Desire

Bob Dylan

Columbia Records, 1976

http://www.bobdylan.com

REVIEW BY: Sean McCarthy

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 01/19/2008

Desire is arguably the best Sunday afternoon album ever released. It is also one Dylan’s most commercially successful albums. It’s hard to imagine that there was a time when a Bob Dylan album could spend more than a month occupying the number one slot on the Billboard album charts, but in 1976, Desire spent five weeks at number one.

The album, Dylan’s seventeenth, was the follow-up to his critical and commercial hit Blood On The Tracks, released in 1975. For Dylan fans, my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Desire summed Dylan’s ten-year-plus career in a fifty-minute album. His folksy delivery and heartfelt, intimate lyrics were on display in songs like “Mozambique” and “Sara.” More important to many fans, this disc marked Dylan’s return to politics in the eight-minute opening track “Hurricane,” a song addressing boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter’s wrongful imprisonment in a triple-murder. The track drew attention to the case and in 1985, Carter was released from prison.

Not everything was utterly familiar on Desire, however. The album marked Dylan’s first time recording the majority of a disc with a secondary songwriter, Jacques Levey, who helped bring a narrative string to Dylan’s songwriting. The most appealing example of this is the breezy “Isis,” a story fit for a spaghetti western.

In addition to Levey, other contributors made this a standout Dylan collection. EmmyLou Harris lends her vocals to “Oh, Sister” and the somber “One More Cup Of Coffee” while Scarlet Rivera contributes some extraordinary violin work, making the eight minute “Hurricane” seem more like a standard three-minute pop song.

Remnants from Blood On The Tracks remain on Desire. Dylan’s disintegrating marriage to Sara, famously documented throughout the former release, reaches a pained epilogue on this disc in closing track “Sara.” Without surprise, it’s also Dylan’s most personal song on an album full of character sketches.

Blood On The Tracks and Desire restored Dylan’s relevance in the mid-70s. And in typical Dylan fashion, he went on to create a series of mediocre albums. However, as this disc shows, Dylan is never an artist who can be written off, even if it would take him another twenty years to create another masterpiece.

Rating: A-

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© 2008 Sean McCarthy and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Columbia Records, and is used for informational purposes only.