Review: Bob Dylan’s “Together Through Life”

Bob Dylan
Together Through Life
Columbia
3 1/2 stars

There’s only been one other Bob Dylan album that was largely co-written with someone else, 1976’s Desire. This album, sir, is no Desire. Instead, it’s another dusty, hard-boiled latter-period Bob Dylan album that you either see the beauty in or dismiss entirely. And while Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter comes along for the ride, his voice is indistinguishable from Dylan’s here, much as Jaques Levy’s is on Desire. Yet, somewhere his words are there, scattered throughout (“a teaspoon of water is enough to drown” feels a little bit Hunter-y.) Together Through Life conjures up the same creaky atmosphere as listening to the 68-year-old music legend’s Theme Time Radio Hour — it’s as if Dylan was supplying the vintage tunes for his show by writing and recording them himself. As on Modern Times, he’ll borrow what he wants to get him where he wants to go. “I Just Want To Make Love To You” becomes “My Wife’s Hometown” through the never-ending folk process, yet the face lift suits it. “One of these days she’ll make me kill some one” sings Dylan, channeling Bela Lugosi. His evil little laugh at the end is worth the price of admission. “If You Ever Go To Houston” is essentially “On Top of Old Smoky.” But it all works. It’s Dylan. He knows what he’s doing.


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