Monday, September 26, 2005

Here's a piece by David Greenberg in Slate about how Dylan's post-'60s stuff is undervalued. He moves into larger waters re: academic histories of the '60s, and that's interesting, but in strictly-Dylan terms Greenberg has it exactly backwards. The reason people undervalue post-'60s Dylan is that Infidels and Oh Mercy and Desire simply aren't great records--they're uneven and muddled. (Blood on the Tracks is probably his best album overall, for my money, and "Love and Theft" is one of my half-dozen favorites for sure. But that's a different discussion, really.) And how exactly are those albums "undervalued," anyway? All of them got great reviews (especially from that boomer bastion, Rolling Stone) and placed high in year-end polls, etc. They haven't been the subject of retrospectives and whatnot mostly because those high points come so few and far between they're difficult, maybe impossible, to do the kind of concentrated overview with that No Direction Home is--not to mention that Dylan (a) became a lot more camera- and media-shy after the motorcycle accident and (b) basically commissioned the Scorsese movie. If there's a reason this period is being raked over, it has as much to do with Dylan's own wishes as those of anyone else.