Wanna Ramble- 1 Okay, so let's start with the facts. Dylan did not write this one. It's a cover song originally by Junior Parker, an old-time blues singer, but the way it's executed it could have been written by a sled named Rosebud (yes, an inanimate fucking object with a provocative name).
(Dylan posing with blues sled legend, Rosebud)

The most soulless of"soul" music, Dylan sounds like he's playing in a neon soaked bar, the boys around all cracking open some ice cold Buds. Hell, this sounds like Dylan in an '80s Budweiser commercial.  And this might be the corniest percussion performance (along with that barely mixed) snare sound in the mix. No, this is a travesty to drums. Why does Dylan hate drums?

(Exhibit A; drums that have earned more respect than the drums on Knocked Out Loaded)


They Killed Him- 2 I have dug into my spaghetti here. What can I say? It's starchy, it's saucy, it's filled to the brim with carbs. I love it! I can eat spaghetti for every meal (which would save me boatloads of money), but I'd like to keep some tiny semblance of health. Luckily, I'm helping the spaghetti go down to tonight with some fine wine. Back to the song...

There is a joke to be made in this title, but I won't. Covering his friend and contemporary, Kris Kristofferson, Dylan and the backing crooners breath the first breath into the album, even if it's a stale, dying one. Dated production is something I'm trying to stomach with each passing song... NO, each album. How did this happen for so long? This is all around bad, but is saved by the baffling MUST HEAR passage sung by children.

(children singing)


Driftin' Too Far From Shore- 1 At track 3, we find ourselves with Dylan's first true composition of the record. And what prize awaits? Initially, this turd starts out sounding like The Eurythmics "Sweet Dreams" for a second before transforming into a struttin' funk pop tune. This song is a real guy's guy type of song, y'know. I mean, it's the type of song for real men, who wear white leather and say things like "what's cookin' good lookin'."  Oh brother. I need mouthwash for my ears.

(Music fan tries to forget about "Driftin' Too Far From Shore")

Speaking of mouthwash, a little bit about this wine. It's a very dry wine, a little on the bitter side. On first sip, I believe I made a face to no one in particular, and did one of those small head shake things. Overall, I've enjoyed it more with every sip, but it's not quite my cup of tea. The Texas Toast on the other hand? Oh, fuck yeah! This cheap garlic shit dowsed in spray cheese are what dream castles are made of, and I wanna live there!

(my brain on TEXAS TOAST... me, not pictured)


Precious Memories-2 I hope I never find myself on a cruise ship to Hell. If you HAVE found yourself on a cruise ship to Hell, this was playing, right?  Here, Dylan unearths this traditional gospel song covered by every who's-who to every never-was under the blazing hellfire sun. On one hand, it's pitiful, full of steel drums, reggae upstroke guitar hits, and dub bass, but on the other the gang vocal, hymnal style is actually somewhat decent. Drop anchor, and thank the Good Lord for this pina colada you're about to sip....  In my case, bottom's up to more Valpolicella!!!


(The Office is a show full of precious memories and steel drums)


Maybe Someday- A direct, poppy declarative tune as Zimmy starts pointing fingers. And when crooked fingered Zim starts pointing, there's no telling where he'll stop.
(during his 6th hour of pointing)

Revenge is best served through recollections and reflections, and I guess that's what this song is about? Dylan does so much finger pointing in this it's no wonder he finds time to play the guitar. Anyways, the "uh-huh-uh" harmony parts that pop up in the middle equal parts idiotic and genius. This track is another can of corn, but sometimes I like corn... with butter. But good lord, those God forsaken drums.

(Disrespect) 



SIDE B:
Brownsville Girl- 3 As is the case with many Dinner With Dylan's, Side 2 = 2nd serving time! I've put a pile of spaghetti on the plate, poured the garlic marinara on and am about to go to town on this neverender of a song. Here goes nothin'.

If there is one "classic" for consideration from this album, fans and critics will agree it is "Brownsville Girl." I have heard this song twice prior, once when I was reading up on classic Dylan, and once when I purchased this record. The worst thing about this song is it's length. At 11 minutes, it could've shaved off about 12. WHOA! Too far, even for me.  On this epic, cowritten with playwright/actor Sam Shepard,  Dylan sounds like he gives some sort of a shit about the outcome. Lyrically, there is a novella of an idea to be had. It's refreshing in the scheme of the LP, but damn, it's long! 
("Brownsville Girl" is so long, they made a movie about it)

Got My Mind Made Up- 2  Tragedy has struck, my friends. In the mayhem, I miscalculated the amount of Texas Toast I had left.I've just returned from the kitchen with a dilemma, for the box is empty. Do I make regular toast with butter, or go careless the final 2 tracks as I sip with this wine? Stay tuned to find out!

Well, if you were into Dylan co-written ditties, have I got a treat for you. The penultimate track of this rather short LP was penned by Florida's greatest export since Gatorade; Tom Petty. At this point, the two played together in The Traveling Wilburys which helped to make Dylan relevant at a time when these solo LPs were popping up in record stores like flaming bags of dog shit on Welcome mats. Petty helps add some "edge" to the track," but ultimately it's flattened by weak production and that putrid drum sound.

(Blonde on Blind... Dylan's slogan for '86)

Under Your Spell- 1 I have decided to forgo the carbs. If it ain't Texas Toast, I don't want it!

(Me, or Mark E. Smith?, a few minutes ago, taking a long hard look in the mirror)

So with that problem solved, I present to you the rest. The final song of this long trudge through a whole lot a' nothin'... This closer was co-written by Carole Bayer Sager, who has had quite an impressive career in the shadows. Sager has written songs covered by everyone and their mothers from here to Timbuktu. She also won an Academy Award for writing the theme song to the 1981 Dudley Moore vehicle, Arthur. Well, now that you got that brief history lesson, I'll leave you with the sound of my head shaking. Hear it? Well, take my word; it sounds better than this! And those drums!

(final mix down of the drums in Knocked Out Loaded)

I'm so proud of us! We made it. If you read this... if you listened... there is hope in this world. We have collectively made it, dinner or not, through a really rough patch of Dylan. I know some of you may be out there fashioning spears out of twigs to come hunt me down for saying anything negative, but c'mon. Pat yourselves on the back. 

Can't wait to move on to greener pasture with... 

WAIT....

What's that?....

There's an LP some say is WORSE than Knocked Out Loaded? One that may be even MORE forgotten over time? An LP that includes the confounding likes of The Clash's Paul Simonon, Sex Pistols' Steve Jones, Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir of The Grateful Dead, Eric Clapton, Dire Straits' Mark Knopfler, Ronnie "Rolling Stones/The Faces" Wood, and Randy Jackson of American Idol fame... AND NO ONE CARES ABOUT IT!!!!??? Yes, I'm talking 1988's Down In the Groove!!! 

Stay tuned. 






Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Empire Burlesque (1985)

EMPIRE BURLESQUE
(1985, Columbia Records)


MY DINNER


(A classic slice of Ellio's pizza, from the box, garnished with parmesan cheese and Frank's "I Put That $h!t On Everything" Red Hot)


Welcome my holiday happy friends and listeners to another gut wrenching entry of Dinner With Dylan. As the Christmas season is upon us, I only thought it necessary to hold my piece of once frozen, craptastic pizza in front of it for full piney freshness. This may be the lowest form of DINNER yet... but when dealing with such monstrosities as Dylan's 23rd album, it's only fitting.


Who's that Don Johnson looking motherlover on the front cover?  Some might actually think it's Adam Sandler's stunt double in the Wedding Singer.


(Robbie Hart... The original Bob Dylan of 1985)

But you'd be wrong. It is actually Bob Dylan, born Robert Zimmerman fully soaking in the Big Haired/Crack Epidemic riddled Hot Tub that was the '80s. 1985 to be exact! The hair was big, ghost busting was an actual job (I'm pretty sure), and America was getting ready to go BACK TO THE FUTURE. Also, fetuses were REALLY cool in the mid-'80s. How do I know? Because I was a fetus in the '80s! Right when this LP came out. Yes, this is my Bob Dylan birth record.

(me, in the water, about the listen to Empire Burlesque)


Anyway, I'll hold off on the dinner portion for now. The miracle of birth is always the best appetizer.  Let's talk about the record.

The short of it; This record is bad. Goodnight.

Just saved the internet a bunch of digital waste.

Okay, since you must insist on more waste, I shall exercise my fingers. Dylan recorded his 23rd album in the Summer of 1984 fresh off a European tour in support of Infidels, all while still flippin' off Jesus in the rearview.


("Right back at you. You have betrayed me, Bobby"- Jesus to Robert Zimmerman in '84)

Bob Dylan took a bunch of songs he had from the Infidels sessions plus some he wrote at his Malibu home and turned it into this confounding scrap heap. Again, goodnight. Ok, I'll go on a little longer since someone's gotta eat this Ellio's pizza while listening to the damn thing.


Yes, the bible days were behind him with Infidels slowly becoming another footnote in a once storied carrier. With Zimmy not getting any younger, guess he felt like no time like the present to make a run at MTV!!!


For those who don't know, MTV was a music related channel that showed music videos like this...



and this


and this






Yes, that's pretty much what MTV was in 1985, and the kids loved it. Hell, even Bob Dylan was on MTV doing his best confused faced during 1985's "We Are The World."


("We are the what? Woooooorrrrrld, maaaannnnn?"- Dylan in his mind, still talking like a goat)


So Bob Dylan, being the Hitmaker he was in '85 thought, "Hey, Mr. Establishment. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em."  And join him he did, with membership card in hand. Except these songs were about as enjoyable to the MTV generation as listening to Reganonmics-on-Tape.

Initially, Dylan produced the sessions himself. However, when it came time to mix, Hitmaker Dyl sought out producer Arthur Baker to assist in added production, etc. At the time, Arthur Baker was somewhat famously known for working with hip-hop legend Africa Bambaataa, as well as New Order, and (much lesser hip-hop legends) Hall & Oates.  It was time for a new, fresh sound. The one's the kids would dig!


(80s kids thinkin' Empire Burlesque is a bitchen skate record in the burbs. Fuck Reagan)


For all of its strange choices, it's a fascinating time and place in the Dylan discography, as well as a polarizing record. Some say it was worth the attempt but remains laughable. Others are like, "listen below the synths, the lyrics are there, maaaaaannn!"  That fake quote I just made up is probably from Bob Dylan alone in a dark room in 1986. Deep breath, let's do this.



SIDE A:
Tight Connection To My Heart (Has Anybody Seen My Love)- Dylan has gone into full '80s mid-life crisis mode here. This song is living proof, if you put a vacuum hose up to your soul it is possible to suck it dry. One has to wonder, if that bushy-haired, Woody Guthrie obsessed spinner of tall-tales from Minnesota put on a pair of headphones in the '60s and heard what he'd later be doing in the '80s... who knows what might have happened!?

(Bob Dylan in 1962 listening to his own record from the future, during a 46ยบ day)

 However, after all my whining, this song is horribly catchy, and I've always kind of liked it. It's part thrift-store-keyboard-rock, part reggae cruise-ship vibe, with a strong lick of country pop. I mean, this is terrible, but fascinating. Let's not forget, all too catchy. Let me pick my jaw up off the floor to help chew my first bite here. Woof!.. but I kind of like the pain. 

(a local dog cowers in shame after I admit I kind of like the opening track to Empire Burlesque) 


Seeing The Real You at Last- 1 So I really didn't touch on tonight's dinner. Hell, I don't know if I'll even TOUCH tonight's dinner. Initially, my wife and I planned a nice salmon meal, but with both of us feeling under the weather I thought, I'll heat up this Ellio's pizza.

For those who don't know, Ellio's looks a little something like this:

(neither of these people are me)

I had this around the house from the last 2 for $4 sale at the Stop and Shop (that rockin'-ass supermarket from The Modern Lovers "Roadrunner"), and thought why not? Well, let me tell you, I love this yoga mat pizza topped with synthetic cheese. Is it pizza? Fuck no. Is it food? I don't think so AT ALL. More on this later. 

Back to the song: Not only is Dylan dressed like he's out of an episode of Miami Vice on the cover, but here it's as if Dylan took a stab at penning some humid, neon light glowing groove rock from a potentially unaired cop-related pilot. It's sweaty, it's gross, it funked up in the worst way.

OH FUCK, I burned the roof of my mouth on Ellio's pizza. I got overzealous. The hot sauce on this pizza is sure to make things less enjoyable with every bite from here on out.

Anyway, this SONG sucks too. Ugh, I'm going to look a picture of  the old Bob Dylan. I mean, the young Bob Dylan, to remember what the old days were like... back when I thought, "hey, there's a really coooooool guy,"....


AHHHHHHH!!!!  DON'T LOOK BACK!!! A prophecy! How right you are, Hitmaker Dyl. This is the '80s, and we can no longer "look back." This is it... onward we march. But what are we marching for? Oh sweet baby jesus, is this song still playing?..... This pizza is very hot! 

I'll Remember You- After that sleazed up funk, and burnt ass mouth, I've practically lost my will to eat. I've gone ahead and sprinkled more parmesan cheese on the pizza to quell the Frank's Red Hot.

Hearing this song after "Seeing the Real You At Last" is jarring! I practically LOVE this song, but maybe only because of the juxtaposition.  This song is actually a really beautiful, melancholy number, like the first sun after a spring shower; even though the lyrics are a ball of corn, and the production omits a stench. However, if this were done around the time of say Time Out of Mind, we'd all be singing it's praises.


Clean Cut Kid- If you were looking for soundtrack music for Uncle Buck 2: The Sequel We Never Knew you've come to the right track!

(Uncle Buck meets Dylan, 1989)

This is some straight up white boy blues flop. Aurally, it sounds the way some Billy Joel music videos look! It's less cool than a skinny tie music, but for people who dig skinny ties! Another car wreck in the catalog of which I can't peel my ears from. It's got swing, hooks, but makes me wanna crawl back in the womb just a little bit (refer to above Pool picture). Anyway, it's about a kid going off to Vietnam and coming back FUBAR'd. Lyrically, noble concept, but horrid execution. 

Never Gonna Be the Same Again- 2 For those keeping track at home, I've finished my slab of frozen pizza. The one that I posed with by the X-mas tree. Before Side 2, I will heat up another.

Here, the song title pretty much summed up where Bob Dylan had fallen by the time 1985 had rolled around. Sure, he was performing at Live Aid, touring all over the world, and reveling in his past fame, but truly these were dark times. This track has some life to it, soulfully delivered by Dylan and the backups ghouls hidden in the production mist. However, the synths and electro drum hits suck the life out of this potential gem. The electric high-end keys lead needs to be studied!




SIDE B:
Trust Yourself- 1 Ladies and Germs, I am back with a fresh slice of Ellio's pizza, a pizza so versatile I can be eaten while doing your homework or while at a sleepover. It can also be used as a bathroom sponge or a saucy face rag. Endless possibilities!

(Ellio's; Natures' Face Rag)

Here's another song title that really sums up what Bob Dylan wasn't quite doing in 80s. Or perhaps he was trusting himself too much. Song sounds like a snarling pep talk in a PSA commercial. The music is far more sparse than the last two tracks, but manages to be a brutal assault on the ears. Also, it's incredibly boring. Talk about dragging your feet through the mud...plus there's no doormat for Dylan to wipe his shoes off in the end. Muddy bullshit!

(a collection of Dylan's "session" shoes, worn between Street-Legal and Under the Red Sky; '78-'90)

Emotionally Yours- Bobby does the ballads. Again, like "I'll Remember You," the guts of the song are strong. The lyrics and vocally delivery, however, are pretty poor. On top of that, the production makes this come off as a backing track you'd hear playing at Chinese Buffet on a rainy Tuesday. It's the music you'd find on your cousin's personalized High School Graduation VHS tape, from 1985.... It's horrid. Still, the song has a nice hook to it. If for 4 minutes and 30 seconds you want to feel like you live in the town of Twin Peaks, then this song is (emotionally) for you.

(SPOILER ALERT: Deputy Andy Brennan killed Laura Palmer after hearing Empire Burlesque There, hope you're happy).


When the Night Comes Falling From the Sky- Stop what you're doing! I don't care if you're pulling a car off a baby. Get to a computer, a record store, wherever you might find this (probably a computer), and listen to this opening. Is there a musical equivalent to a Razzie? If so toss it over its way! Woof.

(exhibit A: a Razzie)

This song is so long, you can stop what you're doing and actually find out who killed Laura Palmer in the meantime. By the time you find out, this song will probably be still playing (it's about 14 hours long), and you won't care who killed Laura Palmer anymore. You'll wish they had killed you too! This is an all you can eat buffet of bad taste, dated decadence, and disco-vogue done Dylan style.  Somewhat peculiarly, Dylan sounds pretty great on this track vocal-wise. This is still a MUST HEAR. An infamous track all-around, and one that's got me gaggin'. 

Something's Burning, Baby- A somber, hopeful drone of a march that eventually breaks form, easing into sluggish pop territory. It's quite possibly the most "normal" sounding track on the record in terms of production but still horribly dated. Although strange beyond belief, it's probably the best track on the record since the opener. But who knows? There are those who will tell you they are fans of this record... But I don't believe their ears. 

(exhibit A: an example of a person whose ears I don't believe)


Dark Eyes- So we've come to the end of the long walk off a not so short pier. As to remind everyone that Bob Dylan is still Bob Dylan and not Robbie Zimmerflash of the Disco underworld, the song opens with an acoustic guitar along with harmonica accompaniment. Holy crow!  AND, there's never a preprogrammed drum drop in! Let me sit here and actually enjoy this one... This song is goddamn perfect, it makes me wanna weep. Weep for the song. The fans. Myself for sitting through Empire Burlesque. Repetitive, beautiful, haunting closer.


Another Dinner is in the can, my friends. When I say can, I mean garbage can. And when I say "garbage can" I mean my stomach, which is full of 2 slab of Ellio's face rags.

Join me next time, if you can still stomach this journey. I just might cook up something bland and forgettable, as I listen to one of the most forgotten LPs of the Bob Dylan discography; a real speck of dust floating in a Grand Canyon sized catalog....  Knocked Out Loaded.  See y'all next time!!!


(Bob Dylan biographers trying to find evidence of Knocked Out Loaded)

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Infidels (1983)

Infidels
(1983, Columbia Records)


MY DINNER





(California Noodles w/ Vegetable Mix and a side of fried vegetable dumplings)


Happy Halloween  Actually, it's WAY after Halloween, so stop acting so scared that I ONCE MORE resurrected myself from the dead to keep talking about Dylan... But not the Dead. Go waste your time elsewhere with Dick's Picks Volume 41.

I'll Be Dead Before I review that Dylan and the Dead live album! Sorry gang, not an official studio album. Happy Holidays!

But I digress about Dad Things. I mean, Dead Things! I have finally returned back on the scene after my umpteenth hiatus from this delectable web series. Back by popular demand, I forge ahead with bib in shirt, fork in hand to continue crawling through the 80's with the Master of Zimmermaning (defined as "the art of being Zimmy").

After Pastor Dylan got down off his Evangelical pulpit and put the Praise Party back on the bus to the Holy Land, the world was baptized with Infidels; the 22nd album of Bob Dylan's never-ending career. Co-produced by Dire Straits' Mark Knopfler (a frequent collaborator with Dylan since Slow Train Coming), the two men created what some critics hailed as Dylan's early '80s return to greatness, at the time. 

Return to greatness, huh? The entire album is generally mucked up by poor production, and is bogged down by far too much noodling over what was essentially Dylan getting back to his Dylan style (i.e.; not religious gobbledygook). According to legend (wikipedia), before settling on Knopfler, Dylan talked to Elvis Costello, David Bowie, and FRANK FUCKING ZAPPA about producing his record! Too bad we missed out on Bob Dylan singing songs about Robot Blowjobs, interspersed with vibraphones and flushing toilets. Oh... what could have been.... 

Frank Zappa... thinking about robot blowjobs. 


The whole LP is the equivalent to "hey let's take a trip to the beach?" Sounds all fun and rosy, until you realize you've taken on raging case of second degree sunburn and a jellyfish's found its way into your bathing suit lining, and they ain't leaving until they've stung their last set of rum balls!

(Rum Balls are a traditional holiday treat best served delicious... Bring your sweet tooth)


Oh, one thing I haven't talked about yet? Yes, you guessed it. My dinner. After all, this is Dinner with Dylan, the internet's premier mix of Bob Dylan and dinner. Tonight, I have purchased myself some exquisite Chinese takeout from Noodle Gourmet in New Brunswick, NJ. I have a side of California Noodles with their signature "veggie mix," along with a side of fried vegetable dumplings. It's about 3 pounds of delicious, steaming food which will be fully ingested by about half way through the second song! But enough about me... Back to Infidels.


On the cover, Dylan's looking cool as ice, wearing shades, sporting some questionably maintained scruff, and wearing a general expression of "come fight me." This is clearly the street punk Dylan kids had been clamoring for. It's apparent that the one thing kids could count on in 1983 was how to spot notable celebrities donning cool eye ware. Here's other iconic 80's people who wore it well.... 

Rocky

Andy

Roy

Amelia


and Kareem.

While we all know spectacles are very very cool, let's not sit here and prejudge this record any longer than we need to. Sit down and take a slow ride with me on the the early '80s Dylan highway. 



SIDE A:
JokermanFeaturing the work of reggae giants, Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare, Bob Dylan starts things off with a sprawling tale that's equal parts DAD rock and Caribbean cruise music. Musically, it's oddly hypnotic. Come to think of it, it's all pretty reminiscent of pre-programmed song on an old Casio keyboard. But thankfully, "Jokerman" is not made by a keyboard company, but by the company of real-life, breathing, fret touching men.... Bob Dylan gives a killer vocal performance, really kickin’ out these MF island jams. Still, the whole thing leaves a taste of straight virgin margarita mix, no chaser.

(next time you're at your favorite Bob Dylan themed watering hole, slap a 10 spot on the bar and ask for a Virgin Jokerman... they'll know)

Sweetheart Like YouSo, the opening track was pretty never ending so it's time to make a quick comment on this meal. If you'v never had California Noodles, then I don't know what to tell you. I don't even know what they are! They're a mix between hard ramen noodles and a bird's nest. Luckily, when Noodle Gourmet in New Brunswick throws this wet, piping hot vegetable slop on it, the noodles soften and it become a noodle shoveling marathon. DELICIOUS!

Okay, this 2nd ditty off Bob Dylan's critically acclaimed early '80s outing feels about as adult contemporary as you can get without applying for your AARP card, but there's something subtle and haunting beneath the surface. If you're into piano, little horn flares, and drums soaked in reverb, this pouty blues ballad is for you. This song may be redefining "lame," every time it's played, but finally there's signs of the old Zimmerman magic in here. Also, from here on out, Dylan will be referred to as Magician Zimmerman, it is decided. 


(Magician Zimmerman reading a book about card tricks)


Neighborhood BullySo, according to scholarly reports on the great Professor, this might be a political song about the state of Israel. Look, if there's one thing I don't like to do while eating dinner, its talk politics. Unfortunately, this guy Dylan is all like "politics is my appetizer, mannnn!" (Reportedly uttered during a brunch with The Beatles in 1977). Beyond the politics of a "refreshed" Zimmerman in '83, what you will surmise from this song, though, it's the first "rock" song of the LP. It's a never-ending dad rock song that falls somewhere between The Modern Lovers fronted by Bob Dylan, but ends up sounding like a worse Dire Straits fronted by Bob Dylan. 

Good lord, do yourself a favor, by the way, and get on down to Noodle Gourmet for some birds nest noodles with veggie slop. I'm not kidding. This place has been a staple of mine for 10+ years now. Never fails! 


(an example of a Bully, one who doesn't like to invest in belts)

License to Kill- The SNARE DRUM on this is terrible. The fucking snare drum. That's what my critiques have come down to, Mr. Dylan... if that is your real name!? Meet me at the corner of Reverb and Compression and we'll dig our own graves, listener of the Snare Drum. Christ! But I'm guessing most of Magician Zimmerman's fans don't listen to him for the snare drum experience. Taking a broader perspective, this is a true schmaltzy affair, harkening back to the what I'd like to think of as The Band "Light" material. Not that The Band with Dylan was very heavy, but it's got the feel of The Basement Tapes/Planet Waves, with all of the charm of say, a karaoke backing track on loop.

(According to reports, Magician Zimmerman eventually rented this VHS from a Duluth Blockbuster Video, according to a nameless teenaged video store jockey.)

Speaking of "kill," I just killed this entire dish of noodles. Goddamn. I only burned my throat on the piping hot veggie mix about a dozen times, which is a new record low! Noodle Gourmet has done it again.  In fact, I would be happy to be your spokesperson, Noodle Gourmet. For all your noodle needs, head down to beautiful (term used loosely) New Brunswick, NJ!  Yes, that's right. Head down to the N to the J for Noodle Gourmet!

(tonight's highly unofficial, unwitting sponsor of Dinner with Dylan)

SIDE B:
Man of Peace- Well, this one's a long one so I'm gonna sit back a let it play out while I finish up my meal here. I know this is a prime opportunity because this song is a one-way ticket to a temporary rock coma. Everything about this song is garbage, sans Dylan's snarled vocal stylings at times. It goes on way too long, bouncing along on a toothpick thin bass line. For added measure we are pounded with extended guitar solos all buried in the ugly mix. Dammit Mark Knopfler for your production, but thank you for your contribution to the headband community.

("no problemo"- Mark Knopfler)


Union Sundown- Magician Zimmerman breaks down the hypocritical culture we all encounter, buying, selling, and wearing products from around the world by the hands of slave labor, including headbands. Yet, we sit here in the US, on our high-horses complaining about others, yet it's our own damn fault. Magician here sets the record straight. Lyrically, Magician Zim is like "hey redneck, here's the facts. Ya' screwed it up...." The message is a profound one delivered in a simple-minded way to the simple minded folk. The whole song rides through on prickly Knopfler guitar leads and a bass so bouncy you'd think it was being played by a trampoline itself!

(So bouncy is the bass, it can be heard on all tracks included in the Greatest Hits of Trampoline songs)

I and I- What does adult relations smell like? Maybe the first 4 seconds of this song! To make matters more icky, Dylan speaks about the woman that sleeps in his bed during his first line.... Oooof, it's a sleazy incidental music opening that gives way to a rainy day depression progression, complete with regrettable afternoon sex. Is this song about fornication? I don't even think so, but it's kind of gross sounding throughout. Apparently it's about struggling with being a Bob Dylan figure in society when your name is Bob Dylan and you've helped to change the world. Again, the snare drum will make you lose your mind. This time it sounds like a shoe box being punched in Hell. However, the lyrics are pretty tops, despite the "steamy shower sex" feel critics rarely talk about.

(Magician Zimmerman performs the classic "steamy shower sex" trick.)

Also, damn, I near forgot to talk about my dumplings! In closing, my dumpling were fantastic. I will say, Noodle Gourmet of New Brunswick, NJ has the best fried dumplings I've ever eaten. I'll take that to my grave. If you wanna take it to the crave, and it's noodles you crave, head on down to the N to the J, it'll make your day... NOODLE GOURMET!

(Noodle Gourmet... located next to TATTOO)

Don't Fall Apart on Me Tonight- As we reach the end of yet another Dinner with Dylan, it's always nice to cleanse the palate with a Sani-wipe of harmonica, and quick nosh of classic Dylan love song. Everything about this epic closer feels like parts '60s, '70s, but mucked up by the worst '80s drum sounds imaginable. It's fairly lifeless throughout, but there's hints of the ol' Magician pulling the melodic rabbit from his melancholy Minnesotan top-hat.


("For my last trick, I'll attempt to set these metal keys on fire"- Magician Zimmerman)


That's it for now, folks! I'll be back next millennium when I decided to eat, sleep, and listen to Dylan again. Hopefully before the year 2020, before we're all blown away by an evil rocket.

Speaking of evil rockets, the next LP is a real doooooooozzzzzy! Empire Burlesque. Some people love it... and they're fucking insane.  Until next time!

(Dylan, keeping his '80s discography safe from quality music)