Ranking Bob Dylan’s 39 Studio Albums- #38- Down In The Groove- released May 30, 1988. Down In The Groove- 1 Star.
When did the great Bob Dylan hit rock bottom? I ranked his 1973 album of covers put out by Columbia without his consent Dylan as the worst of his albums but that wasn’t the bottom point. True he was going through a writers block problem in the early 1970’s- but he quickly bounced back with Planet Waves and the magnificent Blood On The Track. Rock bottom was the back to back truly awful albums- Knocked Out Loaded from 1986 and then his 25th album Down In The Groove in 1988. Bob has even said himself that he had serious doubts about his career at that time.
The public also was having doubts about Bob- Down In The Groove peaked at #61 on the Billboard Top 200 Album chart. The album had sat for more than half a year before being released, the track listing was changed a few times.
Since ‘discovering” Dylan in the late 70’s I have been a Dylan completest- if there is a new album out I am buying it as soon as possible. Upon first listen to Down In The Groove- I thought it was a turkey and I still do. While I think of Knocked Out Loaded in the same way- at least Knocked Out Loaded had one great song- a song he wrote with Sam Shepard “Brownsville Girl.”
Down In The Groove- ten songs- only two were written by Dylan himself- again he was going through a writers block. He had assistance from The Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter on two songs and the other six were written by others or a traditional song. There isn’t much here worth applauding but I am trying to pick a Mount Rushmore on each album- so the four I will go with on Down In The Groove – “Silvio”, “Shenandoah”, “Rank Strangers To Me” and “Ninety Miles An Hour [Down A Dead End Street.”
One good thing did come out of this Bob Dylan late 80’s era- he started a tour- which has been nicknamed the “Never Ending Tour.” I saw him a few times during late 80’s period. He wasn’t playing the bad new stuff at that time but the old standards mostly. The shows were well received. In the pat 30 plus years he hasn’t stayed off the road at any period for very long. It’s what he does.
As far as Down In The Groove goes- unless you are a Bob Fanatic and have to have everything- there is no reason to buy this one-