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Printable Version
Reviewed by -
Matt Rowe
Bob Dylan
Street Legal
Released: September 16, 2003
Origination Year: 1978
Time: 50:25
Tracks: 9
Produced by:Don De Vito
Style: Studio
Format: SACD
Enhancement: DSD Stereo
Label: Columbia Records

Track Listing
  1. Changing of the Guards
  2. New Pony
  3. No Time To Think
  4. Baby Stop Crying
  5. Is Your Love In Vain?
  6. Senor (Tales of Yankee Power)
  7. True Love Tends To Forget
  8. We Better Talk This Over
  9. Where Are You Tonight? (Journey Through Dark Heat)

Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan:
Vocals / Guitars

Bob Dylan fans have the knack of judging Dylan's works on the quality of his obvious great works and leaving the less accessible works to grovel in the dust of their more famous brothers. However right that may feel and however much logic seems to apply here, the end result is a blatant refusal or inherent blindness to recognize Dylan's genius in everything that he did. Genius lurks in every recorded word that Bob Dylan has ever uttered. I'm not talking blind fan worship here. I respect everybody's work equally. That doesn't mean that everything is good or even listenable. What it does mean is that we need to evaluate very closely, especially if there might be a seed of brilliance embedded deeply in the soil of creativity.

Street Legal has that seed of brilliance. I would go so far as to say that the seed is a sprouted one with deep roots and shoots pushing through the surface. One would think that after 25 years, the depth of this album would have been noticed.

There are 9 songs on Street Legal that run the gamut of pre-conversion religious thought to love in jeopardy; from friendship to life observation. With a finger on the pulse of many styles of music, Bob Dylan does a shake and bake with them on this album that ranges from soul, gospel, blues, pop, rock, and yes, classic Dylan.

It makes no sense to run through a laundry list of the best songs on this set. It makes even less sense to compare them to previous albums or even albums afterwards. However classic Dylan can be found on "Baby, Stop Crying", a UK hit virtually ignored in the US. But I always knew the Brits knew their stuff pretty damn well. The sax is perfectly tuned to the structure of the song.

The truth of "Is Your Love in Vain?" is a strong cry that reveals the need to throw out pretenses and explore real love generated by understanding and acceptance. Framed by soulful jazz-rock, this song is one of the stronger tracks. "Senor (Tales of Yankee Power)" has all the air of religious conversion wrapped in metaphor. Dylan sings of giving into the pull of God's call but more from exhaustion of a life mired in darkness. Gospel tinged background singers and bluesy sax and tone make for an intriquing song. Some of the songs also deal with heartbreak with a regret and desire for redemption from a relationship gone wrong.

Dylan's voice has never sounded better. There is a real attempt here to dispense with the nasally tones and to sing clearly. This adds another element to an already great album. Dylan's chameleonic qualities have imbued him with greatness even when his fans don't think so. With such changes come a need by fans to learn new styles. To form a point, imagine Van Halen (the band, any entity) doing jazz or punk. Fans have a tendency to reject changes. Dylan fans tend to do the same. But Dylan's high level of genius will fill every crack, always.

If you owned a copy of the sonic mess that was the CD you'll be pleased to acquire this SACD. Its improvements are vast and brings the depth and quality of every note. In "Changing of the Guards", the tonal changes of the background singers wrap around your brain bringing a sense of shape. I know this sounds cliched but it's an accurate description. DSD gives notes and sounds a body to move with, to run distances with, to cry with and to communicate with. All of these traits are evident in this SACD mix of Dylan's under-rated Street Legal.

Packaged in a sturdy, glossy hard stock digipak replicating the original album, the tri-fold opens to a stronger clear plastic tray than the Rolling Stones packaging provided. Which indicates the improvement of digipak packaging sorely needed. There are those that cry foul whenever a release issues with cardboard covers. I used to be one of them. They have now become a sort of pop art bringing back a lost art of creativity long held ransom by the antiseptic feel of jewel cases. Digipak done right becomes the new standard. The Dylan hybrid SACD issues are a step in that direction.

Dylan reissues, DSD remixes, debut hybrid discs. What a way to add gas to an SACD flame that began in earnest with the Stones reissues.

Copyright © 2002-2003 Matthew Rowe. All rights reserved.
All trademarks are properties of their respective owners.
Disclaimer: various news pieces may state a specific media publication or program as a source. All other news is considered 'rumour' only. That goes double for release dates.

212 Frech

"Even though most of the people I knew in my youth are gone, I still reach out to them..."
Norman Maclean - Paraphrase

"...we should enjoy every sandwich." -- Warren Zevon, 2003