Ranking Bob Dylan’s 39 studio albums- #34- Bob Dylan’s 20th studio album release- Saved [1980} 2 1/2 stars.
Bob Dylan’s nearly sixty year career has at times been highly controversial- his going electric in the mid-60s and turning his back on the folk movement immediately comes to mind. But the most controversial- to this day with some people period of his career was his “Christian Trilogy” of albums which began with the release of Slow Train Coming- on August 20, 1979. I will cover Slow Train Coming sometime in the coming months- it is an album I have from the first listen 41 years ago to today -have loved. The second album in the “Christian Trilogy”-came rather quickly- ten months later with Saved. The album was produced by the same guys who produced Slow Train Coming- Barry Beckett and the legendary Jerry Wexler. The problem I have always had with Saved- in comparison to Slow Train Coming- is the songs on Saved- are not up to par with the songs Dylan wrote for Slow Train Coming.
I had a sneak peak on hearing Saved. The first concert I ever went to was Bob Dylan at the Stanley Theater in Pittsburgh on May 14, 1980. This was in the days before the internet but the world was certainly out that you weren’t going to be hearing “Like A Rolling Stone” or “Blowin’ In The Wind” on this tour. Dylan would be playing his Christian music. When I saw Dylan was coming I didn’t care what he was going to play I wanted to see him. My friend Dan who was also Dylan crazed went with me. We had both loved Slow Train Coming. Dylan would play a number of those songs that night and some we weren’t familiar with- from the upcoming album. That night there were a number of people walking out after a few songs- I can recall them throwing their hands up into the air and yelling something towards the stage and then turning and leaving. They were upset with the song selection-what were they expecting? Dan and I both thought the concert was great.
When the album came out a little over a month later- I bought the album and for the past 40 years have always had issues with it. I was never one of those fans who somehow felt ‘betrayed” by Dylan’s turning Christian and recording those three albums. I have always admired Dylan as an artist because he was never a trend follower- he did his own thing no matter what was popular at the moment. As I mentioned earlier I have always felt the songs on Saved weren’t that strong. Maybe he should have given that follow up to Slow Train Coming- a little more time. These songs seem to be more preaching a sermon, more harsh and judgmental. I also didn’t care as much for the production of this album. Slow Train Coming is one of the best produced albums of Dylan’s career- it sounds great. I have always found the production on Saved to be kind of a hard listen. I must say that the box set The Bootleg Series: Vol. 13 Trouble No More 1979-81 represents this music better- the songs sounded better live in concert [which I thought at the Pittsburgh concert}
Saved received poor reviews- and even to this day I have seen some rankings of Dylan’s albums which ranks it as his worst album. I wouldn’t go that far- it is for Dylan a mediocre album but does have some high points- my favorite songs on the album- the title track-“Saved”, “Solid Rock” and “In The Garden.” While I have never warmed up to the album it’s not terrible. After Slow Train Coming- it was a disappointment.
Note- the album cover. Bob Dylan has had some terrible looking album covers over the years- I should someday rank them but the album cover for Saved is at least on the Mount Rushmore of Bad Dylan album covers. Of course you can’t judge an album by it’s cover[or a book by its cover} but it has always puzzled me- how little interest he seems at times to take on the album cover.