Customer Review

16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars WE'LL MAKE UP OUR OWN MINDS, October 2, 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Knocked Out Loaded (Audio CD)
Critics be damned; they never know what they're talking about anyway. Many of them have written about this record in a tone that presumes we all agree it's at or near the nadir of Dylan's output. But I don't agree, and neither do many of my fellow listeners. This is a soulful album, from the opening bass slide of "You Wanna Ramble" to the trailing chorus at the conclusion of "Under Your Spell." The songs (and the odd but intriguing cover as well) conjure desert landscapes and long, wearying journeys of the body and mind. The resolutions of the stories within are usually ambiguous, open-ended or simply unattainable. With much of Dylan's work, it's the spaces between people that help define how they communicate, because they must do so in relation to where they stand; point-of-view is paramount. This record is a good example of how Dylan's best stories feature players who must struggle across barren landscapes to understand themselves and each other. Bob might have changed some of the lyrics to the opening song, I don't know, but I find it interesting that the track includes the line, "What happens tomorrow/ Is on your head, not mine," a bit of foreshadowing since the line is spoken by Burl Ives in the 1960 Western 'The Big Country,' starring Gregory Peck. The band really kicks on this one, and the sound is very similar to what Bob and his band have been achieving on stage in recent years. "They Killed Him" was written by Kris Kristofferson, and I think it's a good song. People object to the use of a children's choir on this track, but it sounds right to me. The way it comes off it sort of reminds me of Tom T. Hall's "100 Children." The message of both songs is simple and direct; and who's going to argue with the sentiments expressed? "Drifting Too Far from Shore" shares its title with an old Charles Moody spiritual recorded by Hank Williams, and vaguely recalls the melody of that song. It features another good line from another good Western, this time 'Bend of the River' from 1952: "I figure [maybe] we're even/ Or maybe I'm one up on you" (Arthur Kennedy to James Stewart). I think this song and "Maybe Someday" came out of the 'Empire Burlesque' batch of songwriting; they have a similar sound and feel. I like the keyboards, but I wish they'd mixed the guitars a little more up front. The background singers get really steamy with all that "Ooooh--yeah," rocking the boat with an erotic appeal that offsets the spiritual allusions. "Precious Memories" is a beautiful spiritual, a traditional song affectionately sung. It was brilliant to include steel drums on the track; they add an exotic sound and once again bring up images of vast stretches of sand that "glide across the lonely years." The snare drum drives the narrator of "Maybe Someday" down the Lost Highway of longing and regret, defending his intentions with a touch of righteous indignation. Dylan adds just a dash of spite to his vocal delivery, and reels off so many clever lines so quickly that you have to listen to the song several times before you can begin to smile in all the right places. The trip down the Lost Highway continues on the next track, the epic "Brownsville Girl," wherein the narrator tells us of his adventures crisscrossing Texas, the girl with "teeth like pearls/ shining like the moon above" by his side, but then no longer there, replaced in the present tense by someone who perhaps doesn't quite measure up, yet remains at his side and has "that dark rhythm in her soul." The narrator is "a man with no alibi" who journeys from nowhere to nowhere, acutely aware of his own mortality, likening himself to the main character of 'The Gunfighter' (1951) starring Gregory Peck, understanding his position: "Here I am, 35 years old and I haven't even got a good watch." The film was one of the first "sociological" Westerns, exploring the mythos of the gunfighter who has simply lived longer than he ever thought he would and now steps along the brink of the possibilities for a new life. Yet it seems as if it could be too late... "Got My Mind Made Up" was cut with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, with whom Dylan was touring that summer. The line is oft-repeated by Peck's gunfighter character toward the end of the film. The song has a good churning grunge to it, with somebody going off to see a guy in Libya (more sand). In an interview about this time, Petty said he'd never before worked with somebody whom everybody wanted to know something about. People are interested in Bob. The last song was co-written with Carol Bayer-Sager (sp?), and is poignant but (shakily) hopeful. The singer hopes he doesn't expire "two feet from the well." I love the horns and the background singers on this track, to say nothing of Dylan's obvious emotional involvement with it. A fine ending for a fine record. So take that, critics; and next time, pay for your ticket and don't complain. I give this one an 86.6, especially since it goes so well with an afternoon of playing pool and/or pinball and drinking (responsibly) from a bottle of tequila on those hot summer days. Viva Bob!
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 14, 2008 8:50:13 AM PST
One of the very few detailed and thoughtful reviews written on what is a masterpiece album, "Knocked Out Loaded". Just about every negative review ever written on the album makes no sense and offers no explanation. Whoever wrote this review, great job.

Posted on May 19, 2013 10:00:16 AM PDT
[Deleted by the author on May 19, 2013 10:02:12 AM PDT]

Posted on May 19, 2013 10:05:43 AM PDT
Excellent review of a mistreated & misunderstood album. Cheers!
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