Picks and Pans Review: Empire Burlesque

updated 07/15/1985 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/15/1985 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Bob Dylan

After alienating many fans with music reflecting his religious conversion to fundamental Christianity, Dylan has returned to a secular vein on Empire Burlesque, his best studio album in years. The message in such songs as Trust Yourself ("Don't trust me to show you the truth/When the truth may only be ashes and dust") is far from, say, the blind devotion of Gotta Serve Somebody from 1979's Slow Train Moving album. Dylan for the first time produces his own work, with Arthur Baker handling the remix. The album sounds so fresh because Dylan has his best backup unit since working with Robbie Robertson and the Band 15 years ago. The group includes Mike Campbell, Howie Epstein and Benmont Tench of Tom Petty's Heartbreakers and reggae warhorses Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare. Bob kicks out the jams on Seeing the Real You at Last, a menacing strut with muted but strong horns, and Clean Cut Kid, a bluesy frolic on which the Stones' Ron Wood lays down some primo guitar. Dylan has remained a monumental figure in modern music even though many of his records over the past decade have disappointed. Empire Burlesque is not Blonde on Blonde or Blood on the Tracks, but it's a relief to have even a reasonable facsimile of the classic Dylan back again. (Columbia)

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