Dylan’s last masterpiece

So the Devil has all the best tunes does he? Well, what about Cliff, Pat Boone, The Alarm and Charlene ‘never been to me’ Oliver? I bet Old Nick won’t be able to muster up a line up anywhere near as good that for Hellstock! But maybe the best God-bothering album of all time is actually from, ironically enough, a good Jewish boy. Yes it is time PopJunkie sent Bob Dylan’s Slow Train Coming to the pearly pop gates in the sky.

Proper Dylan fans have a bit of a problem with Slow Train Coming and its even more hellfire rattling follow up Saved. I am not entirely sure why but I guess it is probably because Dylan swapped lyrics like ‘the answer my friend is blowing in the wind’ for the rather more pointed ‘you’ve either got faith or you’ve got unbelief and there ain’t no neutral ground.’ Ouch.

Nevertheless from John Newton’s Amazing Grace, via the Clark Sisters Gospel hoedowns to Belle and Sebastian’s If you Find Yourself Caught In Love, there have been some tremendous Christian pop music, and we say Hallelujah to that.

Twenty five years on Slow Train Coming is a wonderful listen which may just prove to be Dylan’s last real masterpiece. Overflowing with evangelical zeal, passion and spiritual fire Dylan has, ironically, never sounded more like a prophet preaching in the wilderness.

The songs are superb too from the bluesy growl of Gotta Change My Way Of Thinking through to the nursery rhyme-esque Man Gave Names To All The Animals. It was used on Play School once honest!

There’s also I Believe In You, a beautiful and passionate ballad that, were it not dedicated to the great folkie in the sky, would surely take its place in the upper echelons of the Dylan canon alongside Forever Young.

But to these ears it is Precious Angel that stands out. Around a series of delicate plucked guitar breaks from Mr. Mark Knopfler, who was the hottest fretmesiter on the planet at that point, Dylan pours out his soul in praise of the woman who not only helped him overcome his messy divorce, but pointed him in the way of salvation. Love, redemption and a bit of Sultans Of Swing style guitar in the same song – it doesn’t get much better than that.

Bob Dylan – Slow Train Coming 1980 (Sony)


One Response to “Dylan’s last masterpiece”

  1. botticelli's nephew Says:

    While I don’t agree that this album is better than ‘Time Out of Mind’ or maybe ‘Infidels’, I think this period was a watershed era for Dylan’s live performing. In 1979 and 1980, Dylan played these songs at the Warfield Theater and I witnessed a dozen or so. They were amazing shows. There are great bootlegs of the Toronto 1980 show that is wonderful. Check it out.

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