Thursday, June 2, 2016

Knocked Out Loaded: Dylan's Junk Drawer

Released July 14, 1986
If anything, the title is appropriate. There's no getting around it, Knocked Out Loaded is a sub standard Dylan album. In 1986 and 1987, Dylan toured with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, playing generic greatest hits heavy set lists. In Chronicles Dylan recalled the lack of enthusiasm he put into those performances, while Petty was at the top of his game. Dylan wanted to record an album backed by the Heartbreakers  but it never took off (although the Heartbreakers appear on KOL).  Dylan and Petty's best collaboration "Jammin' Me" appeared on Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers 1987 LP Let Me Up (I've Had Enough). The bluesy opener "You Wanna Ramble" shows promise, but the next track "They Killed Him" pretty much derails the album. A tribute to Martin Luther King, Gandhi, and Jesus (written by Kris Kristofferson) falls embarrassingly flat with children's choir and all. "Driftin' To Far From the Shore" sounds like an outtake from Empire Burlesque. "Precious Memories" offers some soothing reggae.  "Brownsville Girl", often considered a diamond in the rough, works better as a prose poem instead of a song. "Maybe Someday," "I've Got My Mind Made Up," and "Under Your Spell" are all forgettable. Knocked Out Loaded adds up to nothing more than a random collection of odds and ends, an uninspired commercial product.  At its best, all too brief flashes of the old magic. I understand Knocked Out Loaded has a cult following - so contrary comments are welcome!

12 comments:

  1. It would've been nice to see Bob & the Heartbreakers' non-LP single, 'Band of the Hand' on 'Knocked Out Loaded' instead of 'They Killed Him' or 'Precious Memories', though it would still have been a listless mess. Bizarrely, however, I have a soft spot for 'Maybe Someday'.

    ReplyDelete
  2. ' Temples in flames ' 1987 tour ...generic greatest hits? The reviewer has nowhere to go after this statement. I saw several shows on this amazing tour...Tom Petty great first night, good second night, third night same tired banter, songs,etc. Dylan then comes on like a man possessed and with no time for chumminess just blasts TP& the H into the deep blue sea. A different set list each night drawn from every phase of his career with remarkable versions of a number of classic songs with just Dylan on guitar ,Campbell on guitar and Tench on piano. The album is an honourable minor work with one of his greatest ever vocal performances on the remarkable ' Brownsville Girl'.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the comment. I was going by what Dylan wrote in his memoir: p.148 "I'd been on an 18 month your with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. It would be my last. I had no connection to any kind of inspiration. . . Tom was at the top of his game and I was at the bottom of mine. . . . My own songs had become strangers to me . . . There was a hollow singing in my heart and I couldn't wait to retire and fold the tent." And he goes to talk about about how Petty and Tench urged him to play some deeper tracks in his catalog, but Dylan "didn't have it in him." So I was going off what Dylan wrote. Although I know Petty has spoken highly of the tour in interviews and claims he had no idea Bob felt so low. And obviously Bob's fans enjoyed the shows as well.

      Delete
    2. Fair enough...those comments sound more like his performances with the Grateful Dead and their pretty dire live album. Unfortunately, I did not catch any of the 1986 shows but the bootlegs are very good with again many interesting cover songs and songs he had not played before or for many years. Paul Williams followed the USA leg of the tour and he manages to convey some of the magic of Dylan's performances in his book.1986 was really the start of the N. E. T. - he has now been on the road for 30 years. Amazing.

      Delete
  3. Very good points about the shows cathada, I myself caught a memorable 'Tomorrow is a Long Time' on the tour, featuring just Bob, Mike & Benmont. Perhaps we'll see a Bootleg Series release devoted to Temples in Flames one day? We can dream can't we?
    I'm afraid we'll have to agree to differ on our respective assessments of Bob's performance of 'Brownsville Girl' though. There's a terrific live audience recording of the song by Bonnie Prince Billy, viewable on YouTube, that knocks Bob's plodding walk-through into a cocked hat.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I will have to check out the Bonnie Prince Charlie version of "Brownsville Girl."

      Delete
  4. Thanks...yes a Bootleg Series would be great with the last song being his final night performance of ' Let My People Go ( Go down Moses)'. I recently watched Bonnie Prince Billy's fine performance but to my ears Dylan's album vocal is one of his greatest ever vocals. I love the fact that Dylan is such a great and unique vocalist that his vocal performances have this impact on us devotees ( even at aged 75!)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Heart of Mine belongs in another universe.Dire and joyful at the same time .Another bone deep confessional.

    ReplyDelete
  6. The 80's production trends ruined a lot of what might have been decent music otherwise. There was certainly good music in the 80's, but most of that was from newer people who came to power in that time. I find that the great artists of the previous decades just couldn't translate into that era. Sometimes I'm thankful that John Lennon died and Led Zeppelin broke up. God knows what they might have put out as they tried to stay relevant.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You raise a big issue. I recall a George Harrison interview where expressed his total apathy at the music scene of the 80s because of the production techniques. The decade was such a mixed bag.

      Delete
  7. For some reason, I LOVE "Maybe Someday". There's great energy and it sounds like Bob was having a great time singing it. That and "Brownsville Girl" make KOL worthwhile. Children's choir, not so much.

    ReplyDelete
  8. For some reason, I LOVE "Maybe Someday". There's great energy and it sounds like Bob was having a great time singing it. That and "Brownsville Girl" make KOL worthwhile. Children's choir, not so much.

    ReplyDelete