Thursday, October 30, 2008

Album Of The Day #100: SHOT OF LOVE - Bob Dylan

When I first started doing “Albums of the Day”, never for a second did I think #100 would be one of the most reviled Bob Dylan albums ever, but here it goes.

Title: Shot Of Love
Artist: Bob Dylan
Label: Columbia
Released: 1981
Songs: Shot of Love/Heart of Mine/Property of Jesus/Lenny Bruce/Watered-Down Love/Dead Man, Dead Man/In the Summertime/Trouble/Every Grain of Sand
Written by: Bob Dylan
Produced by: Bob Dylan & Chuck Plotkin, except “Shot of Love”, by Bob Dylan, Chuck Plotkin & Bumps Blackwell
Thoughts: Bob Dylan certainly is no hard rocker, but of all the albums where he got close, it might surprise you that he nearly did it on his last gospel LP, Shot Of Love. You’re probably laughing at that phrase, saying, “Boy, this kid really lost his mind.” Really? Have I? When was the last time you slid this disc into you player? It might have been awhile, so put it in now, because it will surprise you.
Like Saved, I made this purchase because I had too…not because I wanted to. Also like Saved, what came out of the stereo shocked and surprised me. Here was a Bob Dylan album that opened with a song that had an A Capella intro.
I need, I need…A SHOT OF LOVE!
I need, I need…A SHOT OF LOVE!
Then, guitars crash…
Don't need a shot of heroin to kill my disease,
Don't need a shot of turpentine, only bring me to my knees,
Don't need a shot of codeine to help me to repent,
Don't need a shot of whiskey, help me be president.
Here is Bob, singing in unison with his choir of female backup singers, about needing a “Shot of Love”. So, from the beginning, we are presented with a puzzle. Are these songs really about Jesus and Christianity? Has Bob really switched back?
The answer to the second question is easy: no. Yet the first…well, that’s a toughie. Let’s see what’s next.
It’s “Heart Of Mine”, a wonderful, quirky love song, where the singer begs his heart to be quiet and not make a fool of itself. That certainly isn’t a gospel song, but the next one is. “Property of Jesus” has this wonderful, rhythmic piano part, resembling a march and biting lyrics. It almost manifests itself as “Idiot Wind for Non-Believers”, attacking anyone who finds humor in the man who stays religious. Following that is “Lenny Bruce”, the strangest song in Dylan’s cannon. Here, he immortalizes the Jewish comedian, right after he humiliated people who didn’t believe in Jesus.
I love “Watered-Down Love”. This song has this sort of faux-reggae thing and a great lyric. The idea of wanting love, but not pure love is certainly unique in the world of music, where mostly all people, except those in Dylan’s songs, want a love as pure as possible. Yet the subject of this song doesn’t want “a love that’s pure”. I mean, that idea is so strange and foreign. Next is “Dead Man, Dead Man”, the worst song here. It is another gospel track, but Bob doesn’t feel very into it, unlike the stuff on Saved. You kind of sense that he was tired of doing this already, and wanted to go back to doing secular music. “In The Summertime” is a forgettable love song and “Trouble”, which is sort of half-gospel and half-secular, is interesting, but nothing like the song that follows. “Every Grain Of Sand” is just so immaculate and perfect. It has that feeling of “It Ain’t Me Babe”. Bob waves good bye to gospel music, saying that he must be like everyone and face his demons, but look to the future. I love the second verse:
Don't have the inclination to look back on any mistake,
Like Cain, I now behold this chain of events that I must break.
In the fury of the moment I can see the Master's hand
In every leaf that trembles, in every grain of sand.
Bob has the idea that he can’t atone for every past mistake and that he can always get help from above. He can look forward without betraying. If he keeps looking back, the same things might happen, but if he looks forward, he can keep going. It’s just an amazing idea, really, as if Bob is giving us a reason why his next album won’t be religious.
The CD version (plus later vinyl issues, I believe) included the B-Side to “Heart Of Mine”, “The Groom’s Still Waiting At The Altar”. Thank god Bob didn’t allow this song to disappear into obscurity as a vinyl-only B-Side, because it is one of Bob’s hardest rocking tracks and it makes the album so much better. The song is just amazing and probably one of my all-time favorite Dylan tracks. The ironic thing is that this has proved to be the only song that carries over from compilation to compilation, despite not being on the original LP. (You have to feel bad for “Heart Of Mine”…since its inclusion on Biograph, it hasn’t been anywhere.)
Overall, this is a wonderful album, so I hope you’ll pardon me in saying you need a Shot Of Love.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great to see this album getting some credit! :-)