Fan Fare

Entertainment behind the scenes

Bob Dylan’s new album lacks write stuff

By Dean Goodman
April 28, 2009

Bob Dylan achieves a dubious milestone with his first album in three years, an intriguing mix of Chicago blues, Tex-Mex and humorous balladry.
“Together Through Life,” which hit stores this week, marks the first time the noted wordsmith has worked with an outside lyricist on the bulk of an album since 1976′s “Desire.” Back then, theater director Jacques Levy co-wrote such tunes as “Hurricane” and “Romance in Durango” — whose southern-fried elements coincidentally echo through the new disc. 
JAZZ FESTThis time, Dylan has reunited with Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter. They previously partnered on a pair of songs for Dylan’s 1988 album “Down in the Groove,” an unloved project described as “catastrophic” by Blender magazine. (Dylan and the Dead have a patchy history. After touring together in 1987, they released the universally reviled live album “Dylan & the Dead.” Following the 1995 death of Grateful Dead frontman and Dylan pal Jerry Garcia, the Dead’s bereft legions of tie-dyed hippies started infiltrating Dylan’s shows.)
Since Dylan kicked off his latest comeback with 1997′s “Time Out of Mind,” which came out months after he suffered a potentially fatal heart infection, it’s been hard to get critics to say anything bad about him. Of course, “Time out of Mind,” which won the Grammy for album of the year, and its successors “Love and Theft” and “Modern Times” marked his strongest trilogy since the 1975/76 combo of “Blood on the Tracks,” “The Basement Tapes” and “Desire.”

But the new album seems to have left some critics a little uneasy. In an otherwise glowing review, Rolling Stone said the lyrics “seem dashed off in spots, like first drafts.”
Canada’s National Post also was troubled by the lyrics, complaining that the album “depends too heavily on a set of stock imagery about lonely Southern towns and attractive but ‘sinful’ women, and the trademark zingers and barbed metaphors are offset by disappointing filler.”
The New York Times, which gave Dylan his first major piece of ink in 1961, said “very little on ‘Together Through Life’ seems destined for his repertory’s long haul.”
Critics in Britain, where Dylan is in the middle of a tour, were considerably more enthusiastic. The Times said the album is “a welcome addition to the late-period Dylan catalogue.” Mojo magazine, which regularly runs massive dissections of Dylan’s career, said the album “gets its hooks in early and refuses to let go.”
The Guardian, was a little more restrained, saying there are “many great things” about the album, but “If a band in a pub started playing the ploddy blues of (the Dylan original) ‘Jolene,’ you’d tut and talk over it.”


Who the heck cares what critics think? Critics just want to smother everything in preconceived essay BS and vapid wordplay. Talk to some fans of Dylan, get some of their intelligent responses based on what Dylan really means to them, not just this ‘good or bad’ nonsense; albums aren’t made to be thumbed up or down and then just put on a shelf; that implies a self-satisfaction that just baffles me, that should not exist in an entertainment industry that wants to do anything more than give everyone bipolar and smell their own farts.

Dylan doesn’t make music for a bunch of smug loaners dispersed throughout chairs in major cities who use art to try to fill an ever-increasing hole inside them, he makes it for something a bit more universal, even if that means its entirely personal, or just a jam.

I suppose I’m complaining in the wrong place, but please break the cycle for once, don’t waste people’s time with this stuff.


Bad luck critics – I enjoy it ! and appreciate the value he’s offering with a vinyl version that comes with the cd for a good price! Keep writing BOB! I understand what your doing !

Posted by Allan Calleja | Report as abusive

sorry fans, i’ve been listening to dylan from the very beginning. he’s had many, many ups and downs. that double album of 1970 called “dylan” which, aside from the pretty “all the tired horses” sung by a woman’s chior, is no better than thousands of local folk singers could have done, most of his “gospel” period, a lot of late 80′s and early 90′s stuff, is really weak. his great stuff is the best anyone’s done. great tunes, lyrics, instumentation, arrangements and singing. and a lot of the bootleg stuff, official and un is wonderful. but this album has no good tunes, weak lyrics, draggy tempos, mediocre singing and just average accompionment. you can worship him, or you can realize that he’s just a human bean like everyone else. this time my favorite artist has no juice. sorry fans

Posted by ted hurlihy | Report as abusive

Who cares what critics of critics think.

Posted by Hank Kimball | Report as abusive

In a sea of musical drivel, manufactured noise and bloated ego’s, Dylan remains what he’s always been… a true innovative Titan with a great band behind him to boot.

Posted by Michael Rosato | Report as abusive

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