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November 11, 1983 - Image 17

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The Michigan Daily, 1983-11-11
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I' ma
believer
Bob Dylan
Infidels
Columbia
By LarryDean
' HILE SONGSTER Neil
Diamond was off hooting his
heritage in The Jazz Singer, com-
patriate Bob Dylan was denying his.
Funny thing that two of the most in-
fluential figures in modern songwriting
would choose the same moment to put
their beliefs to the test-in Diamond's

case, it was with a tear-sodden, over-
acted and schleppy movie musical; for
Dylan, it was Slow Train Coming, an
almost-equally-intolerable LP.
Bob Dylan's switch to "born again
Christianity" from his Judaic roots
didn't come as a big surprise to his
fans. Your Alice Coopers come a dime
a dozen, but Dylan is the original Mr.
Chameleon, sequeing from one person-
nae to the next every three or four
years. However, the shock-did begin to
settle in when Bobby, refused to play
any old material in concert, and treated
audiences to full-fledged gospel ex-
travaganzas. The former Robert Zim-
merman from Hibbing, Minnesota
seemed adamant about his new faith.
On Saved, the second LP and the
new(est) Dylan, piety had reached its
peak. . . So much so, in fact, that
Columbia Records recalled the record
shortly after its release because of the
ludicrous cover art-a painting of a
slew of hands grasping upward toward
a light shining down from heaven.
Saved is and will continue to be one of
the worst Bob Dylan albums because
it's a total gospel experience, with
nothing there save its own lofty
preachings on.religion.
Last year's Shot of Love was a tran-
sient phase in Dylan's recovery (which
I'll get to in a moment). With its bold,
Roy Lichtenstein-inspired cover, live-in
-the-studio sound, and decidedly subtle
Christian references, Bob was back on
the right track.
Infidels proves this startling deduc-
tion to be true. Dylan has tested his
audience's temperment, teased them,
taken them for a ride...but ultimately,
he's brought them all back home.
Rolling Stone called Infidels his finest
album since Blood on the Tracks; while
I wouldn't go quite that far, it is,
nonetheless, a great LP - a great Bob
Dylan LP.
Catch this line-up of supporting
players: Sly Dunbar and Robbie
Shakespeare (drummer and bassist,
respectively), two official reggae
superstars; as far as I know, this is the
first outing outside of their chosen field
of expertise. The two guitarists in the
spotlight on Infidels are bona-fide
legends - Mick Taylor, once in the
Rolling Stones (you can hear his
playing in "Can You Hear Me
Knocking," for instance), and Dire
Straits' Mark Knopfler, also co-

Infidel: Holy harmonies

Bob Dylan: Afterbirth

producer of Infidels. Alan Clark from
Dire Straits plays keyboards (and lots
of cheap organ).
Beginning with "Jokerman," a
reggae-tinged song featuring Knop-
fler's solo, Infidels is no atypical Bob
Dylan album. Gone are the days of
muddy production (by Don DeVito???)
- replaced by Dylan and Knopfler's
big-beat clairty. This is a trend that
began with Slow Train Coming, but
finally they've got it exactly right:
Dunbar's sensual percussion, dancing
cheek-to-cheek with Shakespeare's
bass, a wash of organ, the emotive and
fluid guitar - everything capped off
with Dylan's voice, escalating and
sliding around in the mix. Care has
been taken with the balance of sounds
on Infidels, and it shows.
"Sweetheart Like You," the second
song, is one of two compositions on In-
fidels that sound like Dylan sounding
like Knopfler sounding like Dylan. Neat
cycle there, eh? Anyhow, it's a pretty
song, ironically with a Mick Taylor
guitar solo, and aspirations toward
single release (like Shot of Love's
"Heart of Mine").
Once Infidels gets into its third song,
"Neighborhood Bully," the spirit of the
music is in full-swing, never lagging
even up to the very end. A rollicking
rocker, "Bully" is highlighted by the
old Dylan harmonica, but played with
more control and feeling. Anyone who
said Dylan really couldn't play the
damn thing should listen up, because
this is only one of a few truly inspried
harmonica breaks on Infidels.
"License to Kill" is a strange song.
Cryptic and imagistic, it talks about a
man whose brain has been
mismanaged with skill, and who has
invented his own doom/His first step
was walking on the moon. While Dylan
talks about an individual person as the
focal point of "License to Kill," he
seems to be hinting at the threat of
technology, misguided and weak
education, and the fear of nuclear war;

the "license" is malformed opinions,
the solution seems unfound, but not out-
of-reach.
"Man of Peace" and "Union Sun-
down" are the two best songs on In-
fidels. The first is a funky tune with
great drumming, a Mick Taylor solo,
and more pretty harp from Dylan. In
the lyrics, he single-handedly lambasts
the Fuhrer, a local priest, and Satan,
saying that they all have come to us as
"a man of peace."
"Union Sundown" is a duet with
Clydie King (one of the fine gospel
singers Dylan has enlisted over the last
couple of albums), and the most manic
on the album; it rips apart (labor)
unions, foreign trade, and capitalism in
one breath - but not without at least
one reference to El Salvador.
"I and J" is another reggae-
influenced effort, with minor dub effec-
ts. It is followed by "Don't Fall Apart
On Me Tonight," a sincere, romantic
song with Dylan asking his lover to
retain faith in him. Taylor's slide guitar
and more harmonica - in fact, the best
harmonica playing on the album - leap
out of the music and sparkle. A fitting
closer.
Infidels is a grand come-back without
a past; anything that echoes back to the
old Dylan have been improved upon or
else carefully looked-after. Dylan can
still write killer lines - Steal a little
and they throw you in jail/Steal a lot
and they make you king - no Highway
61 - but refreshing and exhilerating as
hell. However, for the cynics out
there... The inside sleeve of Infidels
shows Dylan on a hillside, writing in the
soil with a stone in his hand; Jerusalem
is in the background. Is he going away
from it, toward it, or biding time in lim-
bo?
And Infidels - they are people who
accept no particular religion,
especially Christianity - disbelievers,
sceptics. The public might be yo-yos on
the end of Dylan's string, but Infidels is
the reaffirmation of Dylan's prowess as
a musical force. Mazaltov!

Conlin
Corner of
South University
and Washtena'
769-9680
*~f '

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16 Weekend/November 11, 1983

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