|Studio album by|
|Released||June 15, 1978|
|Recorded||April 25 – May 1, 1978|
|Studio||Rundown Studios, Santa Monica, California|
|Bob Dylan chronology|
Street-Legal is the 18th studio album by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, released on June 15, 1978, by Columbia Records. The album was a departure for Dylan, who uses a large pop-rock band including female backing vocalists.
After receiving positive reviews on his previous album, Desire, Dylan was met with a more lukewarm critical reception for Street-Legal, though the album was still commercially successful, being certified as Gold in the US and Platinum in the UK. Many critics gave the album a more positive re-appraisal following its release in a remixed and remastered edition in 1999.
Dylan spent the first half of 1977 engaged in divorce proceedings and a custody battle with his first wife, Sara, while editing Renaldo and Clara , an ill-fated film that was shot during the fall of 1975, when Dylan was on the first leg of the Rolling Thunder Revue tour. With the summer approaching, Dylan took a break from the film and returned to his farm in Minnesota, where he was accompanied by his children and Faridi McFree, with whom Dylan had started a relationship. There he began writing a new set of songs, including "Changing of the Guards," "No Time to Think," and "Where Are You Tonight?" At least six of the nine songs ultimately included on Street-Legal were written during this time.
His work was disrupted on August 16, 1977, when news broke that Elvis Presley had died at 3:30 p.m. at Baptist Memorial Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. "I went over my whole life," recalled Dylan. "I went over my whole childhood. I didn't talk to anyone for a week."
Later that fall, another custody battle arose when Sara sought permission from the court to move to Hawaii with the children. It was a major distraction at the time, as Dylan was planning a world tour, his first in twelve years, and the stage was already set when Dylan signed a five-year lease on an old three-story building on the corner of Ocean and Main in Santa Monica, California. Dubbed 'Rundown', the building was soon converted into a rehearsal space and studio and by September he had manned it with Joel Bernstein and Arthur Rosato, two engineers who had been in Dylan's road crew in 1976.
Before rehearsals could begin Dylan had to assemble a band and he quickly contacted several musicians, including former Rolling Thunder Revue members Steve Soles, David Mansfield, Rob Stoner, and Howie Wyeth. Stoner recalls, "I thought the Hard Rain thing was the last I'd ever hear from Bob...Then suddenly I get this call - I think Bob called me up personally...and asked me to bring Howie, and a couple of other people, to L.A. to 'just try some things out.'"
Soles, Mansfield, Stoner, Wyeth, pianist Walter Davis, Jr., and percussionist Otis Smith arrived in late November and early December. Even with his players assembled, Dylan was not ready to rehearse, as the custody battle over his children and the imminent release of Renaldo and Clara occupied most of his attention. (He was still editing Renaldo and Clara up to the last minute.) "Bob kept us sitting around for a week or two," recalls Stoner. "He just never showed up...and [when he finally] drops in, he's distracted...He was really [stressed out]. He was always bummed out. He was chain-smoking and he was really in a bad mood. He was short with people. It just wasn't working out."
A settlement in his custody battle was reached in late December, decreeing that his children would remain in California where Dylan would have access to them. Fall-out from the custody battle would keep Dylan and Sara from reaching amicable terms for several years.Meanwhile, Renaldo and Clara was released to some of the worst reviews of Dylan's career. The negative reaction clearly irritated Dylan but, with the film finally released and legal matters settled, Dylan was finally ready to rehearse.
Sessions soon began in earnest and on December 26, Dylan followed the day's rehearsals with a preview of his next album; playing just the piano, Dylan ran through his new batch of songs to Stoner, Soles, and Bernstein. Many of these songs had been written that summer at his farm in Minnesota. As rehearsals got under way it became clear that they weren't "picking up where the Rolling Thunder Revue left off," recalls Mansfield. "I brought my steel guitar and I had it in rehearsal and every time I'd go to start unpacking it, Bob would go, 'We don't need that.' All of a sudden the instrument that I played all over the place in the previous band, he didn't want to see it, let alone hear it."
One component from the Rolling Thunder Revue left by his own choice. Howie Wyeth was struggling with his heroin addiction at the time, recalling, "I knew I couldn't get high once we'd left...I realized I was either gonna get busted or I'd end up being tortured to death. So I literally had to just tell Bob one night, 'I can't do it.' That was terrible. He had his own problems. He felt bad that I wasn't gonna do it, and he called me up when I got home to New York and said, 'Are you sure?'"
After auditioning a number of drummers ("maybe ten or a dozen" by Bernstein's estimates), Dylan replaced Wyeth with Denny Seiwell, who briefly played with Paul McCartney and Wings.
When rehearsal was held on December 30, the band now included Stoner, Mansfield, Soles, guitarist Jesse Ed Davis, and singers Katey Sagal, Debbie Dye Gibson, and Frannie Eisenberg. This rehearsal was mostly dedicated to rearrangements of classic Dylan compositions, drawing on adult contemporary pop. (Wayne Newton, Barry Manilow, Marvin Hamlisch). As biographer Clinton Heylin writes, "[Dylan] began to impose a grander vision on whatever sound the Revue veterans had initially conceived. With his love of fatback R&B, it should have come as no surprise that he hankered after a band with a saxophone player and female singers... The band he assembled in the two months before the 1978 world tour shares many similarities with the big band he had attempted to impose on Desire . The girl singers/sax/keyboards combination also reflected elements of the extravagantly presented shows Presley had been playing in the 1970's."
By mid-January 1978, Dylan was still unsatisfied with some aspects of the band, and with the first leg of his world tour set for February in Japan, he quickly made some last-minute changes, removing Sagal and Eisenberg and replacing them with novice singer Helena Springs and seasoned professional Jo Ann Harris. (Sagal was not surprised by her dismissal. "I remember...he'd have three girls all sing a part that was not in our range," Sagal recalls, "and we were too terrified to say anything.")
In the meantime, Seiwell was let go; during his brief stint with Wings, he and the rest of Wings were busted for drug possession in Sweden, prompting Japanese officials to deny him an entry visa. A number of auditions were quickly arranged, and according to Stoner, they "settled" on former King Crimson drummer Ian Wallace. Although Wallace's drumming would become problematic ("The man had a beat like a cop," recalls Stoner), time had run out as the tour was almost upon them. The Danish/American guitarist Billy Cross was also brought in and eventually Dylan's touring band was solidified with Cross, Wallace, keyboardist Alan Pasqua, percussionist Bobbye Hall, and saxophonist Steve Douglas, Mansfield, Stoner, Soles, and the back-up singers.
In the final two weeks of rehearsal Dylan began settling on new tour arrangements for his classic, earlier recordings. Rob Stoner recalls, "a telegram arrived from the Japanese promoter, and in it he had a manifest of the songs he expected Bob to do on this tour. In other words he was a jukebox, he was playing requests. "We don't want you coming here and doing like your new experimental material, or getting up there and jamming." As Heylin writes, "though the idea of a big band had always appealed to Dylan, the reality was a whole series of new arrangements, to make each song different and to highlight the band's demonstrable versatility..." Often the arrangement ideas came from the band. As Stoner observes, when they put these arrangements to Dylan, "Sometimes he'd like it and he'd use it, and other times he'd say, 'Forget it'."
The band flew to Japan on February 16, 1978, and the tour drew considerable praise from the audience and press, in both Japan and Australia. Later documented on Bob Dylan At Budokan , this tour was marked by bold new arrangements of classic Dylan recordings. During the course of these two-hour-plus shows, Dylan often recast familiar songs in more contemporary guise. However, some of the band members, including Stoner, were not entirely satisfied with Dylan's new sound. "He had in mind to do something like Elvis Presley," recalls Stoner. "That size band and the uniforms...he wasn't very sure about it, which is why he opened way out of town. I mean, we didn't go any place close to Europe or England or America [for] forever, man...and I don't blame him. I think he knew, subconsciously, he was making a big mistake."
The tour ended on April 1 at the Sydney Sportsground in Australia. When it was over, Stoner informed Dylan that he was leaving the band. Dylan was planning to record his next album upon returning to Los Angeles but with Stoner gone, Dylan hired a new bass player, Jerry Scheff. Scheff was best known for his work with Elvis Presley in the 1970s as a member of his TCB Band, and on The Doors' final recordings.
With Scheff replacing Stoner, Dylan began recording his new material with his touring band. Sessions were held at Rundown, with Dylan renting a mobile truck to record the proceedings. (The mobile truck was equipped with 24-track capabilities, something his studio didn't have.) "I didn't want to do it there," Dylan later recalled. "[I] couldn't find the right producer, but it was necessary to do it. So we just brought in the remote truck and cut it, [and] went for a live sound." Dylan would ultimately settle on Don DeVito as his producer, even though he had been dissatisfied with DeVito's work on Desire.
Dylan already had a European tour scheduled for June, but he still had enough time to record his album; over the course of just four days, Dylan would record nine of his own compositions. Dylan knew exactly which songs he wanted to record and though three songs written by Helena Springs were also recorded during these sessions ("Coming from the Heart," "Walk Out in the Rain," "Stop Now"), there is no indication that these songs were ever serious contenders for the album.
Though the sessions lasted only four days, there were still a number of problems. The first being that it was recorded in a makeshift rehearsal space and not a studio. "The biggest problem...was how it was recorded," recalls Mansfield, "with Bob getting impatient with the engineering assistants...baffling and checking levels and getting sounds in sync...and the recording crew just having to scramble to get mikes into place and get something on tape, while we were playing the thing the few times we were gonna play it. It really was sort of like Bob Dylan meets Phil Spector in the best way...as if it had [just] been recorded so the instruments sounded full and well-blended."
Unlike previous albums, the outtakes for Street-Legal are few in number. Only three additional songs were recorded for the album, of which none have seen release. There are two takes of "Stop Now", sounding very much like an additional Street-Legal song, in circulation. The Searchers would record "Coming From The Heart (The Road Is Long)" and Eric Clapton would release "Walk Out In the Rain" on his album Backless , which also included another song written at this time, "If I Don't Be There By Morning".
Other songs written during this time include:
|Christgau's Record Guide||C+|
|The Rolling Stone Album Guide|
Following the twin successes of Blood on the Tracks and Desire, Street-Legal was another gold record for Dylan, peaking at No. 11 on the U.S. Billboard charts, making it his first studio album to miss the U.S. Top 10 since 1964. However, it became his best-selling studio album in the UK, reaching No. 2 on the charts (his highest position in eight years) and achieving platinum status with 300,000 copies sold (the only other Dylan album to do this is The Essential Bob Dylan ).
When Street-Legal was released, it was dismissed by the American press. Crawdaddy! critic Jon Pareles remarked that "Dylan still needs a producer," but others found fault with both the songs and the performances. Greil Marcus criticized the singing as "simply impossible to pay attention to for more than a couple of minutes at a time" and accused "Is Your Love in Vain?" of sexism, claiming Dylan was "speak[ing] to the woman like a sultan checking out a promising servant girl for VD."
In the UK, reviews were positive, with Michael Watts of Melody Maker proclaiming it Dylan's "best album since John Wesley Harding ". NME's Angus MacKinnon hailed it as Dylan's "second major album of the 70s." In contrast to the record's still mixed reputation, Q Magazine has given the album a 5 star rating on re-release on two occasions, pointing out that the original muddiness of the production was part of the reason the record has so long been critically overlooked.
When Dylan embarked on his European tour, he would be greeted by a generally warm audience reception, and his single, "Baby, Stop Crying" (the lyrics of which were allegedly inspired by Robert Johnson's "Stop Breaking Down"), would chart in the top ten throughout Europe, and reached number 13 on the UK Singles Chart with the album peaking at number 2 on the album chart. In the US, however, the single failed to crack the top 100 and the album itself peaked at number 11, ending Dylan's string of number 1 albums in America until 2006's Modern Times . When Dylan continued his tour in America, it would be derided by the American press as the Alimony Tour and later the Vegas Tour, much to Dylan's chagrin.
Many years later, even Street-Legal's most ardent admirers would admit some flaws in the album, finding most fault with the production. "Street-Legal would be the first in a long line of song collections whose failure to be realized in the studio would lay a 'dust of rumors' over Dylan as an abidingly creative artist that he has never been able to fully shake," writes Heylin.
The original 1978 LP sleeve credits mastering to Stan Kalina at CBS Recording Studios NY; the album was produced by Don DeVito. In 1999, DeVito revisited Street-Legal and remixed the album with modern, digital techniques in an attempt to improve the mix and produce a richer overall sound. The remix was also used in a 2003 SACD reissue of Street-Legal. However, in 2013, when Street-Legal was remastered as part of The Complete Album Collection Vol. 1 , the original 1978 Kalina mix was reinstated.
All tracks are written by Bob Dylan.
|1.||"Changing of the Guards"||April 27, 1978||7:04|
|2.||"New Pony"||May 1, 1978||4:28|
|3.||"No Time to Think"||April 27, 1978||8:19|
|4.||"Baby, Stop Crying"||April 28, 1978||5:19|
|1.||"Is Your Love in Vain?"||April 28, 1978||4:30|
|2.||"Senor (Tales of Yankee Power)"||April 28, 1978||5:42|
|3.||"True Love Tends to Forget"||April 27, 1978||4:14|
|4.||"We Better Talk This Over"||April 26, 1978||4:04|
|5.||"Where Are You Tonight? (Journey Through Dark Heat)"||April 27, 1978||6:16|
|German Albums Chart||16|
|UK Albums Chart||2|
|Canada (Music Canada)||Platinum||100,000^|
|Norway (IFPI Norway)||Gold||50,000|
|United Kingdom (BPI)||Platinum||300,000^|
|United States (RIAA)||Gold||500,000^|
* Sales figures based on certification alone.
Blood on the Tracks is the fifteenth studio album by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, released on January 20, 1975 by Columbia Records. The album marked Dylan's return to Columbia Records after a two-album stint with Asylum Records. Dylan began recording the album in New York City in September 1974. In December, shortly before Columbia was due to release the album, Dylan abruptly re-recorded much of the material in a studio in Minneapolis. The final album contains five tracks recorded in New York and five from Minneapolis.
"Love And Theft" is the 31st studio album by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, released on September 11, 2001, by Columbia Records. It featured backing by his touring band of the time, with keyboardist Augie Meyers added for the sessions. It peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard 200, and has been certified Gold by the RIAA. A limited edition release included two bonus tracks on a separate disc recorded in the early 1960s, and two years later, on September 16, 2003, this album was remixed into 5.1 surround sound and became one of fifteen Dylan titles reissued and remastered for SACD playback.
The Band was a Canadian-American rock band formed in Toronto, Ontario, in 1967. It consisted of four Canadians and one American: Rick Danko, Garth Hudson, Richard Manuel, Robbie Robertson, and Levon Helm. The Band combined elements of Americana, folk, rock, jazz, country, and R&B, influencing subsequent musicians such as the Eagles, Elton John, the Grateful Dead, the Flaming Lips, and Wilco.
The Traveling Wilburys were an English–American supergroup consisting of Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison and Tom Petty. Originating from an idea discussed by Harrison and Lynne during the sessions for Harrison's 1987 album Cloud Nine, the band formed in April 1988 after the five members united to record a bonus track for Harrison's next European single. When this collaboration, "Handle with Care", was deemed too good for such a limited release, the group agreed to record a full album, titled Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1. Following Orbison's death in December 1988, the Wilburys released a second album, which they titled Traveling Wilburys Vol. 3, in 1990.
Bringing It All Back Home is the fifth studio album by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan. It was released on March 22, 1965, by Columbia Records.
Jaime Royal "Robbie" Robertson, OC, is a Canadian musician, songwriter, film composer, producer, actor, and author. Robertson is best known for his work as lead guitarist and songwriter for The Band, and for his career as a solo recording artist.
John Wesley Harding is the eighth studio album by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, released on December 27, 1967, by Columbia Records. Produced by Bob Johnston, the album marked Dylan's return to semi-acoustic instrumentation and folk-influenced songwriting after three albums of lyrically abstract, blues-indebted rock music. John Wesley Harding shares many stylistic threads with, and was recorded around the same time as, the prolific series of home recording sessions with The Band, partly released in 1975 as The Basement Tapes, and released in complete form in 2014 as The Bootleg Series Vol. 11: The Basement Tapes Complete.
Jakob Luke Dylan is an American singer-songwriter. He rose to fame as the lead singer and primary songwriter for the rock band the Wallflowers.
Desire is the seventeenth studio album by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, released on January 5, 1976, through Columbia Records. It is one of Dylan's most collaborative efforts, featuring the same caravan of musicians as the acclaimed Rolling Thunder Revue tours the previous year. Many of the songs also featured backing vocals by Emmylou Harris and Ronee Blakley. Most of the album was co-written by Jacques Levy, and is composed of lengthy story-songs, two of which quickly generated controversy: the 11-minute-long "Joey", which is seen as glorifying the violent gangster "Crazy Joey" Gallo, and "Hurricane", the opening track that tells a passionate account of the murder case against boxer Rubin Carter, whom the song asserts was framed. Carter was released in 1985, after a judge overturned his conviction on appeal.
Slow Train Coming is the 19th studio album by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, released on August 20, 1979, by Columbia Records. Slow Train is the title song of the album. It was Dylan's first album following his conversion to Christianity, and the songs either express personal faith, or stress the importance of Christian teachings and philosophy. The evangelical nature of the record alienated many of Dylan's existing fans; at the same time, many Christians were drawn into his fan base. Slow Train Coming was listed at No. 16 in the 2001 book CCM Presents: The 100 Greatest Albums in Christian Music.
The Last Waltz was a concert by the Canadian-American rock group The Band, held on American Thanksgiving Day, November 25, 1976, at Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco. The Last Waltz was advertised as The Band's "farewell concert appearance", and the concert saw The Band joined by more than a dozen special guests, including their previous employers Ronnie Hawkins and Bob Dylan as well as Paul Butterfield, Bobby Charles, Eric Clapton, Neil Diamond, Dr. John, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, Ringo Starr, Muddy Waters, Ronnie Wood, and Neil Young. The musical director for the concert was The Band's original record producer, John Simon.
The Rolling Thunder Revue was a 1975–1976 concert tour by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan with numerous musicians and collaborators. The purpose of the tour was to allow Dylan, who had now become a major recording artist and concert performer, to play in smaller auditoriums in less populated cities where he could be more intimate with his audiences.
Bob Dylan at Budokan is a live album by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, released April 1979 on Columbia Records. It was recorded during his 1978 world tour and is composed mostly of the artist's "greatest hits". The performances in the album are radically altered from the originals, using the same musicians that backed Street-Legal, but relying on a much larger band and stronger use of brass and backing singers. In some respects the arrangements are more conventional than the original arrangements, for which the album was criticized. For a few critics, such as Janet Maslin of Rolling Stone, the differences between the older and newer arrangements had become less important.
Empire Burlesque is the 23rd studio album by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, released on June 10, 1985 on Columbia Records. Self-produced, the album peaked at No. 33 in the U.S. and No. 11 in the UK.
Good as I Been to You is the 28th studio album by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, released on November 3, 1992, by Columbia Records.
Robert Dylan is an American singer-songwriter, author and visual artist. Often regarded as one of the greatest songwriters of all time, Dylan has been a major figure in popular culture during a career spanning nearly 60 years. Much of his most celebrated work dates from the 1960s, when songs such as "Blowin' in the Wind" (1963) and "The Times They Are a-Changin'" (1964) became anthems for the civil rights and anti-war movements. His lyrics during this period incorporated a range of political, social, philosophical, and literary influences, defying pop music conventions and appealing to the burgeoning counterculture.
"Watching the River Flow" is a blues rock song by American singer Bob Dylan. Produced by Leon Russell, it was written and recorded during a session in March 1971 at the Blue Rock Studio in New York City. The collaboration with Russell formed in part through Dylan's desire for a new sound—after a period of immersion in country rock music—and for a change from his previous producer. The song was praised by critics for its energy and distinctive vocals, guitar, and piano. It has been interpreted as Dylan's account of his writer's block in the early 1970s, and his wish to deliver less politically engaged material and find a new balance between public and private life.
"Senor " is a minor-key ballad written and performed by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan and released as the sixth track of his 18th studio album Street-Legal (1978). The song was produced by Don DeVito and later anthologized on the Biograph box set in 1985. Street-Legal was remixed and remastered for a 1999 compact disc release, with a further 5.1 remix done for a Super Audio CD release in 2003. Both re-releases featured the song.
The Bob Dylan Gospel Tour was a concert tour by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan that consisted of 79 concerts in North America in three legs, lasting from November 1, 1979 to May 21, 1980.
"Where Are You Tonight? " is a song by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, which was released as the closing track on his 18th studio album Street-Legal (1978). The song was written by Dylan, and produced by Don DeVito. Dylan has said that the song is about the individual's "enemy within." Critical interpretations of the song have suggested that it references Dylan's divorce as well as foreshadowing or announcing his conversion to Christianity, which became evident in the religiously-focused projects that followed the album. Commentators have also opined that there are allusions in the lyrics to the work of Robert Johnson.