Artist: Bob Dylan
Title: “Empire Burlesque”
Format: Compact disc (Spotify)
The ’80s were hard on Robert Zimmerman. Descriptions abound of the creation of “Empire Burlesque” that show him uninterested in his own art, letting others reconfigure his songs for him.
Unsurprisingly, “Empire” is regarded as own of Dylan’s weakest efforts. While there is potential in “Empire Burlesque,” records are about results, not shoulda, coulda or woulda.
Many songs on “Empire” haven’t aged well because of their adherence to musical trends of the period. “Tight Connection to My Heart (Has Anybody Seen My Love?)” is a country-twinged attempt at reggae that overstuffs the mix with too many ideas.
“When the Night Comes Falling From the Sky” is a horrifying risk, a dance song with the kind of gated reverb drum beat perfected by Phil Collins.
“Dark Eyes” is the only true classic, recounting a moment when Dylan passed an abused prostitute while boarding an elevator. It’s simply Dylan and his harmonica, a familiar comfort after a record of such messy studio overindulgence.
Freed of the shackles of its ’80s production, “Empire” might not be so terrible, but it’s a victim of something the best Dylan songs avoid – feeling horribly dated.
Our Music Year is Daily Republic popular culture writer Nick DeCicco’s yearlong online review in 2012 of albums he had previously not listened to. The reviews will appear in print on their corresponding days during 2013. Reach him at 427-6966 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ndeciccodr.