T for Tom

Day 26 – Empire Burlesque – 1985

Posted in A Dylan A Day by johnsontoms on July 17, 2016

 

Empire.jpg

The eighties were weird, man. I’ve been wondering when it would finally catch up to Bob Dylan. While wandering the woods with reverence to heartland rock, it would prove at some point that even this radio fad couldn’t be escaped, and 1985’s Empire Burlesque would prove the one.

As the record started, my first thought was “what is this shit?,” evocative of Christau’s 1970 review of Self-Portrait. But given some time and an appropriate listen, Burlesque calmly requites itself with other great 80s records of the time as good music wrapped into over-production, though admittedly less great than many of the decades best hits.

This is apparently due to the new direction taken by Dylan in recording the record – rather than complete the whole thing in, say, three days, Dylan scored various songs and takes from July 1984 all the way until March 1985, Los Angeles to New York, backing members changing with each session. Members of the E Street Band and the Heartbreakers contributed, and a total of 28 performers are credited on the album. It’s as night and day with some of the songs, which were all produced by Dylan, as the mix and engineering for each are different. Apparently, Dylan just wanted to write and left the sounds to everyone else. Over the course of a year spent in different sessions for each song, the proof is in the pudding, as they say.

As I look for something to hold onto positively, the vocals are still soaring. We’re still a decade out from the mumbling madman of the west. There are great performances, and a few are the standout solos in “Never Gonna Be The Same” and the drumming in “Trust Yourself,” and the composition of “Something’s Burning, Baby,” complete with horn section. It seems to fit the period of time, but like Bob Dylan always did, still somehow float on the fringe.

There are just certain traits about Bob Dylan that can always be expected. And even in the worst of moments, I can still expect his albums to be worth a listen, more so than many of the best works by lesser artists.


Song: “Something’s Burning, Baby”

This is like something from a post-Gabriel Genesis album, but it seems to hold much more weight as a forlorn love song from Dylan. There are other good songs on the record, but this seems to embody the spirit of the album best.

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