Down in the Groove is a special album for me because this was the first Dylan CD I ever bought. Certainly, it's not one of his better albums, typifying the Dylan doldrums of the early 1980s, but it does have a few bright spots amid its many faults. A significant problem with this CD is the absence of any type of flow; it sounds like 10 songs thrown together somewhat haphazardly. "Let's Stick Together" is a kicking opening song that gets the juices flowing. It is followed by the slow yet meaningful "When Did You Leave Heaven?" Then we shift back to a faster tune in "Sally Sue Brown," only to slip into the slowest song on the album, the simply poignant "Death is Not the End." Then it's back to a rocking beat with "Had A Dream About You Baby" (with Eric Clapton on guitar) and the conspicuously interesting "Ugliest Girl in the World," a song which I myself actually like. "Silvio" is the only possibly recognizable song on the album and is the only song I remember hearing Dylan perform live in concert soon after this CD's release. "Ninety Miles An Hour (Down a Dead End Street)" is one of the more meaningful songs found here, as is the strangely beautiful dirge "Rank Strangers To Me," but even these tracks are rather forgettable.
The overall weakness of Down in the Groove can be traced to a simple source--most of these songs were not written by Bob Dylan. The backup singers on this album just don't seem to suit Dylan, either, lending a strange R&B sound to several tunes. It is interesting to note that the 80s group Full Force (which few people besides me probably remember) performed the backup vocals on "Death is Not the End." All in all, this is really an uninspired album. Although it was my first Dylan CD, I would not recommend this for Dylan newbies. It's not as bad as the critics make it out to be, but its lack of focus and short length (less than 35 minutes) make it a low priority for those trying to build a Bob Dylan CD collection.