My next nigh on impossible task (thanks to my Dylan twitter friends), is to select my best Bob Dylan love songs. As an introduction, let me say that Together Through Life (April 2009), in my humble opinion is his most romantic album. It also depends on which reviews you read, as many of the songs are open to diverse interpretations (but that is the way Bob rolls). The entire album is bluesy jaunt as he surveys the world and country, as he slowly drives by; never giving up on love, even if it is a shared misery.
He croaks his way through sadness, disappointment and exhaustion, “with the blood of the land in his voice”. Its an unforced, emotionally strong album coming off the back of his renaissance trilogy of albums (Time Out Of Mind, Love And Theft and Modern Times). In his own words, from the album: “I wouldn’t change it even if I could. You know what they say: It’s all good.”
I have not taken any songs from my previous list – My Top 10 Bob Dylan Songs some of those possibly could have ended up here – (barring one in the Special Mentions list at the end). I have also not included any songs from Together Through Life.
Well here goes … in alphabetical order:
Brownsville Girl – Knocked Out Loaded (1986) – A wistful lyrical song of a lover from his distant past. Dylan speaks to a lover, presumably one gone years before, and muses that she reminds him of his current love – he says she has the same “dark rhythm in her soul”. An epic and touching homage to a past lost love.
I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight – John Wesley Harding (1968) – A simple sweet song for anybody to sing to their lover, even if it is only for one night 🙂 . Light the fire, uncork the red wine and lets get cosy.
If Not For You – New Morning (1970) – A beautiful, simple love ballad. For me the best version is Bob and George Harrison, live at the Concert for Bangladesh rehearsals (1971). Their interaction, body language, smiles and laughter is just so endearing. If you have not seen this video it is a must 🙂
Is Your Love in Vain – Street Legal (1978) – Dylan asks, straight out, “Are you willing to risk it all or is your love in vain?” An emotional roller coaster song about the man himself? We can hear the pain, tiredness and weariness when he says, “All right, I’ll take a chance, I will fall in love with you”.
Lay Lady Lay – Nashville Skyline (1969) – Some trivia, it was originally written for the soundtrack of the movie Midnight Cowboy, but wasn’t submitted in time to be included in the finished film. I love the live version on the Hard Rain live in concertalbum.
Love Minus Zero/No Limit – Bringing It All Back Home (1965) – I enjoy the live version The Bootleg Series Vol. 5: Bob Dylan Live 1975, The Rolling Thunder Revue – The song is believed to be dedicated to his future wife Sara.
Precious Angel – Slow Train Coming (1979) – I very syrupy love song straight from the from the heart, its from Dylan’s religious period; there are some gems tucked away in those hidden years.
Shooting Star – Oh Mercy (1989) – Shooting stars, an analogy of religion or romance, I prefer the romance analogy. Love lost and still longed for, and then remembered. If you have not heard the MTV Unplugged reissue (1995) I urge you to download that version.
Wedding Song (Who loves you more?) – Planet Waves (1974) One of Dylan’s, not quite lost songs from the Empire Burlesque recordings. The song is filled with loving sentiment, but there is an undercurrent of loss, and almost pleading; What’s lost is lost, “we can’t regain what went down in the flood” certainly suggests some “trouble in paradise”. But that’s why we love Bob, he always leaves us guessing.
When The Deal Goes Down – Modern Times (2006) – When I hear this song, I get the mental image of the movie; On Golden Pond, 2 elderly lovers, in their golden years, comfortable in each others company and silence; sharing their last days together, in peace and love.
Each invisible prayer is like a cloud in the air
Tomorrow keeps turning around
We live and we die, we know not why
But I’ll be with you when the deal goes down
Well Worth a Mention:
Who Loves You More (1984) – This is a bootleg, available on the Clean Cuts Bootleg – Who Loves You More. Click on the link, well worth a listen. Seemingly, Dylan is just pouring out random lines in relation to his love for the woman.
Mississippi – Love and Theft (2001) – The troubadours love song, the drifter, wanting his woman to stick with him in tough times, hoping for better days. There are a few other interpretations, one being a political commentary of a changing country.
Stick with me baby, stick with me anyhow
Things should start to get interesting right about now
So give me your hand and say you’ll be mine