Ranking Bob Dylan’s 33 Studio Albums: No. 12 — ‘Infidels’

August 23rd, 2012

By Bill Spurge

Last year, I decided to complete my collection of Bob Dylan albums. I was a few albums and some odds and ends short, so I bought most and swapped items with a co-worker and fellow Dylan fanatic.

Then, in honor of the 50th anniversary of his first album, 1962’s Bob Dylan, I set out to rank every Dylan album and song. A monumental task, indeed. I listened to album after album, four or five times through. Even albums I knew in my sleep were placed under scrutiny.

Then came the hardest part: making the list. The albums came easier. The songs, not so easy.

My song list is coming soon. In the meantime, here’s my album-by-album ranking of Dylan’s 33 studio LPs (NOTE: Dylan has actually released 34 studio albums, but I’ve chosen not to include 2009’s Christmas In the Heart.)

These 33 album-ranking stories will take us right up to the release of Tempest, Dylan’s new album, which is scheduled to come out September 11. Enjoy!

No. 12 of 33: Infidels (1981)

This album marked the end of Dylan’s religious phase. It was certainly his most rocking album of the ’80s, and for me, his second-best LP of that decade. It sits between the religious stuff and the poor mid-’80s stuff.

This album was produced by Dylan and Mark Knopfler, who was a pretty big deal in the early ’80s. Mick Taylor played guitar on the album, particularly slide, as did as several other solid players.

A couple of my all-time favorite Dylan songs are on Infidels. The opening track, “Jokerman,” is wonderfully sung and features fine lyrics and Dylan’s harmonica. But what’s really unique is how the drummer hits only what seems to be every fourth note (Let’s just say it sounds unique).

Another favorite is “Neighborhood Bully.” I love the driving guitars and Dylan’s hearty-sounding voice. Supposedly, he’s defending Israel, but I’ve always applied the lyrics to any imperialistic country. I can picture a hard rock band doing justice to this song.

Every other song on the album is above average. This includes “Sweetheart Like You,” “License To Kill,” “Man Of Peace” and “Union Sundown,” one of the rare occurrences where Dylan uses echo on his voice. “I and I” is pretty, and “Don’t Fall Apart On Me Tonight” sounds like he wants to keep things together in a relationship. Nice song.

I think this album fits nicely at No. 12. For me, it was his best album in about eight years.

Journalist Bill Spurge of New York City has been a Bob Dylan fan since 1974.

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