Top critical review
Not ReallyThrowing It All Away!
on July 19, 2013
The thing that most Dylan fans forget is that he wanted to be a pop-singer like Elvis! Elvis was a pop star! Yes, Presley's earliest impressions were that of music rebel, somewhat brooding & sexually provocative. However, Presley always tempered his 1950's reputation with flavorful pop offerings, gospel & country musics. Bob Dylan always wanted to be pop star too. If not, then he would've remained the darling of the West Village's political left-wing folkies. By 1965 Dylan was sporting an electric guitar, writing long surrealistic poems, listening to The Beatles, & posing as a pop-writer.
By 1967 Dylan is essentially done with the 60's. He didn't appear at Woodstock in spite of that famed festival being held near his home in upstate NY due to the close proximity to Bob & Sara Dylan. Dylan was a no-show. Always ahead of the pack, by 1969 Dylan releases 'Nashville Skyline'. What to many was a professional hoax of some sort, one only a David Bowie could pull successfully years later, was, in fact, one where Dylan landed himself a Top Ten hit with 'Lay Lady Lay' & new friends in the country world, most notably Johnny Cash. This new stage persona, which if not pure country, was certainly an attempt to center himself middle-of-the-road. Dylan wasn't new to Nashville as 'Blonde On Blonde', his most accomplished LP of the 60's, was also recorded there, utilizing many of the same musicians on 'Skyline'. However, 'Nashville Skyline' sounds more like a country album than anything on 'Blonde'. In odd Dylan fashion he pulls it off with some startling results.
'Nashville Skyline', which sold tremendously well, had a divided audience to many Dylan fans & critics, as well as being deemed just an o.k. album. Produced by long-time Simon & Garfunkel & Dylan's own 'Highway 61' producer, Bob Johnston, the two stand-out tracks are the obvious 'Lay Lady Lay' (originally written for John Schlessinger's film 'Midnight Cowboy') & 'I Threw It All Away', perhaps Dylan's most 'regular' great song he's written up to that time. Much of the other songs, at best, are well played by his Nashville cohorts, flavored much in the Nashville sound, sounding a little generic for a Bob Dylan album. The other correlating factor is in Dylan's own transformed vocal style. Mostly nasal, Dylan is deliberately world's apart from his mid sixties stretch 'n twang style. Here he's attempting to be something of a crooner &, at times, pulls off this half charade/half sincere musical transformation amazingly well.
The other odd track on 'Skyline' is the opener, a duet with country friend & supporter, Johnny Cash. Here, they are resurrecting Dylan's own 'Girl From North Country', it starting out quite nicely, each taking their turn with the opening verses. However, when they join together, the duet falls apart into ineptitude, to say the least, as each are either reaching for an upper harmony or can't remember the actual melody line. It's a mess, for sure, maybe a good mess for some. Certainly it's nostalgic in retrospect.
'Threw It All Away' & 'Lay Lady Lay' usually appear on Dylan compilations, particularly the latter. An interesting album in theory & concept, not bad all around, Dylan's still in the greater orbit of music in this period in spite of his reclusive public persona. Get this remaster only as it has the best sound to date. With this one he didn't quite '...throw it all away', not by a long shot...