Robert Allen Zimmerman, better known as Bob Dylan, was born on May 24, 1941 in Duluth, Minnesota. He put out his self-titled debut album back in 1962. Over the years this music legend has been known for such songs as: ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’, ‘Like a Rolling Stone’, ‘All Along the Watchtower’, ‘Dignity’, ‘Make You Feel My Love’, and ‘Duquesne Whistle’. Dylan is a folk and rock music icon. In the late 1970’s he became a born again Christian. His first album of faith was 1979’s SLOW TRAIN COMING. The opening track from it, ‘Gotta Serve Somebody’, won him a Grammy for ‘Best Rock Vocal Performance By a Male’. His second album of faith was SAVED, released in 1980. The third album in his Christian trilogy was SHOT OF LOVE (1981, Columbia). It is what I will be reviewing here. The album reached #6 in the U.K. and #33 in the US. In the CD booklet you will find Matthew 11:25: “I thank Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because Thou hast hidden these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes”.
The rockin’ title track ‘Shot of Love’ is up first and finds Bob and Clydie King taking the vocal lead. It includes these thought provoking lyrics: “Why would I want to take your life?/You’ve only murdered my father, raped his wife/Tattooed my babies with a poison pen/Mocked my God, humiliated my friends/I need a shot of love (2X).../Called home/Everybody seemed to have moved away/My conscience is beginning to bother me today/I need a shot of love (6X)/If you’re a doctor, I need a shot of love”. ‘Heart of Mine’ reached #8 in Norway. William ‘Smitty’ Smith plays organ and Ringo Starr and Ron Wood also contribute their talents on this pop/rock song on which Bob talks to himself: “Heart of mine be still/You can play with fire, but you’ll get the bill/Don’t let her know/Don’t let her know that you love her/Don’t be a fool/Don’t be blind, heart of mine/Heart of mine go back home/You got no reason to wander, no reason to roam/Don’t let her see/Don’t let her see that you need her/Don’t put yourself over the line/Heart of mine”.
Steve Ripley and Danny Kortchmar play guitars on ‘Property of Jesus’, a marvelous rock song that addresses critics of a new Christian in a sarcastic manner: “Go ahead and talk about him because he makes you doubt/Because he has denied himself the things that you can’t live without/Laugh at him behind his back just like the others do/Remind him of what he used to be when he comes walkin’ through/He’s the property of Jesus/Resent him to the bone/You got something better/You’ve got a heart of stone”. Bob plays piano on the ballad ‘Lenny Bruce’. It reflects on the life of the Jewish comedian who died of a drug overdose in 1966: “Maybe he had some problems/Maybe some things that he couldn’t work out/But he sure was funny and he sure told the truth/And he knew what he was talking about/Never robbed any churches/Nor cut off any babies heads/He just took the folks in high places/And he shined a light in their beds/He’s on some other shore/He didn’t wanna live anymore”.
Clydie King, Regina McCrary, and Madelyn Quebec provide background vocals on ‘Watered-Down Love’, a happy sounding pop number that seeks to define true love: “Love that’s pure, it don’t make no claims/Intercedes for you instead of casting you blame/Will not deceive you/Or lead you into transgression/Won’t write it up and make you sign a false confession.../Love that’s pure won’t lead you astray/Won’t hold you back/Won’t get in your way/Won’t pervert you, corrupt you with foolish wishes/Will, no, not make you envious, won’t make you suspicious”. ‘The Groom’s Still Waiting at the Altar’ is one of my all time favourite Dylan recordings. It’s a fiery blues rock track that includes these words: “Cities on fire, phones out of order/They’re killing nuns and soldiers/There’s fighting on the border/What can I say about Claudette?/Ain’t seen her since January/She could be respectably married or running a whorehouse in Buenos Aires/West of the Jordan, east of the Rock of Gibraltar/I see the turnin’ of the page/Curtain rising on a new age/See the groom still waiting at the altar”.
On ‘Dead Man, Dead Man’ Tim Drummond plays bass, Steve Douglas plays alto sax, and Carolyn Dennis is one of the background vocalists. She married Bob in 1986 and they divorced in 1992. This song has pointed lyrics: “Satan got you by the heel/There’s a bird’s nest in your hair/Do you have any faith at all?/Do you have any love to share?/The way that you hold your head, cursin’ God with every move/Ooh, I can’t stand it, I can’t stand it/What are you tryin’ to prove?/Dead man, dead man/When will you rise?/Cobwebs in your mind/Dust upon your eyes”. ‘In the Summertime’ is a pretty ballad on which Bob plays harmonica and Jim Keltner plays drums. It is essentially a love song: “Strangers, they meddled in our affairs/Poverty and shame was theirs/But all that suffering was not to be compared with the glory that is to be/And I’m still carrying the gift you gave/It’s a part of me now/It’s been cherished and saved/It’ll be with me unto the grave and into eternity.../In the summertime, when you were with me”.
Benmont Tench plays keyboards on ‘Trouble’, a blues/rock song that is anything but optimistic: “Drought and starvation, packaging of the soul/Persecution, execution, governments out of control/You can see the writing on the wall inviting trouble/Trouble (4X)/Nothing but trouble.../Since the beginning of the universe man’s been cursed by trouble”. Last up is one of Bob’s masterpieces, ‘Every Grain of Sand’, on which he plays harmonica. This ballad that is over six minutes long waxes spiritual: “Don’t have the inclination to look back on any mistake/Like Cain, I now behold this chain of events that I must break/In the fury of the moment I can see the Master’s hand/In every leaf that trembles/In every grain of sand.../Then onward in my journey I come to understand/That every hair is numbered like every grain of sand”. In 2003 Emmylou Harris and Sheryl Crow performed this song at Johnny Cash’s funeral.
Let me start off by saying SHOT OF LOVE is not an evangelistic record like his previous two Christian records were. On this album you will, however, find many Christian references. These are still songs sung by a man of faith. Romantic relationships and passion are also explored here. Musically, rock, blues, pop, and elements of gospel are all included on these ten songs. Dylan’s vocals are strong and delivered with attitude. I would say at least five of the songs here are worthy of being on a greatest hits collection. I’m rating SHOT OF LOVE 90%. For more info visit: www.bobdylan.com.