"Infidels" is Not as "Secular" as It's Paraded To Be
Bud | Seminole, Texas, USA | 10/19/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It's baffling that any critic can call 1983's "Infidels" a return to "secular recording" for Bob Dylan. After three straight Christian albums, the record was certainly more broad in its horizons, at least when compared to its predecessor, the rollicking "Shot of Love" or the second Born-Again album "Saved," but its attitude is still as straightforward and uncompromising as Dylan's first Christian release, "Slow Train Coming." He may look ticked on the album cover, but in truth, Bob Dylan sounds musically and lyrically comfortable all throughout the wittingly titled "Infidels", and artistically he is still as free as he sounded on his Born-Again albums. But his lyricism here is much more deliciously complex than on the three predecessors; a glance at 'Don't Fall Apart On Me Tonight' may suggest that its a cliched song about sex, but it's not, it's much deeper and much more creative than that. 'Jokerman' boasts a slight reggae influence and Dylan's alluring attempt to try and reveal false prophets, as he does elsewhere when he clearly states that sometimes Satan disguises himself as a 'Man of Peace.' The driving 'Neighborhood Bully' reminds one of the rocking "Shot of Love," but with a much more complex political message, unlike the straightforward social statements of 'License To Kill' and 'Union Sundown.' And like 'Don't Fall Apart On Me Tonight,' the second track 'Sweetheart Like You' may have a cliched title, but the content within is bursting with originality and mystery, much like 'I and I.' Ironically titled, this album is a must-have in Dylan's cannon and arguably the last great album he made for years, as critics claim he went into an up-and-down spin throughout the rest of the 80s. The different spiritual elements that make up "Infidels" (Christianity and Judaism among them) would put many other artists in a creative pretzel-twist, but here Bob Dylan handles them all with integrity and delivers one of his most effective albums."
Jokerman dance to the nightingale tune
FairiesWearBoots8272 | USA | 10/22/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Infidels took me a few listens to fully appreciate, but now I really love it and listen to it often. Of course, it doesn't compare to the heights of Blood on the Tracks or Desire, nor is it as stunning as the subsequent Oh Mercy, but it is a fine album that makes a very enjoyable listen. Right from the opening song, the excellent Jokerman, you realize that this is going to be a bit different from Dylan's usual sound. However, Dylan has reinvented his sound so many times that he really can't be said to have a distinctive sound. With its Caribbean rhythm, Jokerman is a distinctive song in Dylan's oeuvre. I particularly like that little bass thing right before the chorus kicks in. Another thing I like about this album is the "rambling" songwriting style. On songs such as Jokerman, Dylan just seems to ramble on and on about these completely unrelated scenarios and you often have no clue what he's talking about. That's not a criticism though, I find it very interesting. You never know what he's going to talk about next. There is a bit of political content here, yes, but I really don't think of Infidels as a political album. I think it's more cynical than political. I think Dylan is basically saying that the world sucks, and he wishes to wash his hands of it. Whether or not this is from a religious perspective is debatable. There are certainly religious references here, but they're not blatant like on Slow Train Coming and Saved. To be honest, I'm not quite sure what most of these songs are about. A couple are pretty obvious, such as Union Sundown and License to Kill, but I don't have a clue as to what Jokerman or I and I are about. It's okay though, Dylan doesn't often spell out the meaning of his songs. The music is great with Dylan getting support from Dire Strait's Mark Knopfler and former Rolling Stone Mick Taylor. Just like on the earlier Slow Train Coming, Knopfler's guitar is a musical highlight of the album. The rhythm section consisting of Robbie Shakespeare and Sly Dunbar is very tight as well. Excellent bass and drum work.
To get the complete picture, be sure to pick up The Bootleg Series Volume 1-3 which features several songs that were cut from the album. Those songs are just as good as the ones on the album, if not better. Particularly Blind Willie McTell, which any Dylan fan should hear as it is one of his finest songs. Foot of Pride and Lord Protect My Child are also great songs that were recorded for Infidels but left off. Of course, people will always say that Infidels would have been a much better album with these tracks included, but it's really pointless. Just appreciate the album for what it is, not for what it could have been. The missing tracks are all available now anyway so with the proper technology you could reconstruct the "better" version of the album if you so desire.
Infidels is one of Dylan's best albums of the 1980s. The songs are memorable and the music is great, even though the drums sometimes have that annoying 80s echo that I dislike. The lyrics are potent, the band is great and Bob's singing is quite good, though his lovely '70s voice was gone by this point. I wouldn't recommend it to a beginner, but if you're looking to explore Dylan's later years, Infidels is a great album to check out."
Dylan's best 80's album, and his 4th Christian album..
Grigory's Girl | NYC | 08/28/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"As an earlier reviewer noted, this album is in many ways a Christian album, or an album filled with religious references. It may not have been as direct as the previous 3 albums were, but they were still there. A lot of people got totally freaked out by Dylan's Christian conversion. Frankly, I never understood why. So they seemed to all breathe a collective sigh of relief when this one turned up. I have always adored this album, not because it was his "secular" album coming after the Christian phase, but because it's damn good music. Every song on it is great Dylan, and he could have easily made a double album, because as you know, the stuff he didn't put on this album made it to The Bootleg Series, Vol. 3, and it's just as good as the stuff that made it on the album. My favorite songs are Union Sundown, Neighborhood Bully, and Jokerman. There's also a video for Jokerman, which is filled with artistic references and is one of the best videos I've ever seen (I just saw it recently on youtube). Unfortunately, the rest of the 80's wasn't very good for Bob, and he didn't really make another great album until Oh Mercy, even though I think that album is a bit overrated. This is great stuff..."
D. Cassidy | Westchester, NY | 09/28/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I agree that Infidels is an often overlooked piece in the Dylan catalog. It has a great vibe to it and his lyrics, as usual, shine. From Jokerman to Don't Fall Apart..., he touches on- and in some cases dives into- love, loss, politics, power, hubris, good and evil. His music never seems forced and the musicians jamming with him keep it all humming along. (It's no surpsie that the Neighborhood Bully sounds like a Stones riff since I believe that's Mick Taylor helping out on that one.) And to the previous reviewer, I disagree that this song is about evil American power and expansionism-I think the lyrics are talking directly about Israel. All in all, Infidels is a great latter-day effort from Bob that was only eclipsed by Time Out of Mind 14 years later"
Bob Dylans best album from the 1980s
Peter Hoogenboom | New Zealand | 03/20/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
""Infidels" is undoubtedly Bob Dylan's best album from the 1980s. It marks a significant move away from his "gospel" phase of the late 70s/early 80s but neverthless still drips with religious imagery. The songs "Jokerman", "Sweetheart Like You", "Licence to Kill", and "Don't Fall Apart on Me Tonight" are among his best work and the other songs are also interesting with the political commentary of "Neighborhood Bully" and "Union Sundown"."