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Street-Legal
Bob Dylan

Columbia PC 35453
Released: June 1978
Chart Peak: #11
Weeks Charted: 23
Certified Gold: 6/27/78

Bob DylanThe most prophetic of rock's superstars delivers his most powerful album in some time. Dylan's vocals are sounding forceful and emotion-packed while his writing is among his strongest in terms of precision and lyrical depth. With a praiseworthy tour behind him, Dylan is on the verge of creative renaissance, even though his popularity really never subsided. But in terms of conviction, he is back with the incisive lyrics and vocals that made him spokesman for a generation of '60s youth. Backing Dylan is a superlative band that includes percussion, violin, mandolin and trumpet in addition to the rhythm section. The use of female background vocalists exceeds past efforts, as the trio of ladies adds tasty treatments to much of the material. Best cuts: "Changing Of The Guards," "Senor (Tales Of Yankee Power)," "Baby Stop Crying," "Is Your Love In Vain," "True Love Tends To Forget," "No Time To Think."

- Billboard, 1978.

Bob Dylan - Street Legal
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Bonus Reviews!

Inveterate rock and rollers learn to find charm in boastful, secretly girl-shy adolescents, but boozy-voiced misogynists in their late thirties are a straight drag. This divorcée sounds overripe, too in love with his own self-generated misery to break through the leaden tempos that oppress his melodies, devoid not just of humor but of lightness -- unless, that is, he intends his Neil Diamond masquerade as a joke. Because he's too shrewd to put his heart into genuine corn, and because his idea of a tricky arrangement is to add horns or chicks to simplistic verse-and-chorus abcb structures, a joke is what it is. But since he still commands remnants of authority, the joke is sour indeed. C+

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

Street Legal is a tough uncompromising album. Recorded at Rundown Studios in Santa Monica the master tapes seem to have much the same balance and feel as the later albums but CD mastering seems to have robbed them of any real dynamic power.

The results sound only a little better than a cassette copy, lacking life and any sense of excitement or urgency. Backing vocals, though clearly annunciated, simply do not cut through the typical Dylan arrangements. "New Pony," a song full of remarkable innuendo, should slowly rock and crash its way along but the muffled effect steals the bite in lead guitar and vocals while bass blubbers beneath. Any spark this recording should have had seems damped down.

- David Prakel, Rock 'n' Roll on Compact Disc, 1987.

Dylan's released a lot of recordings over a career now spanning more than two decades, and it would be unfair to expect them all to be good -- this one's not. The addition of a female chorus detracts rather than adds to the proceedings, and the band plays like their last gig was a Salvation Army affair. The sound is appropriate to the contents: compressed, muddy, distorted, and frequently harsh in the vocals. D-

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

Using a big band assembled for a world tour, Dylan presents a group of songs, some of which are as imagistic -- and as bitter -- as his mid-'60s material. Particularly notable are the tone poem "Changing of the Guards" and the desperate but moving "Senor." * * *

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


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