220. Infidels – Bob Dylan
I received a copy of Infidels for my birthday in October of 1983. At the time it was the 7th Bob Dylan album in my collection, which is pretty good considering I was just 18 and dire-hard (as much as an 18-year-old could be) fan of Bob Dylan. I wrote a raving review for it in my College newspaper. Nearly 30 years I believe I may love it more than i did then.
Easily one of the finest produced albums in Dylan’s career, Dire Stait’s guitarist Mark Knopfler created an audio delight with just enough edge in the right places and really encouraged Dylan’s best vocal performance recorded. Knopfler plays guitar and his trademark soothing, full-throated tones matched up with Mick Jones’ great guitar style. Robbie Shakespeare and Sly Dunbar provided the amazing rhythm section.
Considered by some to be included in the “post-Christian” era of Dylan’s career following three more religiously tinged projects (some of which will appear here). The truth is the album is no more or less “religious” than its predecessor (Shot of Love) and contains a more mature approach to faith and the world than the previous albums more “first love” approach.
Songs take on a more political, ecological, personal and relational setting. But so did songs from the three previous albums. Sweetheart Like You is not too far removed from the same imagery found in Covenant Woman. In fact, here he mentions that the subject has a Father with a house with many mansions. There are images of wise men following a star and Satan appearing as a Man of Peace.
The album contain 8 songs (one was controversially dropped by the record company) and 6 of them are among my Top 50 Dylan songs of all time. The first is the lead track, Jokerman, that features most prominently the Knopfler guitar style. The song also features some of Dylan’s best vocals.
The last two songs are simply stunning! “I and I” shows Knopfler’s exquisite fret work and Dylan’s penchant for stirring Biblical imagery…”no man see My face a lives.” Couched within the struggles of a relationship and the depravity and selfishness of the human condition.
The album closer may be the most beautiful song Dylan has ever penned. “Don’t Fall Apart On Me Tonight” is a gorgeous call of a lover to his beloved to forgive and continue to love. Musically melodic, lyrically compelling and vocally yearning. It may appear to be a call for a lover to stay but it actually is more “selfless” then self-gratifying. It is a real love song in the truest sense of the word. Aaron Neville would cover it later and make a moderate hit out of the song.
Like the artist himself I refuse to categorize his career in any way other than to state each album must be considered on its own merit. And on its own, Infidels is a must own even for those who are not Dylan fans and is easily one of the finest in his career.