Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Christian-Era Bob Dylan

I recently decided to start exploring the Christian period of Bob Dylan's career, since it's a pretty sizable gap in my knowledge of the guy.

Stop one is the record Slow Train Coming. Two things stand out immediately: One, it is definitely Christian. Two, it is definitely a Bob Dylan record. Check out the track "Precious Angel" and try to tell me one bad thing about the music. For that matter, try to tell me how you'd write greater Christian rock lyrics, if you were setting out to do such a thing.

I particularly love the horns on this record. I can't think of any other Bob Dylan album where horns factor in at all. Also coming up huge is Mark Knopfler, who produced and plays lead guitar.

But the funniest thing about Knopfler's involvement is that Dylan never actually told him they were making a Christian record, and it didn't become apparent until he started laying down vocal tracks. Knopfler says he called his wife from the studio and said something to the effect of: "Sessions are going well. But... and I'm not sure about this... but I think we're making a Christian record." Classic.

(It also brings to mind one of my favorite Onion articles ever-- "Bassist Unaware Rock Band Christian.")


Quinapalus said...

I've also often wondered if it's worth digging into any of Bob Dylan's Christian period. It may be awhile before I make a serious attempt to do that (if I'm going to go diving into a recording artist's "lost period" anytime soon, I'm leaning towards Joni Mitchell's difficult, overproduced, weird 1980s stuff) but that song is pretty solid, all things considered.

drischord said...

Bob Dylan's 1980s output gets an edge in my opinion because he never fell as hard for the synth/drum machine fad. Joni Mitchell bought it hook, line and sinker; outrageous production values ruined a lot of good songs for her. Personally, I'd check out the Travelogue double CD, which takes songs from all eras of her career and sets them to an orchestra, along with soloists like Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock. It's a good way to hear a lot of those '80s and early '90s songs without the crappy production.

drischord said...

But if you want it straight from the original source, I think the best "unknown" Joni Mitchell album is Night Ride Home, which came out in 1991. Some very good songs and the production values are toned down from their '80s extremes.