Down in the Groove
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[Where does that intro paragraph lead us? ]
With releases like DOWN IN THE GROOVE, it is easy to understand the critical unease and flat out bewilderment that Dylan caused during the late 1980s. GROOVE bears the dubious distinction as being the worst studio album in Dylan's catalogue. While Columbia's revenge album DYLAN from 1973 was pretty bad, at least Dylan didn't sanction that release. This album, however, is truly the bottom of the barrel.
DOWN IN THE GROOVE gives you the impression Dylan was just in the studio jamming, and decided to release an odds-n-sods collection of very subpar studio sessions. DOWN clearly indicates that Dylan lost all artistic direction during this era of his career. Thankfully, he got his act together with OH MERCY
Just for a little context, by 1988 a lot of people had lost faith in Dylan. He hadn't released a decent record in years.Read more ›
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.
The closest thing to a classic here is "Silvio" which demonstrates that Dylan (or is it Hunter?) still has a gift for lyrics and can rock out when he feels like it, but "Ugliest Girl in the World" works fervently to counter that claim.
Then there's "Death is Not the End," a dreary march through musical purgatory that didn't make the final cut on "Infidels," proof that Dylan's judgment when making that 1983 album was not as impaired as the exclusion of the superb "Blind Willie McTell" would suggest.
The covers are a mixed bag with some worth a listen ("Let's Stick Together" and especially "Rank Strangers to Me") and the others barely worth the space they take on the disc. After his heartfelt version of "Dixie" in "Masked and Anonymous," it would be nice to hear Dylan's take on "Shenandoah," but that touching traditional is given a rushed reading with different lyrics that prevent it from being memorable.
This may be the least significant disc in Dylan's history and, therefore, of interest only to the completists among us.
Most recent customer reviews
Three and a half stars, really. Judged by Dylan's own standards, this album is average but it does contain some gems that no fan should be without. Read morePublished on April 30 2007 by Peter Uys
There are some great lyrics on Silvio, and Ninety Miles an Hour and Rank Strangers to Me are very cool... but there is no cohesion to the album. Read morePublished on June 26 2004 by Tweeedly Eeeedly