Picks and Pans Review: Infidels
Dylan has indeed been born again. And again. And again. He is an artist committed to, and at times even overwhelmed by, his current convictions, regardless of the cost. He defied convention with his early protest songs. He affronted folkies by going electric in 1965. He ignored rockers with his countrified Nashville Skyline LP. And he astonished almost everybody by announcing his conversion to Christianity in 1979. Now he's heading back to his Jewish roots. This splendid album makes it clear that, at 42, America's pop laureate may be a slow train coming but he's fast on the switch. The eight tunes include an unabashedly pro-Israel number, portraying the Jewish state as a righteous Neighborhood Bully. Union Sundown is a bitter swan song for the American labor movement, and Man of Peace takes a skeptical view of beating swords into plowshares. As for personal tunes, Jokerman is another enigmatic epic about "Shedding off one more layer of skin/ Keeping one step ahead of the persecutor in you." The message seems unclear: Dylan is nobody's predictable popster. Besides indicating that Dylan has renewed his poetic license, Infidels is musically superior to his most recent LPs. Part of the credit for that should probably go to producer Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits, whose fiery guitar playing helps give Dylan's lyrics the bite they need.