Although the word "hip" has never been in my vocabulary, "hip" is not the way to describe an album of Christian rock songs released in 1979 when new wave and the decadance of disco were dominating popular music. That's one reason why Bob Dylan is hipper than anybody. The critics be damned (in more ways than one, I suppose), Dylan was a man with a message who wasn't going to dilute that message to curry favor with anyone. Thank God for that because "Slow Train Coming" is a great, powerful album. The songs may be arrogant, as some critics have charged, but so was "The Times They Are-a Changin'" and "Like a Rolling Stone." The fire and brimstone mentality might have been grating if not for the fact that, musically, Dylan is operating at full power, and, lyrically, he is obviously very sincere in his beliefs. Whether sympathetic to the message or not, it's hard to believe anyone could not be moved by the beauty of "I Believe In You" and "Precious Angel," amused by "Man Gave Names to All the Animals," and overpowered by the dynamic "When He Returns." This album is right up there with his best work, and the follow-up, "Saved," is, in some ways, even better.
on August 22, 2006
A lot of people really freaked out when Dylan became a born again Christian. I remember reading that he appeared on Saturday Night Live in 1979 right around the time this album got released, and that the cast and staff were terrified of his Christianity. I find their paranoia silly. Much of Dylan's work dealt with God and religious & spiritual issues anyway, here it was just made more explicit. This is one of Dylan's best albums, and one of my top 5 favorite Dylan albums. His voice is filled with passion, and these songs are excellent. All of these songs still hold true today. Slow Train, Gotta Serve Somebody, Precious Angel, and When You Gonna Wake Up? are my favorites here. The closer, When He Returns, is one of Dylan's most passioned vocals ever. Even the song Man Gave Names to All the Animals (which many people mock simply because of its title) is very good. There isn't one wasted song on the whole album. Even if you're not religious, you can still listen to this, and appreciate Dylan's passion and fire. This is a great spiritual record. It isn't overly preachy, and it isn't sanctimonious. It's just really sincere, like all great art. Dylan rules...
on June 17, 2004
"Slow Train Coming" was exactly that-this album was more inevitable than most people realized, and a turning point in the career of Bob Dylan, not just commercially but, obviously, spiritually. Some called the Christian transition "bizarre;" but it's strange how no one complained when Pete Townshend expressed his religious beliefs in Meher Baba, or when actor Richard Gere became a Buddhist, which suggests some sort of prejudice. There's nothing wrong with a celebrity finding religion, but Dylan's transition is another example of the harsh standards that fans set for celebrities. What's worse is that they expect them to live by those standards. (Confusingly enough, Dylan actually said in 1983 "Whoever said I was Christian? I am a humanist!")
Dylan had been wandering for quite sometime, searching for himself in a way, while all at once becoming the "voice of a generation." What that generation probably didn't know was that their leader (a title Dylan denounced), the person they came to believe in, was searching for something to believe in too. And he obviously had good reason; in 1970, the generation he inspired turned on him at the drop of a hat, only that hat was in the form of an album called "Self Portrait," a purposely disastrous album Dylan released in hopes that critics and fans would remember he had told them "don't follow leaders." As he would later say, "I wanted out." They forgave him after another album, "New Morning." One rock and roll headline read "We've Got Dylan Back Again." But did Dylan have Dylan back? He wandered throughout the 70s, singing about what he was becoming increasingly knowledgeable about, his domestic family life (1974's "Planet Waves") and later the trials of a shaky marriage ("Blood On the Tracks," pieces of 1976's "Desire").
Therefore, "Slow Train Coming" is a joy to listen to because it finds Dylan finally at some form of peace. The last time he'd sounded this satisfied was probably on the laid-back country of 1969's "Nashville Skyline." He had been singing about the elements found in this album for years. Only now, Dylan knew that it was God who gave him the gift to do so. One should look back at the echoes of the book of Isaiah in 'All Along the Watchtower,' a song that seemed eerily similar to Mark 13:35. Some would accuse Dylan's lyrics for this album of being judgmental. Not so. He was actually singing about the same kinds of people found in older songs like 'Ballad of a Thin Man;' those who have "been through all of F. Scott Fitzgerald's books," who are "very well read" but still "something is happening" and they "don't know what it is." Dylan is more focused and diligent on "Slow Train Coming" than anything he had ever recorded before, and this clear-headed motivation would even carry into his albums of the 80s and 90s, whether they were Christian or secular. Songs like 'When You Gonna Wake Up' and the subtle-but-anthemic 'Gotta Serve Somebody' are no more "judgemental" than the lyrics of 'Like a Rolling Stone.' As a matter of fact, none of his work was judgemental, they are simply Dylan describing the kinds of characters and truths life is full of. Tracks like 'Precious Angel' and 'Slow Train' meanwhile are the peaks of Bob Dylan's goal on this album.
"Slow Train Coming," in some ways, had the same side-effects as "Self Portrait." The non-Christian fans became disgusted that "their" Bob Dylan could think for himself and not simply follow the beliefs his fans wanted him to follow, rather than his own. Some fans covered their ears, others made excuses and claimed it was just a cry for help. The reviews for mixed, but the record sold, making it a minor classic, and the music within is always superb. Subsequent Christian albums "Saved" and "Shot of Love" were not as well respected, and Dylan would allegedly move back to "secular" recordings with the strong "Infidels"; but even that album contained some references to both Christianity and Judaism influenced by Dylan's research in spiritual Rastafarianism, sparking many theories as to what exactly was influencing the songwriter at that point and whether "secular" was the word to describe it. But it was the best thing he could have done at this point; had Dylan continued to record strictly Christian rock his star would have faded, his audience lost. And whether or not he kept the values of "Slow Train Coming," every word, every note is the solid truth, something Dylan was never afraid to tell.
Fans who have long preferred Dylan's rebellious, folksy lyrics won't be disappointed. In a market which often pushes Christianity to the gospel music genre, Dylan steps up and gives us his best music in years.
"I Believe in You," is the story of a person who is rejected because of his faith but doesn't flinch. Dylan hits on a theme universal to anyone who has believed in something intangible. Autobiographical, he sings about the public's reaction. They wanted him to sing terribly politically incorrect lyrics like "Just like a Woman," when he wanted to sing about his new found faith in Christ, equally politically incorrect. Some of his more close-minded fans had a hard time letting Dylan sing a song this counter to what they wanted him to be.
"Gotta Serve Somebody" is witty and insightful, and has a great urban old-school gospel flavor to it. Look around and you will see it is becoming one of his most covered songs.
"Man Gave Names to All the Animals" is a funny look at what Adam's first job was in Eden.
I fully recommend "Slow Train Coming" by Bob Dylan.
on January 24, 2000
This is one of Dylan's most mature albums, both lyrically and musically. I am not sure why one customer reviewer wonder "where are his clear critcial views?" They are HERE, and with force. Social/Religous commentary springs forth in prophetic tone on "When You Gonna Wake Up" (which is critical of religious hypocricy, disregard for the elderly, doctors-pushing drugs, and on and on), "Slow Train," and "Gotta Serve Somebody." My favorite song is "When He Returns," a moving and profound ballad, with beautfiul imagery: "Surrender your crown on this bloodstained ground, take off your mask. He sees your deeds, he knows your needs, even before you ask." From the slow to the grinding, this album is a powerful, moving, expression of Christian music. So-called Dylan fans who can not get past the 1970's and can not accept that Dylan has grown and matured and improved are really missing out on something here.
Bob Dylan accepted Christ as his Savior in 1978, and right away, his newborn faith became evident in his music. Slow Train Coming has a slick rock sound, with intoxicating guitar work, pretty melodies, and good female background singers.
The record kicks off with the warning that it may be the devil or it may be the Lord, but you "Gotta Serve Somebody." The second song is the pretty, but long winded "Precious Angel," a tribute to Mary Alice Artes, the woman who introduced Dylan to the Savior (and to the Vineyard Christian Fellowship).
The next song is the poignant, passionate "I Believe in You," where Dylan wears his faith on his sleeve, singing, "I believe in you, even through the tears and the laughter, even though I be outnumbered." He still performs this number in concerts once in a while.
The title track follows after this, and the Slow Train Coming is about the Kingdom of God and the time of the end inexorably approaching, even as Dylan's own loved ones are "turning into puppets," following the beat of this world system rather than following Christ.
The next tune is the resolute blues rock number "Gonna Change My Way of Thinking," complete with a beautiful horn section reminiscent of the Stones' Exile in Main Street sound. The song itself is about taking on the mind of Christ, thinking the thoughts of a Christian rather than the thoughts of the world.
There are also songs about the Golden Rule (Do Right to Me Baby), and the Garden of Eden story (Man Gave Names to all the Animals, a good children's song), and the closing number "When He Returns," probably the greatest song on the album, a stirring gospel tune that looks forward to the return of Jesus Christ.
I also like the song "When You Gonna Wake Up," a blues rock song where Dylan challenges us to wake up and accept Jesus.
Dylan's singing is a little strained at times, maybe because he was caught up in the emotion of the songs. It's hard to say. You especially notice it on "I Believe in You" and "When He Returns."
This record was recently recognized by CCM Magazine as one of the top ten Christian rock records of all time. In 1978, the idea of a major rock icon putting out an overtly born again Christian record seemed unlikely, and so this album breaks new ground. I highly recommend it.
Note: if you already own an older copy of this disc, buy this new remastered version, because the sound quality is much superior to the original release. You will notice greater clarity and certain instruments will be easier to detect than with the original release.
on October 13, 2006
Honestly, I too went through the "born again" thing just prior to Dylan's adventure there...The aging hippies of the 60's faced a choice in the 70's: cocaine or Jesus--I chose the later. Saved some money; saved a few thousand brain cells; gained a few extra pounds(Christians like to eat)! But anyhow, I was very relieved when Bob Dylan came out with this album which, in my mind, told me I had chosen correctly---It was ok. But, like many others, including Dylan, a couple years of piotic living was enough to say, "I tried it." Odd, how once you've tried something, it increases your tolerance for that behavior or belief. So, now, many years later and far removed from the born again experience, I can still enjoy this album and not be "offended" by its subject. And for that alone, I'm very happy I chose Jesus over cocaine! Back then though, this album was literally a God send for me. I could listen to this; enjoy my old ways; hear great music; and still be pious. Complicated beats, smooth-powerful guitar (some of the best you'll hear on any Dylan album),and calming, yet powerful lyrics and vocals. Dylan was at peace during this time and it comes across in the music...anyone who won't give this album a chance misses out on a part of Dylan that can only be found in these "Messianic-period" albums. It's too bad; his music during this time in his life was pretty special. And the best part for me was that I could actually be "in tuned" with what Dylan was singing about and not have to pretend he was singing to a girl :-)...His lyrics, regardless of subject matter, have always been brilliant and these lyrics were no less powerful to those who would listen. But that aside, notice how many 5 star reviews there are here from people who are reviewing this album for the music's sake only and not buying into the spiritual subject matter...it speaks loudly for the musical quality of this album.
on June 3, 2003
... I don't think it's really up to the level of some of his other albums (if you want to get Dylan's absolute best work, in my opinion you should start off with Bringing It All Back Home, Blood On The Tracks, and/or Love And Theft, but that's just my opinion), but, that said, it's a heck of a lot better than most things released in 1979, and it's on a completely different plane of existence from the much of the puerile, soulless treacle labeled "Contemporary Christian Music," which is basically the same garbage on your average pop or generic alt-rock radio station with slightly altered lyrics. I'm more acquainted with that genre than most people of my religious background, since I share an office with someone who is rather intensely involved in an evangelical free church. One day, after hearing Audio Adrenaline one too many times, I played this album and a Blind Lemon Jefferson collection for him. He was hooked immediately, and I haven't heard any more Audio Adrenaline in several months since.
One interesting thing this album has made think about is this: the reason why certain subsets of both secular liberals and conservative Christians can each hold an artist like Bob Dylan in equally high esteem is probably because we have more in common than either would generally like to consider. Think about it: if you're sitting here, tooling through reviews of some of Bob Dylan's lesser-known albums, chances are you (1) have a sneaking suspicion that there's more to life than making as much money and acquiring as much material [items] as possible, and (2) that our culture in particular pursues and values those things far too much, no matter what your religious or political orientations may be... Toodles!
Although the word "hip" has never been in my vocabulary, "hip" is certainly not the way one could have described an album of Christian rock songs released in 1979, a time when popular music was dominated by New Wave and the decadance of disco. Bob Dylan wasn't concerned with such labels, one reason why he was (and remains) hipper than everybody. The critics be damned (in more ways than one, I suppose), Dylan was a man with a message who wasn't going to dilute it to curry favor with anyone.
And thank God for that because "Slow Train Coming" is a great, powerful album. Some critics, professional and amateur alike, dismiss these songs on the grounds that they're arrogant, but those same critics did not seem to mind Dylan's self-described "finger pointin'" when the message was secular. The fire and brimstone mentality might have been grating if not for the fact that, musically, Dylan is operating at full power, and, lyrically, he is obviously very sincere in his beliefs.
Whether sympathetic to the message or not, it's hard to believe anyone could not be moved by "I Believe In You" and "Precious Angel," delighted by "Man Gave Names to All the Animals," and overpowered by the dynamic "When He Returns." This album is right up there with his best work, and the follow-up, "Saved," is its equal, and may, in some ways, be even better.
Produced by Jerry Wexler and Barry Beckett, this album is the most polished of any Dylan album. Mark Knopfler's fluid guitar licks add to the sonic delight of this first class effort.
on October 25, 2003
I agree totally with Staphanie's prior review. Slow Train is in my top 10 list of essential rock albums to own. It is unique in its perfection and a joy to listen to, even if you don't like the "Christian" overtones. It's not like anyone worries about the religious overtones that dominate much of Bob Marley's Exodus (also in my top 10 list). Who cares?? The music is great, and so is Slow Train. I'm sure most Dylan afficianados would disagree with me, but my two favorite Dylan albums are Slow Train and Infidels, both of which have religious aspects...and I'm not a very religious person...I just like the music and the sincerety. Nobody writes a song like Bob. No one. Period.