Released a mere four months after the critically disastrous "Self-Portrait," Bob Dylan's "New Morning" looked like a desperate attempt to win back the fans he (deliberately?) alienated with that two-record set of sometimes syrupy odds and ends. Many of those who loathed "Self-Portrait" loved "New Morning," if only because there were no covers among the 12 selections. Dylan composed these songs himself.
This isn't a masterpiece or even close to Dylan's best, but it's an enjoyably eclectic effort, sort of a final bookend to the period that began with "John Wesley Harding."
A handful of these songs, including the hymn-like "Father of Night" (covered, more dramatically, by Mannfred Mann's Earth Band a year or two later), were written for a proposed but never produced stage version of "The Devil and Daniel Webster." Some others - "The Man in Me," "Time Passes Slowly," and "If Not for You" - wouldn't have been out of place on "Nashville Skyline," although Dylan's voice is rougher here (supposedly due to a cold).
"Winterlude" and the delightfully daffy, jazz-tinged "If Dogs Run Free" defy categorization, at least in Dylan's songbook, while "Day of the Locusts" is too easy to pin down. The imagery sounds a bit forced, as if Dylan is trying too hard to be Dylanesque.
The most memorable song here, to my ears, anyway, is "Sign On the Window," an intimate meditation on lost love and family life.