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Desire
Bob Dylan

Columbia PC 33893
Released: January 1976
Chart Peak: #1
Weeks Charted: 35
Certified Platinum: 3/4/76

Bob DylanOne of the world's finest songwriters has surfaced for the New Year with perhaps his greatest album to date. Not only is he writing better than ever, but his songs seem to reflect a new Dylan. Whether he's writing about a sensitive Joey Gallo or a falsely-imprisoned Rubin "Hurricane" Carter or a lamenting love ballad to his wife Sarah, Dylan is at his best. Underscoring the success of each narrative song is the amazingly tight instrumental work of the Rolling Thunder featuring Scarlett Rivera on violin, Rob Stoner on bass, Howie Wyeth on drums and Emmylou Harris on background vocals. On "Hurricane," this quartet is joined by Ronee Blakley and Steve Soles on background vocals, and Luther Rix on congas. Each of these musicians is an asset to the new sound of Dylan. Ms. Rivera's musicianship is a fine discovery since she can underscore a Dylan phrase with unmatched intensity or romance, while Stoner and Wyeth offer one of the strongest rhythm sections in music. As for Dylan, his harmonica, acoustic guitar, piano and especially his vocals sound better than ever. Another plus factor is packaging, with its striking cover shot and liner photos. Also the inside liner notes are by Allen Ginsberg, and they reflect the mood of the recent Rolling Thunder Revue tour of the Northeast. Best cuts: "Hurricane," "Isis," "One More Cup Of Coffee," "Oh, Sister," "Joey," "Romance In Durango," "Sara."

- Billboard, 1976.

Bob Dylan - Desire
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Bonus Reviews!

In the great tradition of Grand Funk Railroad, Dylan has made an album beloved by tour devotees -- including those who were shut out of Rolling Thunder's pseudo-communitarian grooviness except the press. It is not beloved by me. Although the candid propaganda and wily musicality of "Hurricane" delighted me for a long time, the deceitful bathos of its companion piece, "Joey," tempts me to quistion the unsullied innocence of Rubin Carter himself. These are not protest songs, folks, not in the little-people tradition of "Hattie Carroll"; their beneficiaries are (theoretically) wronged heroes, oppressed overdogs not unlike our beleaguered superstar himself. And despite his show of openness, our superstar may be feeling oppressed. His voice sounds viscous and so do his rhymes, while sisters Ronnee and Emmylou sound distinctly kid, following the leader as if they're holding onto his index finger. More genuinely fraternal (and redeeming) are the pained, passionate marital tributes, "Sara" and "Isis." B-

- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.

A return to topicality and a movement away from the more personal stance of Blood on the Tracks. While it is a quality work of ambitious scope, it somehow has an unfinished quality about it; probably attributable to the less than polished instrumental "assistance" that lends little of positive value to the proceedings. Still, one of his better offerings of the seventies due to the inclusion of some fine material, "Hurricane," "Isis," and "Sara" being the highlights. The sound is overbright to the point of harshness on some of the vocal and harmonica tracks, a distinct comedown from the high quality of Blood on the Tracks. B

- Bill Shapiro, Rock & Roll Review: A Guide to Good Rock on CD, 1991.

A rough-and-tumble collection cut with a band Dylan was assembling for the Rolling Thunder tour. "Hurricane" recounts the tale of an unjustly imprisoned boxer, "Romance in Durango" and "Black Diamond Bay" are short stories in song, and "Sara" is a last plaintive plea from the singer to his wife. * * * *

- William Ruhlmann, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.

Soon after completing Blood on the Tracks, Dylan started work on Desire, with lyrical input form collaborator Jacques Levy. In typical Dylan style, the recording was mostly bashed out in one all-night New York session, fueled in part by tequila. Guest singer Emmylou Harris didn't even get to rehearse her harmony vocals. The most intense moment came at the end, when Dylan struck up a new song he hadn't sung for the band before. As his wife, Sara, sat listening in the studio, Dylan sang "Sara," his heartbroken account of their crumbling marriage. It was the first time she heard the song -- and that take ended up on the album.

Desire was chosen as the 174th greatest album of all time by the editors of Rolling Stone magazine in Dec. 2003.

- Rolling Stone, 12/11/03.

The sense of injustice that had fired up the young Bob Dylan in the 1960s was suddenly reborn on 1976's Desire where he rediscovers his hunger to champion the underdog.

Released at the end of a purple period for the artist that had produced Planet Waves and his divorce album Blood On The Tracks, Desire finds Dylan the acute topical observer on life, albeit in a musically haphazard way.

The eight-and-a-half-minute opening track "Hurricane" illustrated his political awareness was still fully intact, rallying against what he saw as the unjust life sentence handed down to former middleweight boxer Rubin "Hurricane" Carter for triple murder. It was one of seven tracks on the album with lyrics co-written by playwright Jacques Levy whom Dylan had met seven years earlier through Roger McGuinn and whose presence here gives the songs a narrative feel. Among the two individually penned tracks is "Sara," Dylan's last plea to his wife whom he had savagely torn into on number of tracks on his 1975 album Blood On The Tracks.

Including Eric Clapton on guitar and Emmylou Harris on backing vocals, the album became only Dylan's second to top the chart on both sides of the Atlantic, spending a career-best five weeks at Number One in the US from February 1976.

As of 2004, Desire was the #94 best-selling album of the 70s.

- Hamish Champ, The 100 Best-Selling Albums of the 70s, 2004.

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