Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Album Of The Day #98: SLOW TRAIN COMING - Bob Dylan

Title: Slow Train Coming
Artist: Bob Dylan
Label: Columbia
Released: 1979
Songs: Gotta Serve Somebody/Precious Angel/I Believe In You/Slow Train/Gonna Change My Way Of Thinking/Do Right To Me Baby (Do Unto Others)/When You Gonna Wake Up/Man Gave Names To All The Animals/When He Returns
Written by: Bob Dylan
Produced by: Jerry Wexler & Barry Beckett
Thoughts: I have always found the gospel trilogy to be intriguing. None of them are bad albums, but for some odd reason, I find it harder to go back to Slow Train Coming than Saved or Shot Of Love, both of which have been maligned over the years to no end. Slow Train Coming is the only gospel album to have been remastered and available in the SACD format and was the only one that had any sort of success. Still, it’s my least favorite of the three.
There are only three songs on here that I can say I like, those being “Gotta Serve Somebody”, “Slow Train” and the beautiful “Precious Angel”. “I Believe In You” is pretty good, but all the songs on Side Two fail to really do anything for me. “Gonna Change My Way Of Thinking” and “When You Gonna Wake Up” are like most of the tracks on Street Legal, an entire song built around a single guitar riff. “Do Right To My Baby (Do Unto Others)” is the only song I care for on the second side. I think if you’re learning how to play a bass guitar, you definitely want to listen closely to that song, because the bass playing is amazing. “Man Gave Names To All The Animals” is an embarrassing children’s song and it makes you wonder if he really though children would be listening to this. The album concludes with “When He Returns”, an outright attempt to end the album with a quiet piano ballad. The song is the complete opposite of “Where Are You Tonight?” Where that song was a great ending because it closed Street Legal with a punch, this ends Slow Train Coming with a sour note.
I would like to talk about the title track. (It is worth mentioning that this is a weird thing in Dylan’s cannon, because previously, only Highway 61 Revisited, John Wesley Harding and New Morning had title tracks.) The one common thread that runs through the gospel albums is that the title track is usually the best song. “Slow Train” is clearly the best song here and is also the only non-religious song. It’s more of a protest song, sort of like the 1970’s version of “Masters Of War”. The scary thing about it is that the track needs not to be updated, because so much of it still rings true today. Maybe that’s why I like it so much.

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