This is my third review of a Bob Dylan album and this time it is of one of his best, Nashville Skyline (1969).
Nashville Skyline continues a tone Dylan set on John Wesley Harding (1968). That is a tone of simplicity, in writing, producing and instrumentation, and country.
When the album begins, you get the feeling that Dylan has changed over the year. That's because of this "new" voice he's concocted. It opens with a duet-cover of his own Girl From The North Country (from The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan ) with Johnny Cash. So, Dylan is doing more than trying to be country, he is country. Not just on this track, but on the entire album. The title track, Nashville Skyline Rag, is a simple instrumental that sums up the whole album. It's fun and you could easily tell how much fun the musicians had when making the track.
Although most of the tracks are fun, Dylan slides in some serious lyrics, like in Tell Me It Isn't True, I Threw It All Away and To Be Alone With You. Peggy Day and Country Pie are two hilarious tracks filled with interesting word play. "Peggy Day"'s second verse, where a girl named "Peggy Night" is introduced, is particularly humorous. Here, he switches the words in the repeated line, "Love to spend the night with Peggy Day" to "Love to spend the day with Peggy Night".
It's this sort of humor that's spread throughout the album that makes it enjoyable. This isn't just Dylan slouching about lost love and when he gives humor, he doesn't laugh at himself (especially, like on Another Side of Bob Dylan ).
Lay Lady Lay, the huge hit, is here of course and the song is a beautiful, detraction from the previous notable Dylan songs. It's a really nice song, but like most of the album, suffers from simplistic lyrics and means really not much of anything.
The packaging is simplistic as well. The cover is a great, smiling picture of Dylan, capturing the humor and enjoyment you get out of listening to the included plastic. The liner notes are by Cash and describe how great a poet Dylan is. Of course, we already know that, but it doesn't show very well on this particular album.
If there are so many picky, negative things about the album, how can I or anyone else say it is one of Dylan's best? Clearly it isn't really the best, but what makes this twenty-eight minute album (that's short, even in '69) it so good is that it's so much fun. Everyone on the album is enjoying themselves, and this enjoyment is easily transferable from musician to speaker to listener.