Can either Mike McCullough, a widower who carried deep in his heart forever the memory of his late wife, find love again. And Sarah Caldwell, who no longer had any love in her heart for her late husband, be able to find love again?
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
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.