Desire review by Bob Dylan

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  • Released: Jan 5, 1976
  • Sound: 9
  • Lyrics: 10
  • Overall Impression: 10
  • Reviewer's score: 9.7 Superb
  • Users' score: 8.9 (23 votes)
Bob Dylan: Desire

Sound — 9
Desire is Bob Dylan's 17th studio album and was released in 1976. It received rave reviews and was considered a very successful follow-up to his enormously popular 1975 album, Blood on the Tracks. The recording sessions took place after his fabled 1975 "Rolling Thunder Revue Tour" which featured a crew of nearly 15 musicians onstage at once! Subsequently, many of those same musicians would contribute to this album, making it one of Dylan's most collaborative efforts thus far. Many of the songs tell extensive stories and that is one of the characteristics that makes this album so... well, awesome! The sound really can be described as a gypsy caravan/ old timey medicince show-type feel... good stuff!

Lyrics — 10
Now I will give a song-by-song analysis of the album: 01.Hurricane: (Dylan/Levy) This is probably the most famous and well known song off of this album and it would later appear on most "Greatest Hits" albums. It tells the true story of boxer Rubin Carter, who was falsely accused and wrongly tried of a triple murder that happened in 1966. It has a relatively simple (but great!) chord progression that is accompanied by a gypsy-like and droning violin part and heart-driven backing vocals from Emmylou Harris. It caused alot of controversy among its release due to the fact that Rubin was still imprisoned at the time! If you want some good ole' straightforward Bob Dylan storytellin' than this is as good as it gets. 02.Isis: (Dylan/Levy) Yet another Dylan storytellin' epic, this one differs quite a bit from "Hurricane" in many ways. It tells a story of love, deception, tomb-raiding and fortune-seeking all packed into one. It also includes the same droning violin sound along with a very prominent tambourine in the ways off percussion, however there is also a traditional trap-set present. Bob himself plays the piano and harmonica on this one. 03.Mozambique: (Dylan/Levy) This is the shortest track on the album but it is also one of the most energetic! It apparently originated from a game being played between Dylan and Levy to see who could find the most words that rhymed with Mozambique. Not much really can be said about this track in my opinion as it doesn't really "stick out" on this fantastic album. 04.One More Cup Of Coffee: (Dylan) And now we come to one of the two tracks on the album NOT co-written with Jacques Levy. And my, my what a song it is! It is a very solemn and sad song written about a beatiful young girl whose family members are all drifters, gypsies and fortune tellers and how she soon will be doomed to the same fate. Emmylou Harris's vocal talents really shine on this track and that is why it is one of my favorite tracks. Also, it features the most prominent violin solos on the album, which are absolutely amazing! 05.Oh, Sister: (Dylan/Levy) This is yet another one of the sad songs on the album. It is written from the point of view of a brother who is begging for his sister to recognize him as just that, a brother. It seems as if the two have a very strained relationship. Throughout the song Bob makes references to their "Father" which I interpret to be God rather than an actual biological father. It as a great harmonica part that must be checked out. Definetely another stand-out performance. 06.Joey: (Dylan/Levy) Oh lord, children. What have we here? One of the most epic stories ever told by our dear Bob, thats what! It chronicles the life and death of real-world mobster Joey Gallo in a very laid-back song structure. This song, like Hurricane, caused alot of controversy when the album was released because it seemed to almost "glorify" the life of a person who was viewed by most as a blood-thirsty killer. It has some strange instrumentation since one of the main instruments is an accordion! But, since it is Dylan, it works. Definetely the highlight of this album. 07.Romance In Durango: (Dylan/Levy) This song is not one of my favorites on Desire, but it is decent. It talks about two lovers who are on the run down in Mexico. It also features the unexpected accordion that debuted in the previous track. Not to mention a...trumpet?! Yes indeed, there is some sporadic trumpet playing in this track. Another strange aspect of this song is that some of it is sung in spanish! Bob, you never cease to amaze me. 08.Black Diamond Bay: (Dylan/Levy) This song is quite interesting, not music-wise though, but lyrically. You see, the basis for the song is the all-out destruction of an island called Black Diamond Bay via the eruption of a volcano. The point of view differs throughout the verses going from a tourist, people who work at a hotel on the island, a man watching the story on the news and others. One of the people even commits suicide! Really this song is the quirky gem of the album. 09.Sara: (Dylan) This song is the biggest piece of Bob's personal life he has ever put into a song by far. It is also the other track that was written solely by Dylan, rather than being co-written with Jacques Levy.It tells of his relationship with his estranged wife Sara and is really a cry for the help and forgiveness that he needed at the time. It tells of her beauty and how she used to love him unconditionally, but how they are now drifting apart. Since it is talking about a real-life subject that is so close to Dylan, this song comes through as one of the most emotional songs of the album and really brings it all to a fitting end.

Overall Impression — 10
This album really was a breakthrough for Dylan in my opinion, showcasing his storytelling abilities and his way of using instruments rarely used in popular music with ease like they'd been there all along. This album really got me started on Dylan and, to me, is a highlight to his "mid-career" era. The only complaint I have about this album is that the gypsy caravan instrumentation gets just a little repetitive towards the end of an album filled with lengthy songs. However, the beauty of the album as a whole (musically and lyrically) real overpowers that for the most part. For this reason, I gie this album a 9/10 overall. Keep on listen' people and may Bob be with you! Peace.

12 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Critically some of these "mid career" albums were not appreciated...I find this an excellent album, as is another neglected one of the said under appreciated era - street legal...amazing
    The storytelling really makes this album. Joey has an amazing storyline, hurricane's energy originates from its story, one more cup of coffee is great because of the images dylan creates, etc. That being said, the music itself is great as well. Oh Sister is probably my favorite song on the album, simply because of the progression and vocals.
    Not as good as Blood on the Tracks, but easily his second best 1970s release.
    I love the fact that this album was reviewed. This was the very first Bob Dylan album I had ever owned. A few years ago being a fan of the White Stripes, I had heard their version of "One More Cup of Coffee". I had found out it was a Bob Dylan cover, and that along with finding out my favorite Jimi Hendrix song was a Dylan cover lead me to check his "Bobness" out for myself. I bought the "Desire" album and instantly went to "One More Cup of Coffee", and was literally blown away. At the point I called up a friend of mine who also was a White Stripes fan and exclaimed how they had "butchered", Bob Dylan's perfect song! To this day I own close to 30 Bob Dylan Albums, a few books, and 3 dvd documentaries! I am still a fan of The White Stripes, but Bob Dylan to this day remains at the top!
    no one can equal his splendor, and still a lot people don t like him .may god remain on his side