Bob Dylan

Columbia, 1980

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Anyone who thought that Bob Dylan's born-again Christian stance was just a phase got a wake-up call when Saved, Dylan's 20th album (and first of the '80s) came out. Where one could have been surprised at the religious content of Slow Train Coming, the original cover of this one – hell, just the title alone – left no doubt as to what the listener was in for.

Is this disc on the preachy side? Yes – but, let's admit it, this was totally expected, so no points are going to be docked for that. If anything, though, Saved is just not an exciting disc musically – and that is what weakens its message the most.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Now, Dylan has not been known as one of the strongest vocalists out there – in fact, people have made careers of making fun of his delivery style. While he had toned down that nasal-intoned, see-saw vocal style over the years, it started to creep back on his previous album Slow Train Running. And while it's not omnipresent on this disc, it's there a little too much for this reviewer's liking.

It's not that any one performance can be blamed; overall, this disc is just dull, despite the strong efforts of Dylan's backing band. Opening with a gospel-tinged call-and-response track “A Satisfied Mind,” Dylan stumbles right out of the starting blocks. Had this one been a full-on gospel extravaganza, it might have worked a lot better.

Well… maybe not, as the title track that immediately follows it proves. Is it a bad track? No… but it just had more promise as the rhythm track suggests. But weak lyrics, followed by a weak delivery, damns this one to mediocrity.

In fact, an emotional disconnect between Dylan's vocals and the music is what sinks Saved. Even turning the sound of his harmonica playing into the bluesiest sound he had ever created up to that point on “What Can I Do For You” isn't enough to save the track from its plodding beat. (This is a shame… and as I'm writing this while plowing through the remainder of Dylan's catalog, I sincerely hope that other producers utilized this harmonica sound on other albums.)

No matter how hard Dylan's backing band tries, as can be heard on tracks such as “In The Garden,” it sometimes just doesn't feel like Dylan's whole heart is in this effort – and if he's not interested in what he's singing, it's hard to convince the listener that it's worth their time and money.

Make no mistake, Saved is not a bad album, though it is a step down from Slow Train Coming. It just could have been a better album – and that is what the greatest disappointment is.

Rating: C

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