Friday, May 2, 2008

Number 6 Street Legal

Number 6 Street Legal
Artist: Bob Dylan
Released: June 15th 1978

Track Listing

Changing of the Guards
New Pony
No Time To Think
Baby Stop Crying
Is Your Love in Vain?
Senor (Tales of Yankee Power)
True Love Tends To Forget
We Better Talk This Over
Where Are You Tonight? (Journey Through Dark Heat)

You've been down to the bottom with a bad man babe
But you're back where you belong

I am a Dylan guy. I own his entire catalog, yes even the self-titled Dylan and Down in the Groove. I have seen him live many, many times from Thibodaux to Delaware. Be assured this is not my attempt to pick an "obscure" Dylan album to enhance my (Twelfth) street (and Vine) cred. This album is number 6, with a bullet.

A unique criterion made Street Legal an automatic for my top ten list. When I'm two beers too gone this is always, ALWAYS what I want to listen to. This may seem inconsequential but let me tell you it isn't. When the chorus for True Love Tends To Forget ignites stand back because I'm YELLING along with it!

"Saw you drift into infinity and come back again.
All you have to do is wait and I'll tell you when."

Divine inebriation.

A lot has been said about the poor production value of the album at the time of the recording. It was recorded in only four days; this is probably what gives it the energetic immediacy that makes it burn. The album was remastered in 1999 and while I was extremely skeptical (I couldn't believe anyone was fuc**ing with Street Legal) I am now on board and would suggest the remastered version over the original. Saxophone and female backing singers, is this R & B? Yes it is but it's Bob Dylan R & B. There is just something in the sound I love; I don't think I'm technical enough to explain it.

There is a mythos all to it's own that underpins the whole album. Scenes from a feudal land in Changing of the Guards, Biblical south of the border end
times in Senor, spiritual stops at all points in between from Mexico to Tibet. Every time I listen to Street Legal this other time other place feel lifts me and moves me from where I am. Street Legal is a transportation device. Dr. Who had a phone booth; I've got Bob Dylan's Street Legal.

For most of Bob Dylan's work I have analyzed what he's written to try and understand where he is coming from. This is a natural thing to want to do, thousands of dissertations, blogs, etc. have been written to explain "what Dylan is trying to say". I have somehow managed to never do this with Street Legal. Like Iris Dement said I choose to let the mystery be. The mythical writing, the hot wax, the singers, the sax, and his voice both desperate and forceful wash over me and there I go, away from where I am for a little while.

I am not sure if this is a Mount Rushmore work like other albums in Bob Dylan's catalog but it is a wondrous thing to me personally. So many late nights turned early morning I've sat alone or with family and friends and put Street Legal on. Different times, different rooms, different situations, different revelations, same wonder filled moments as I ride The Street Legal Transportation Device.

As a post note I would like to add that this is my all time favorite album cover. Bob Dylan is at the foot of a staircase. Is it a pathway that leads up to the stars? He has his head turned with a coat under his arm. Someone's coming to give him a ride, to transport him to another place, with the things of the past above and behind him. Damn right. He looks ready for the ride, he looks dare I say…..STREET LEGAL


  1. I am officially a fan of your blog. Why you wonder? Well, maybe you don't care. Well, I'll tell you any way.

    Excellent description of the under-under-under rated Street Legal. "Where Are You Tonight? (Journey Through Dark Heat) - I feel it is required to say the entire title - has slowly been becoming an all-time favorite. "Is Your Love In Vain" is definitely one of the greatest guilty pleasures of Dylan's sap songs.

    Personally, when I have had a few too many, I reach for Time Out of Mind.

    I do have to wonder where Blood On The Tracks and Love & Theft is during all of this. The absence of these may or may not be unforgiveable.

    Also, a great commentary on Mule Variations. I am in a constant struggle between picking it or Bone Machine as one of my "Ten Desert Island" discs. Mule Variations might have "Get Behind The Mule", "Lowside of The Road", "Take It With Me", and all the other great tunes. But it doesn't have "Muder In The Red Barn", "Goin' Out West", "Who Are You", and "I Don't Wanna Grow Up." It's a tough call. Both are Sci-Fi Americana masterpieces. Bone Machine has that little apocalypse thing going for it, though. And, of course, the Bacchic duet between Tom and Keef in "That Feel." (This is the type of debate constantly going on in my head between the two albums.)

    I am currently curious about Scarlett's album. From what I've heard so far ("Falling Down" featuring David Bowie), it wasn't so bad. She's got a great band of musicians behind her.

    Keep up the great work. I'm sure I will be commenting every now and then and sharing music gab.

  2. Interesting interpretation of the cover. I always thought Dylan was looking around the corner hoping something wasn't coming to hit him... "Blood On The Pavement". The songs sure seem as if he's trying to keep from being plowed over.

  3. Delvis - Thanks for the comment. You might want to watch out for any late night Time Out of Mind sessions. That record should come with a warning label.. "Not to be consumed with any alcohol or deep set feelings of mortality and suffering" Time Out of Mind is right there with Sleeps With Angels from my list. It simply will not tolerate casual listening..

  4. Thanks for the kind comment over at Everybody's Dummy. I'll definitely be referencing your review the next time I listen to this album. I'll be delving deeper into your blog as well!