Recorded: June-August 1970
Released: October 21, 1970
This isn’t one of Dylan’s masterpieces — in fact, it might not even sneak into his top 20 best albums. So it says a lot about his abilities (or maybe my having drunk aaaaaaaaaaaaaall the Dylan kool-aid) that I find this a completely delightful listen. There’s the early 70s pop-rock of “If Not For You” and “New Morning” (imagine if Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham had joined Fleetwood Mac a few years earlier, when they and the McVies still were happy couples… these songs would have been naturals for them), the academia paranoia of “Day of the Locusts” (maybe I’m a sucker for this because I’m an academic… and he takes off for the “Black Hills of Dakota” at the end), the Elvis fantasy of “Went To See the Gypsy” (ending with him watching the sun rise “from that little Minnesota town”), the goof of “Winterlude” (if this had been on “The Basement Tapes”, people would love it), the simple joy of “The Man in Me” (which took on new life and meaning after “The Big Lebowski”).
And then there’s “Sign On The WIndow”, which I think is a near masterpiece. Beautiful vocal performance, beautiful music, Dylan’s idiosyncratic piano playing. Lyrics that begin with a bleak first verse (“Sign on the window says ‘lonely’…), go through a mysterious second verse (“Brighton girls are like the moon”), jump over a rainy bridge, and end with that perfect final verse:
Build me a cabin in Utah / Marry me a wife, catch rainbow trout / Have a bunch of kids who call me “pa” / That must be what it’s all about, / That must be what it’s all about.
I also recommend checking out alternative versions of the New Morning songs on Another Self Portrait. They’re all also delightful. I might prefer the version of “New Morning” with horns, one of the other versions of “Went To See The Gypsy”, and think the slow piano and violin version of “If Not For You” is something really special.