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4.1 out of 5 stars
New Morning
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66 of 76 people found the following review helpful
Format: Audio CD
At the time of this album's release, the critics and Dylan-obsessed viewed it as another disappointment, another stinging reminder that the Bob Dylan of "The Times They Are a-Changin'" and "Like a Rolling Stone" was gone. It generated rounds of mourning. Sure, it was a little better than the awful "Self-Portrait," and less corny than the baffling "Nashville Skyline," an album in which Dylan was so determined to conceal himself, he literally changed his voice. It had a grittier feel, musically, but it another one of those "love and marriage" albums. That was a genre unto itself back then--a genre lots of more politically minded rock fans despised. First Paul McCartney, then Van Morrison, now, omigod, Bob Dylan, singing songs of domestic contentment like "Sign on the Window."

The release of "Blood on the Tracks" should have caused a re-evaluation of "New Morning," along with its successor, "Planet Waves." In fact, Dylan was battling just as furiously during this period, and writing about it just as candidly, but this was a battle where the stakes were personal--trying to keep his family together in the face of the overwhelming, dehumanizing pressures of the outside world. It is a story that resonates more broadly, perhaps, than his earlier work. And it's a tragic story. With "Skyline" and "Self Portrait," Dylan built a wall to protect his family. In "New Morning," the key songs describe the life he was living behind that wall--with his wife and children, in a somewhat idyllic world that gives him time to muse on "what life's all about." But there's a subtle edge of desperation; he can't quite relax. The tension grows in the next album, "Planet Waves," and then explodes as the relationship is demolished in "Blood on the Tracks." The sage continues in "Desire," in which he continues the battle to win her back.

Now that I'm older and have lived several lives, it is these albums by Dylan that make the most sense to me. I still enjoy the classic 60s disks, and like everyone else, can pick out some great songs among his work in the 80s and 90s. But if you are a listener who thinks "Blood on the Tracks" is Dylan's greatest poetic and musical expression, I suggest you try this album and "Planet Waves," playing them in chronological order with "Blood..." and "Desire." This was Dylan's greatest period.

Why just four stars? There are few clunkers, like "One More Weekend," and "The Man in Me." But "If Not for You," "Time Passes Slowly," the odd "If Dogs Run Free," "Three Angels" and the title song each rank with his greatest. They are simpler, more direct, less flashy in a lyrical sense, but they cut to the heart of his subject matter, and confirm his genius.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on June 20, 2006
Format: Audio CD
Perhaps the most underrated Dylan album in his catalogue. It's a shame Bob didn't use the piano as his prominent instrument more often. The songs are wonderfully introspective with a blues and traditional southern gospel flair.

"If Not For You" is an excellent love song that is very laid back and welcoming. It should've been a big pop hit. Songs like "Day Of The Locusts", "Time Passes Slowly", and the title track keep up that laid back, southern porch song type of feel with a stripped down rootsy production. "Winterlude", "Sign On The Window", and "The Man In Me" are just downright beautiful songs, showing an unprecedented vulnerablity that predates Blood On The Tracks.

Overall, I think this is an excellent album and one of the best Bob Dylan albums in my mind. It is a unique, soulful Dylan album. Even better than Blood On The Tracks if you ask me.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon December 31, 2006
Format: Audio CD
This is a very different Dylan disc that for some, like myself, thought to be one his most innovative and better departures. The incorporation of piano and organ played by sixties sideman-stalwart Al Cooper and good old country boy Charlie Daniels on electric bass, the background gospel singers and cool jazz scat singing of Maeretha Stewart create a sound that was not your typical Dylan expectation than nor now. I recently bought a copy of this disc on sale to replace my LP, it takes you back to the day when it came out originally but more than that it demonstrates the diversity and depth of Dylan's work. There are a few country introspective songs that are so quaint that they almost come across as corny like "Sign on the Window" but the brilliance strips away any superficial outer layers to reveal simplicity that works. On the other hand "Winterlude" is just a little to quaint for my tastes. The song that has the most originality and hence my favorite is first and foremost the quirky "If Dogs Run Free" that begins with some piano runs and bluesy jazz guitar with Dylan's voice lowered an octave or two, not as sinewy but deeper and stronger coupled with the scat of Maeretha Stwart to create a song for the ages. A close second is "Father of Night" that features really cool background voices but unfortunatly is much too short coming in at only 1:29. "Three Angels" is sublime and at a whole different level; this is the type of song that is the essence of Dylan music. Other good songs include "Went To See The Gypsy and " If Not for You" that finds Dylan in more typical voice and accompanyment. This is one of those dics that can be played over and over again and you never seem to get tired of it but rather just continue singing along with Mr.Zimmerman. Add this to your Dylan collection it is pretty darn good.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on August 5, 1999
Format: Audio CDVerified Purchase
I wrote the previous review. Since then I re-acquired this album on CD and played it on a drive that should have been 30 minutes long. We kept on driving past our original destination because we simply couldn't stop listening to it. My wife and I of us were literally in joyful tears due to the wonderful spirit and musicianship of this record. One could argue that many of Dylan's earlier recordings received much of their acclaim because of the way they pushed the culture forward and showed us how songs could be taken seriously and be expressive of real ideas. Those albums were, in that sense, the hippest of the hip. New Morning plays no such role. But there is nothing else that matches New Morning's joyous (and sometimes sad) spirit. I believe it is as great as any of his other work, and greater in some ways that are consistent with true timelessness.I would not be surprised if it turns out to be Dylan's most-played record in 2070. I strongly suggest you buy it and listen to it 5 times... I remember from when it first came out that it took me several hearings to begin to appreciate it, but that appreciation has become a constant for nearly 30 years now. Buy it and give it a real chance.
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22 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on December 18, 2001
Format: Audio CD
When NEW MORNING came out, it was after the wake of the critical and commercial disaster of SELF-PORTRAIT. As I said in my review of SELF-PORTRAIT, there are vestiges of a follow-up (and quite a good one at that) to NASHVILLE SKYLINE. SELF PORTRAIT suffers from an identity crisis, and quite a bad one at that, and some of it seems like a legitimate continuation of the direction Dylan was going and then, because of its excesses, there's a lot that seems like it's Dylan's attempt at throwing his audience and critics a curve ball. One thing should be noted, however. While many have noticed this was released quickly after SELF PORTRAIT, all of this music was cut and in the can before SELF PORTRAIT was ever released, and there is evidence of it being marked for release before the big fiasco of its predecessor.
So what about NEW MORNING? This record just takes Dylan further into the domesticated lifestyle he was living and his music just shows it. Gone are the days of "electricity howls in the bones of her face," and instead we get Elvis send-ups and singing about leaving the kids at home for a weekend and doing jazz send-ups and some poetry set to music ("Three Angels"). While Dylan has always had his poetic flair, he generally fuses his music and his lyrics into a cohesive whole, but here it seems more obvious that it is just a poem.
One thing that truly distinguished NASHVILLE SKYLINE was its very distinctive country feel. JOHN WESLEY HARDING, Dylan's release of 1967, had a very mystical feel to it, and while it had a country flavour, it was not a country album but a different animal altogether which I have never found again. It plays almost like an album about a past which no one in living memory can tell us about and manages to capture it in a mystical setting. NASHVILLE SKYLINE, on the other hand, has all the trade-marks of a country album, but the point is, both have an ascetic cohesion which carries them through into that coveted canon of essential music. All of Dylan's best albums have this cohesion as a trade-mark. NASHVILLE SKYLINE is the only country album that I listen too on a regular basis. It services as Dylan's tribute to that genre of music, and several of the ten cuts have become country standards, while also helping cement the idea of "country rock" being a viable form of art. You can tell Dylan is creating a masterpiece in his chosen genre that he wants to work in, creating one more untouchable album for the 1960s.
Well, the 1970s roll around, and his infamous SELF PORTRAIT release is issued. I think there are traces of a great album hidden in the rubble that is SELF-PORTRAIT, and regardless, it still proves to be a fascinating album (see my review). It's torn between two directions and doesn't know which way to go, because Dylan starts with one agenda and ends with another. Had SELF-PORTRAIT trimmed itself back it would have been a worthy follow-up to NASHVILE SKYLINE.
Now we come back to NEW MORNING. VoodooLord7's review gives you an excellent overview of the album itself, but the most important thing Voodoo points out is the lack of cohesion on NEW MORNING. Actually, I disagree that there is not any cohesion in this album, because there is. The problem is, Dylan is too much involved in his domestic life to put a lot of effort in his art. Voodoolord7 gives the excellent analogy of this being an album that Dylan would record in a cabin in the mountains, having a lazy, laid back feel too it, which it most certainly does.
This is an album from a family man's perspective. In the 1960s, Dylan was a visionary, crafting some of the best music of our times. In the early 1970s, though, Dylan was married, had children, and was doing the family scene. He had settled down, and you can tell from his music. When you listen to NEW MORNING, you get the very distinct feeling that the album was cut by someone who was heavily involved with his family life, and while that is a good thing, the music produced in this period does not rise to the level previously reached by Dylan's music. The lack of cohesion that VoodooLord7 complains about is actually there; but it's not there enough to make this a truly essential Dylan album. The cohesion found on NEW MORNING is a domestic cohesion, with stories and songs that a father would sing to his children. While you can produce truly great music like this, Dylan does not, and his own muse works better working within established genres of music instead of established areas of life outside of the ascetic.
People missed the old Dylan of the 1960s, but like the rest of us, Dylan progresses and evolves. But it must have been something of a shock to hear Dylan singing that children are calling him Pa and that's what life is all about when only five years ago he was belting out the lyrics to "Like a Rolling Stone."
For his art, BLOOD ON THE TRACKS would never had come out had his life not been involved with family in the early 1970s. For my money, I'd rather Dylan (or anyone for that matter), had a good family life because that is more important than art. However, this family relationship began unraveling, and this period of domesticity culminated in BLOOD ON THE TRACKS, his greatest post 1960s album. Dylan had enough experience writing about family to turn out a truly great album, and while NEW MORNING and PLANET WAVES are not great albums, they are both thoroughly enjoyable minor works, NEW MORNING being the better album.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on August 11, 2007
Format: Audio CD
New Morning blooms with paradox. Bob Dylan recorded it in 1970, in the midst of a life-and-death struggle (described in his Chronicles Volume 1) to protect himself and his young family against legions of pursuers seeking to trace and follow his every move. Despite its turbulent origins, the album is pastoral and gentle, its tranquility a profound defense against the manic threats to his privacy and safety. Intended (along with its predecessor, Self Portrait) as a change of direction to confuse the many who had sanctified him as a prophet or pigeonholed him as "voice of a generation," New Morning nevertheless stands squarely in the mainstream of Dylan's artistic development. It is a logical successor to John Wesley Harding and Nashville Skyline, an alpine meadow leading to the pinnacles of his great mid-seventies trilogy of Planet Waves, Blood on the Tracks, and Desire.

Modest on its surface, New Morning is one of Dylan's most innovative efforts, retaining the conciseness of John Wesley Harding and Nashville Skyline but with a freer, more open sound. Through a counterpoint of subtle musical and lyrical contrasts, Dylan and his band make the songs unfold within the "real time" of the listener. A striking example is "Time Passes Slowly." Its verses blend stateliness and simplicity, contented laziness and wonder, to paint a tranquil mountain landscape. Repetitive piano chords and the dreamy echoing of David Bromberg's dobro guitar transport us to an eternally present moment when "time passes slowly and it fades away."

The jazz piece "If Dogs Run Free" is unlike anything Dylan has recorded before or since, and offers a tantalizing glimpse at a road not taken in his career. As Maeretha Stewart scat sings and Al Kooper riffs on piano, Dylan recites the lines with the stream-of-consciousness delivery of a beat poet. He sets forth a philosophy of flow and acceptance, in which freedom and necessity are mysteriously linked:

"If dogs run free, what must be,
Must be, and that is all.
True love can make a blade of grass
Stand up straight and tall.
In harmony with the cosmic sea,
True love needs no company,
It can cure the soul, it can make it whole
If dogs run free."

New Morning radiates an exuberant joy as sweet sounds of bells ring out in "If Not For You." The "la-la-las" at the end of "The Man In Me" express a delight that cannot be contained in words. But Dylan's happiness is framed and shaped by foreboding. "If Not For You" is not only a declaration of love for his wife Sara but also a meditation on the emptiness he would feel if he ever lost her. In "The Man In Me," Dylan exults that he can do "nearly any task" thanks to "a woman like you," but adds ominously that "storm clouds are raging all around my door,/I think to myself I might not take it any more." A sense of transience pervades all. "One More Weekend"'s rollicking vacation will be just a brief interruption in a life spent "slippin' and slidin' like a weasel on the run." The enchanted snow scene of "Winterlude" is destined to vanish with the change of seasons.

Every refuge here is fragile and threatened. In "Sign in the Window," Dylan retreats to a Utah wilderness vulnerable to encroachment by an isolating and selfish civilization. The title song, "New Morning," takes place in a slower-paced, early twentieth century America where the "automobile [is] comin' into style/Comin' down the road for a country mile or two." We ask ourselves if this idyllic scene can have a counterpart in the harsh realities of today's world.

The faith Dylan expresses in New Morning confronts a universal spiritual deafness. His beautiful, gospel-like hymn of praise, "Father of Night" (sung on only three tones) follows the desolate "Three Angels." Standing high above a busy street, the angels in this song play a divine music that none of the passers-by even try to hear.

Dylan makes sense of New Morning's apparent contradictions by incorporating them into his living, growing art. Beginning with this album, his songwriting changes. Before this, his songs were outside objects to be grasped and imbued with life. ("A song is anything that can walk by itself," Dylan said in the notes to his 1965 album, "Bringing It All Back Home.") New Morning's songs are a part of the artist--they are internal rather than external. As such, they have an immediacy absent from his earlier work. But because the songs reach us only through the prism of paradox, they also distance us as never before. As Dylan writes in Chronicles Volume 1, New Morning reveals mere "shadows of my possible self."
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on November 17, 1999
Format: Audio CD
see bob. bob is in a mellow mood. bob's mellow because he's exhausted from single-handedly altering the course of popular music. bob needs to slow down. bob needs to reflect. bob's gonna record a laid-back album. bob's gonna call the album "new morning". there's gonna be lots of great stuff on it. bob's gonna smile. and so are you.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on October 26, 2001
Format: Audio CD
New Morning seems mostly like an album from a fallow period and, looked at from that angle, it's really quite good. The mood is thoroughly pleasant (The Man in Me & Winterlude) and lazily experimental (Dogs Run Free, Winterlude--a waltz!, Three Angels & Father of Night--written for a play that was never produced, or something). There are a few songs that I think are so innocuous that I have difficulty remembering that they exist (New Morning & If Not for You).
And then there are three songs that are consumate Dylan masterpieces: Went to See the Gypsy, Sign on the Window, and Day of the Locust. The music on these is loose put precise, and the lyrics are, I think, among Dylan's very best. Bob Dylan may never have written a better, more economical song--one that actually qualifies as very sharp poetry--than Went to See the Gypsy. No words are wasted, the images are all lovely and suggestive, the story & setting & mood come across in perfect fidelity--all the better for the Dylanesque mystery of the lyrics, and there's a perfect epiphany in the last line: the circle comes clean, and you can see (as clearly as necessary, anyways) what the song is about.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on October 24, 2005
Format: Audio CD
The sublime beauty of this album is in it's sparseness and simplicity.It is to borrow a phrase bringing it all back home..Dylan putting it all together again and probably in my opinion his most personal and refreshing bunch of songs in the spirit of simple roots..Piano,guitar,scat singing,blues and jazz,countryish infected songs with some mighty spiritual lyrics and sketches of life portrayed throughout.Dylan's voice is very intense on this album.
There is a coherency of feel throughout and the various styles of songs somehow mesh together nicely.The emotional sincere quality is real, gone is the posturing,what remains is a pious Dylan on the cover reflecting on it all.Great material just ask George Harrison,Joe Cocker,Manfred Mann even The Clash who covered songs from this album.It will be nice to hear a remastered/sacd version one day.Even the production is simple.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on September 27, 2005
Format: Audio CD
I love this album. Sure, it doesn't compare to what came before it but it's still incredibly enjoyable. It's comparable to Nashville Skyline, but with less of a country sound. The piano is the dominant instrument on this album. There's still a country influence though, with pedal steel guitar here and there.

Highlights:

If Not For You is a nice love song written for Dylan's wife Sara, which was covered by George Harrison on his All Things Must Pass album. This is probably the most well-known song on the album.

Day of the Locusts, while I have no idea what it's about, stands out in my mind with its piano-based melody. That chorus always sticks in my head, "Yeah the locusts sang such a sweet melody".

The piano-based Winterlude is also one of the more memorable songs for me, if for nothing more than the line "Winterlude, this dude thinks you're fine". The music is interesting too, with a kind of jazzy, lounge sound to it.

If Dogs Run Free I really like a lot. Dylan being a follower of Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, it makes sense that he would try his hand at beat poetry. Dylan's spoken-word vocal is accompanied by jazzy guitar, piano and bass as well as some interesting scat-singing. It's no classic, certainly, but I really get a kick out of this track.

Sign On The Window is one of the album's best songs. Another piano-based track, and featuring back-up singers, this song sort of epitomises the sound of the album.

I've liked The Man In Me ever since I first heard it in the Coen Brothers movie, The Big Lebowski. It's quite a unique song in Dylan's canon, I can't think of another one that sounds similar to it. From Dylan's "la-la-la-la-la-la" to that organ part, it's quite a distinctive song. But whenever I hear it, I picture Jeff Bridges flying through the sky.

Father of Night is an excellent album closer. It's a cool poetic track with a nice melody. One of the more memorable album tracks.

To sum up, New Morning is not exactly an essential Bob Dylan album. I certainly wouldn't recommend it to newcomers. But if you're a big fan and you're venturing beyond the bare essentials, it's a nice enjoyable lightweight record that you may want to check out. With quite a bit of variety (country, jazz, poetry, piano ballads), New Morning is a very interesting album with lots to offer Dylan fans.
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