Monday, May 18, 2009

Bob Dylan 10: Nashville Skyline

Even those who’d been patient with John Wesley Harding had to admit this was pretty weird. The cover of Nashville Skyline suggested something of a three card monte con, and then that voice: a sweet croon unlike anything heard to date on an official album. Was this the same guy who wished horrible things on masters of war and predicted hard rain?
The only excuse he’d give for the voice was that he’d quit smoking. Considering how he’s sounded since then it’s safe to say the American Heart Association wouldn’t be using him as a sponsor anytime soon. But not only did The Voice provide a character of sorts for the album, but it brought him his first hit single in a good while.
The cover shot seemed like enough of a gag (check one of the props on the front cover of Bringing It All Back Home while you’re at it) but from the first minute of the album you know there will be no thin wild mercury here. A remake of “Girl From The North Country” shows off that sweet voice, complete with Johnny Cash trading verses. They sound a little tentative, yet made for each other. “Nashville Skyline Rag” is an instrumental that began five years earlier as “Suze”, and everyone in the room gets to take a lead. “To Be Alone With You” is the first real song, starting from “is it rolling, Bob?”; it’s not much, but it will have to do. “I Threw It All Away” is a lament, and a sad one, then “Peggy Day” takes the worst Tin Pan Alley clichés and runs them into the ground.
Side two starts out strong with “Lay Lady Lay”—still a classic, and it still doesn’t sound like him at all. “One More Night” could have been written by anyone hanging around Music Row. “Tell Me That It Isn’t True” is something of a companion to “I Threw It All Away”, made better by the Hee Haw-hokiness of “Country Pie”. “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You” is the grand finale, and worthy of the town where it was recorded.
Dylan going country caused about as much of a stir as it did when he went electric. Most people found reason to enjoy this album, and those who didn’t only lost 27 minutes off their lives. There’s still something charming about Nashville Skyline forty years on; Jakob Dylan describes it as the sound of his parents falling in love. And what’s not to like about that?

Bob Dylan Nashville Skyline (1969)—

1 comment:

  1. This album is deceptivly simple.At first I didn't like it, though it was lacking depth. But there more I listen to it, to more I realise it's a 27 minute masterpiece. I rank it just below his bonfide classics such as Blonde on Blonde and Blood on the Tracks.