Shot Of Love

Bob Dylan

Columbia, 1981

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Question: When is Bob Dylan best serving as a preacher?

Answer: When he's not overtly being religious.

Such is the case with Shot Of Love, the third and final of the “born-again Christian” albums that Dylan recorded. It is this disc that shows Dylan flirting again with secular music, all the while still maintaining his Christian beliefs. And, it turns out to be the best of the three albums.

Where Dylan was dangerously flirting with the nasally sing-song voice that so many people use to imitate him on his previous two albums, Shot Of Love features him in fine form, even if he is buried a little too deep in the mix at times. Even further hidden at times are the religious messages Dylan wants to deliver – which proves to actually help his cause.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Take songs like “Heart Of Mine” and “Every Grain Of Sand.” While the message is a little more pronounced in the latter, to the casual listener, this could well have come from one of Dylan's mid-'70s albums in terms of musical style and delivery. Yet there are biblical messages hidden within his words, and instead of clubbing the listener over the head with his proselytizing, Dylan makes the listener think more by not making the message stand out in the forefront. Had he done this on the other two albums of this period of his career, they most likely would have been similarly improved.

This isn't to say that Dylan always hits the target with his religious messages. “Property Of Jesus” is one of the more biting songs he did in this stage of his career, calling out those who ridiculed people who had faith and practiced it – and while his message is valid, the song itself isn't one of the best he's ever written, and comes off as being a bit too much. Likewise, “Dead Man, Dead Man” has a religious twist to it, but in terms of songwriting, this one just doesn't quite get off the ground.

Yet Shot Of Love is not solely a Christian album – as if the inclusion of a song called “Lenny Bruce” wasn't a dead giveaway. A surprising inclusion about the late freedom of speech comedian, it turns out to be one of the best pieces on the disc, even if it does seem to run a little too long (a funny thing to say for a track that clocks in at four and a half minutes). Likewise, “In The Summertime” is another track that sounds like it could have come from the Desire or Street Legal period, with Dylan sounding like he was freer than he had been in a while to just write from the heart.

There will be those who will still be turned off by the religious bend of Shot Of Love – and, to those people, all we can say is you're missing out on a very good album. While Dylan had always had religious themes flowing through his music at times, up until his conversion he never really hammered his beliefs into the listener. Shot Of Love is a disc where Dylan eases off that conversion gas pedal a bit – and, in turn, created a surprisingly good album that could well be one of his most hidden gems.

Rating: B

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