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Under the Red Sky

Bob Dylan Audio CD
2.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
Price: CDN$ 9.48 & FREE Shipping on orders over CDN$ 25. Details
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Most helpful customer reviews
By Mike London TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Audio CD
UNDER THE RED SKY sounds more like Dylan calling up some old friends and well-known rockers and jamming to nursery rhymes and someone happened to record them than it does a serious and substantial release. Dylan, just like the rest of us, need a chance to blow steam and just have a good time, and that's what this record is: pure, simple minded fun.

Although I generally agree with Gianmarc Manzione in his Dylan reviews, his five star rating of this particular album, to me, seems a little over generous, to say the least. As for his comparison of it to BLONDE ON BLONDE, I can only shake my head at that comment. However, much of what he says holds true for this album. Not everything Dylan does should have to find a nice, little cozy literary allotment that anthologies generally tend to give artists. ("Now we come to Lord Byron, one of the leading romantic poets because . . ..")

Dylan's always been one for confounding expectations, and this is no exception. Coming off the heels of OH MERCY, Dylan's biggest critical success in years, this was immediately perceived as a disaster and essentially panned by critics and fans alike. It may have not received such harsh treatment as it did had it not come immediately after OH MERCY.

UNDER THE RED SKY, while far from a masterpiece, is a jaunty little record with loads of guest stars and sounds like Dylan's just having a high old time. The lyrics, considered by many to be banal coming from the man who wrote "Tangled Up in Blue," "Visions of Johanna," "Desolation Row," and literally dozens of others, do come across as childish and rather stupid - with the prerequisite in mind that everything Dylan does must be like the aforementioned songs.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Weird but not without merit June 15 2006
By Daniel Jolley TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Audio CD
When I first listened to this album, I thought it had the craziest, most nonsensical lyrics I had ever heard. Admittedly, some of the tracks still don't make much sense to me, but a few surprisingly good songs give this album a solid depth that is too little appreciated. Certainly, this is not the moralizing philosopher Dylan of old, but that's OK. It's pretty cool to hear Dylan playing a few songs seemingly just for fun. "Wiggle Wiggle" is total nonsense, but it's a pretty cool, catchy song nonetheless. "Under the Red Sky" does seem to be some kind of musical tribute to nursery rhymes, but its meaning quite escapes me. "10 000 Men" and "Cat's in the Well" are also weird songs with seemingly no meaning. The other tracks have varying degrees of substance to them. "Handy Dandy" confuses me somewhat, but if I had to interpret it, I would lean toward the autobiographical line of thought and steer clear of the Ronald Reagan "theory," in large part due to the fleeting echo of "Like a Rolling Stone" it exhibits. "Unbelievable," "TV Talkin' Song," and "God Knows" are pretty good tracks, with "God Knows" possessing a somewhat comforting quality to it. My two personal favorites here are "2 x 2" and "Born in Time," both of which happen to feature David Crosby's distinctive background vocals. "2 x 2" doesn't make a lot of sense, but the bridges with their unique blend of Dylan and Crosby vocals fill me with delight for some reason. "Born in Time" must be singled out for particular attention. I consider it one of Dylan's best songs of the 1990s, featuring particularly strong and powerful bridges.

I really like this album, but it is definitely one of Dylan's weirdest releases.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Stinks, but not his worst March 8 2004
Format:Audio CD
As a great admirer of Gianmarc Manzione's reviews I was shocked to see 5 stars next to this shlock. It is bad, very bad, but the album entitled "Dylan" that Columbia released at the end of '73 is the worst; but this is real bad too.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.3 out of 5 stars  57 reviews
54 of 60 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Fun June 21 2000
By Gianmarco Manzione - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Why does the world insist that Bob Dylan's every album be a narrative epic suitable for inclusion in the next Norton Anthology of Literature? Why isn't Bob Dylan allowed to have some fun when he wants? He is, in my book, and he does, on Under The red Sky.
We don't persecute our famous blues artists for using simple rhymes and one or two chord melodies, the same should apply to Dylan, who, all his life, has had to contend with people who only know him as a "poet" or as author of Blowin in The Wind. Fact is, he really loves rock n roll, he really would love to be known for his blues vocals and sound, not just a folk record from 1963.
Under The Red Sky demonstrates his love and mastery of simple, bluesy rock n roll. The album is loads of fun from start to finish. With a line up of legendary producer Don Was, along with the likes of George Harrison, Slash, David Crosby and the Vaughn brothers, this album offers the most consistent collection of good music since Blonde on Blonde. No, it is not the literary masterpiece of his 60's efforts, but it certainly matches the musical intensity of those long-gone days.
Besides, some of the lyrics are very fun, such as the line from "Unbelievable," "It's inconceivable that someone could get this rich this quick." Well, Bob, you oughtta know!
36 of 40 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Weird but not without merit Aug. 11 2002
By Daniel Jolley - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
When I first listened to this album, I thought it had the craziest, most nonsensical lyrics I had ever heard. Admittedly, some of the tracks still don't make much sense to me, but a few surprisingly good songs give this album a solid depth that is too little appreciated. Certainly, this is not the moralizing philosopher Dylan of old, but that's OK. It's pretty cool to hear Dylan playing a few songs seemingly just for fun. "Wiggle Wiggle" is total nonsense, but it's a pretty cool, catchy song nonetheless. "Under the Red Sky" does seem to be some kind of musical tribute to nursery rhymes, but its meaning quite escapes me. "10 000 Men" and "Cat's in the Well" are also weird songs with seemingly no meaning. The other tracks have varying degrees of substance to them. "Handy Dandy" confuses me somewhat, but if I had to interpret it, I would lean toward the autobiographical line of thought and steer clear of the Ronald Reagan "theory," in large part due to the fleeting echo of "Like a Rolling Stone" it exhibits. "Unbelievable," "TV Talkin' Song," and "God Knows" are pretty good tracks, with "God Knows" possessing a somewhat comforting quality to it. My two personal favorites here are "2 x 2" and "Born in Time," both of which happen to feature David Crosby's distinctive background vocals. "2 x 2" doesn't make a lot of sense, but the bridges with their unique blend of Dylan and Crosby vocals fill me with delight for some reason. "Born in Time" must be singled out for particular attention. I consider it one of Dylan's best songs of the 1990s, featuring particularly strong and powerful bridges.
I really like this album, but it is definitely one of Dylan's weirdest releases. Dylan wrote every single song, so he must have had some purpose in mind, even if that purpose was to surprise his fans yet again or to just confound his critics. Overall, this music is not bad at all, and Dylan's vocals are strong if gravelly. A strong list of contributing musicians sometimes makes this feel like a fun jam session, with Dylan sometimes just having a good time making lines rhyme without reason. Among the notables who contributed to this album were George Harrison, Slash from Guns 'n' Roses, David Crosby, Bruce Hornsby, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Elton John. Clearly, this is an album only Dylan could have made, and its unique qualities make it one of the more interesting chapters in this incredible musician's long career. Despite the quality of these musicians, however, the whole sound of the album seems rather generic and uninspired, and I consider this the album's most telling weakness.
I would not suggest you rush out to buy Under the Red Sky immediately, but on the other hand I would urge Dylan fans not to cross it off their purchase lists arbitrarily. After all, any album widely disparaged by the critics must have some merit to it.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Once again, a solid Dylan album that goes unnoticed Feb. 16 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
This is yet another Dylan album that has been ripped by critics. But, on deeper inspection, one will find that there are many memorable performances on this album, and it offers an interesting picture of who Bob Dylan is in 1991. Most of the Red Sky songs are constructed like children's rhymes, as an earlier reviewer noted. "Wiggle Wiggle" is lots of fun, the backing band is great, and Dylan's voice sounds pretty awesome (especially that last phrase "...like a big fat snake!..."). "Under The Red Sky" has beautiful words and a great G. Harrison slide guitar. "Unbelievable" drops the ball to a degree, in my opinion, with Dylan turning in a fairly lifeless vocal. The album's first hands-down masterwork is "Born In Time." This song absolutely shines, all the way through, it will move you to tears. Dylan's tender ennuciations really make this a keeper. "TV Talkin' Song" is interesting, but to my ears the accompaniment is kinda cheesy. Following this are what I consider to be the album's weakest songs, "10,000 Men" and "2x2." These performances just don't grab me, they're pleasant enough, but they don't unfold and draw you further in like Dylan's best stuff does. Then, true to form, Dylan turns around and goes for the hat trick with three killer tunes. "God Knows" rocks all over the place, and he's played it frequently since. "Handy Dandy" is classic, a great song and a great vocal by Dylan (I love when he yells "Pour him another brandy!" at the end). And "Cat's In The Well" is a fine closer with some great slide guitar. It's hard to know what Dylan was going with Red Sky. But there are enough great songs to make it worthwhile to any Dylan fan.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Rather bluesy, very light-weight material from Dylan. Sept. 24 2001
By Mike London - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
UNDER THE RED SKY sounds more like Dylan calling up some old friends and well-known rockers and jamming to nursery rhymes and someone happened to record them than it does a serious and substantial release. Dylan, just like the rest of us, need a chance to blow steam and just have a good time, and that's what this record is: pure, simple minded fun.
Although I generally agree with Gianmarc Manzione in his Dylan reviews, his five star rating of this particular album, to me, seems a little over generous, to say the least. As for his comparison of it to BLONDE ON BLONDE, I can only shake my head at that comment. However, much of what he says holds true for this album. Not everything Dylan does should have to find a nice, little cozy literary allotment that anthologies generally tend to give artists. ("Now we come to Lord Byron, one of the leading romantic poets because . . ..")
Dylan's always been one for confounding expectations, and this is no exception. Coming off the heels of OH MERCY, Dylan's biggest critical success in years, this was immediately perceived as a disaster and essentially panned by critics and fans alike. It may have not received such harsh treatment as it did had it not come immediately after OH MERCY.
UNDER THE RED SKY, while far from a masterpiece, is a jaunty little record with loads of guest stars and sounds like Dylan's just having a high old time. The lyrics, considered by many to be banal coming from the man who wrote "Tangled Up in Blue," "Visions of Johanna," "Desolation Row," and literally dozens of others, do come across as childish and rather stupid - with the prerequisite in mind that everything Dylan does must be like the aforementioned songs. Taken as a simple little record recorded in the spirit of fun and songs largely pertaining to children, this record is quite an enjoyable record and a very breezy one at that. "Wiggle Wiggle," "Under the Red Sky," "Born in Time," and "Handy Dandy" are my top tracks. The interpretation that "Handy Dandy" is about Ronald Reagan has quite a bit (i.e. textual evidence) going for it. Who says Dylan doesn't write political songs any more? And here of all places! It's a very good song. "Born in Time" was covered by Clapton on his (panned) PILGRIM CD. It's another good song. "Talkin' TV Song" is the most awkward song here, with a serious message to it that goes against the record's spirit. But it's an alright track in and of itself.
Coming from the man who gave us BLONDE ON BLONDE, he's almost inviting us to see if we can find any substance here. If you haven't heard, I'll tell you: there's about as much substance here as there is to cotton candy - and that's not necessarily a bad thing, as Gianmarc points out. When it comes to longevity, this will be one of the first (along with KNOCKED OUT LOADED and DOWN IN THE GROOVE) to perish if any of Dylan's releases slip into obscurity. But while it's around and you just want some lighthearted music for your kids or your grandkids, give this a spin. Trust me, this won't be one of those that you spend all night trying to decipher meaning from Dylan's lyrics.
If you get out of the mindset that Gianmarc describes, it can be an enjoyable little record. If not, then prepare yourself to be disappointed.
14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 3 and 1/2 Stars - Not what you're expecting, but not bad Aug. 8 2002
By Bill R. Moore - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Bob Dylan has long made a career out of confounding people's expectations. Aside from any desire of critics or even fans, this is one artist who very clearly does what he wants, when he wants. At times (Self-Portrait ring a bell?) his career moves have seemed somewhat perverse - one might even say self-destructive. Under The Red Sky, on the surface, seems to be another one of these albums. Coming hot on the heels of his critical and commercial comeback, Oh Mercy, Dylan released this album of sheer lightweight tunes. To be sure, if you are expecting an album with material along the lines of the sheer density of Highway 61 Revisited, Blonde On Blonde, or Street Legal, you will invariably be disappointed in this album. However, if you approach this recording with an open mind and simply take it for what it is, then you will find some things to enjoy on it. As many people have pointed out, the album's lyrics, at least in part, are highly influenced by children's nursery rhymes. Dylan, for all we know about him, keeps pulling out surprises, and his apparent love for and fascination with this form of rhyme probably shocked many people. And, indeed, some of the songs (10,000 Men, 2X2) are quite banal, and perhaps one might say even flat-out embarrassing. Others, however, are quite good and enjoyable. There are some really good songs here, even some with substance (Born In Time is a masterpiece of a ballad; TV Talkin' Song a semi-brilliant satire on the [television].) Others are just pure, good fun to listen to (Wiggle Wiggle and Handy Dandy, a song which I think is autobiographical - as is the title track, as Dylan himself has said.) This seems to be an album where Bob just wanted to cut loose from the pretensions and have fun. Every artist should be allowed to do this once in a while. The songs are hardly less substantial than many of those on The Basement Tapes (although, indeed, they do not often share that album's redeeming virtue of humor), and many of those are worshipped by fans. Furthermore, although it is not often ackwnoledged, the rhyme schemes on Oh Mercy were very simplistic as well - certainly the songs were not that complex, although, indeed, more meaningful than most of those on here. One might even say, with the 20/20 view of hindsight, that this was a logical move for Dylan at the time. Under The Red Sky features a plenthora of guest stars (Slash, Elton John, Stevie Ray and Jimmy Vaughan, David Crosby, among others) - something that Dylan had hardly ever done before - which adds to the festive, fun spirit of the album. This certainly should not be one of the first - or even the first 20 - Dylan albums that you should buy; but, if you are a fan, you will want to pick this up, eventually, as it is quite an enjoyable little album, and quite a lot better than it is often given credit for.
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