Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Bob Dylan: Desire [Columbia, 1975]
In the great tradition of Grand Funk Railroad, Dylan has made an album beloved by tour devotees--including those who were shut out of Rolling Thunder's pseudocommunitarian grooviness except via the press. It is not beloved by me. Although the candid propaganda and wily musicality of "Hurricane" delighted me for a long time, the deceitful bathos of its companion piece, "Joey," tempts me to question the unsullied innocence of Rubin Carter himself. These are not protest songs, folks, not in the little-people tradition of "Hattie Carroll"; their beneficiaries are (theoretically) wronged heroes, oppressed overdogs not unlike our beleaguered superstar himself. And despite his show of openness, our superstar may be feeling oppressed. His voice sounds viscous and so do his rhymes, while sisters Ronee and Emmylou sound distinctly kid, following the leader as if they're holding onto his index finger. More genuinely fraternal (and redeeming) are the pained, passionate marital tributes, "Sara" and "Isis." B-