Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Bob Dylan 39: World Gone Wrong

While he’d only put out a similar solo acoustic recording of ancient folk blues songs a year before, Bob got the recipe right the second time around.
World Gone Wrong wins on several levels. First, the songs are better, more dirty blues than arcane folk. Next, while the sound on Good As I Been To You was muffled and distant, here it’s more in your face with even some distortion, making the album hard to ignore. He’s also working within the limits of his voice, rather than trying to yell his way out of it. His guitar playing is studied and precise, exploring all the dimensions of the neck. And while he didn’t write any of the songs, he does include a rambling yet straightforward set of liner notes describing to some extent either who did write each song, or at least recorded the version or versions that inspired him. (Just to throw in a trademark curve, he takes time to tweak the mythology of the Never-Ending Tour.)
Again, the songs will win you over. The run from the title track to the heartbreaking performance of “Delia” is six solid tracks, each an incredible performance. “Blood In My Eyes” is particularly compelling in its simple conversation between a man and a potential date. “Broke Down Engine” is more dirty blues, complete with sound effects. “Stack A Lee” and “Jack-A-Roe” would have been familiar to Deadheads, but “Two Soldiers” is another story song that piques your interest.
If we could truly put our finger on why this album is better than its predecessor, we’d be delighted. All we know is that it works, and still satisfies. Of course, as good as World Gone Wrong is, it seemed very odd to have gone so long without an album with original material. Perhaps he’d run out of things to say? Perhaps he was content to let someone else’s songs do the talking? Or maybe he didn’t think it was anywhere near as big a deal as we thought it was?

Bob Dylan World Gone Wrong (1993)—


  1. I love it, too. Wonderful performances, right-in-your-face-and-into-your heart as you said, they give me a chill. And the song choice, the guitar playing, the cracked but significant voice, the liner notes, all is incredible, even the packaging and the photographs are authentic and cool (not as that Greatest Oddities look and that tired vibe of its predecessor, even if I'd say you dismissed it so quickly -there were some gems there, too- while you hailed the 30th Anniversary thing, which for me is an awful mess). Maybe at the time it seemed weird, as you point out, but in the context of years to come I think of this as the real inauguration of the latest Bob incarnation, the Old Ghost Rider Era. A hidden Dylan masterpiece, in my opinion.

    Salutes from Spain,