October 27: Bob Dylan released Infidels in 1983

Infidels

….I wanted to call my next album, whenever I made it, Surviving In A Ruthless World. I wanted to call it that. Before we even went into the studio, “The next album I do I’m gonna call Surviving in a Ruthless World”. But something was holding me back from it, because for some reason… somebody pointed out to me that the last bunch of albums that I made all started with the letter S. And I’d say, “Is that right?” There must be a story or something. I didn’t want to do another one beginning with S just f for superstitious reasons. I didn’t want to get bogged down in the letter S whatever the letter S stands for. And this Infidels came out, just came into my head one day, I guess. This was after we had that album done that it just came in my head that this is the right title for this album. I mean, I don’t know any more about it than anybody else really. I did it. I did the album, and I call it that, but what it means is for other people to interpret, you know, if it means something to them. Infidels is a word that’s in the dictionary and whoever it applies to… to everybody on the album, every character. Maybe it’s all about infidels.
~Bob Dylan (to Kurt Loder in March 1984)

Bob Dylan – Jokerman (official video):
screenshot_jokerman

Released October 27, 1983
Recorded April–May 1983 at the Power Station, New York
Genre Rock
Length 41:39
Label Columbia
Producer Bob Dylan, Mark Knopfler

Infidels is the twenty-second studio album by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, released in October 1983 by Columbia Records.

Produced by Mark Knopfler and Dylan himself, Infidels is seen as his return to secular music, following a conversion to Christianity, three evangelical, gospel records and a subsequent return to a secular, culturally Jewish lifestyle. Though he has never abandoned religious imagery, Infidels gained much attention for its focus on more personal themes of love and loss, in addition to commentary on the environment and geopolitics.

The critical reaction was the strongest for Dylan in years, almost universally hailed for its songwriting and performances. The album also fared well commercially, reaching #20 in the US and going gold, and #9 in the UK. Still, many fans and critics were disappointed that several songs were inexplicably cut from the album just prior to mastering—primarily “Blind Willie McTell“, considered a career highlight by many critics, and not officially released until it appeared on The Bootleg Series Volume III eight years later.

Here is a “legendary” performance of Jokerman @ Letterman:

Track listing:

Side one

  1. “Jokerman” – 6:12
  2. “Sweetheart Like You” – 4:31
  3. “Neighborhood Bully” – 4:33
  4. “License to Kill” – 3:31

Side two

  1. “Man of Peace” – 6:27
  2. “Union Sundown” – 5:21
  3. “I and I” – 5:10
  4. “Don’t Fall Apart on Me Tonight” – 5:54

Personnel:

  • Bob Dylan – guitar, harmonica, keyboards, vocals, production
Additional musicians
  • Alan Clark – keyboards
  • Sly Dunbar – drums, percussion
  • Clydie King – vocals on “Union Sundown”
  • Mark Knopfler – guitar, production
  • Robbie Shakespeare – bass guitar
  • Mick Taylor – guitar

Michael Gray (The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia):

Another ragbag collection of insipid material, hailed in the US as a great returnto form on Dylan’s part. This is the sort of work that makes Dylan’s earlier ‘minor’ albums sound like masterpieces. In depressing contrast to Nashville Skyline, New Morning or Planet Waves, there is on Infidels generally no warmth, no unity and no sense that real music is being created and played for pleasure by people who know what they want. There is instead the unwelcome return of the portentous quality of the evangelical albums of 1979–80, while the production is half-hearted and irresolute. It is Dylan beginning to say that he doesn’t really want to write songs or make records any more, and to behave as if it hardly matters whether an album is any good or not. This is not a welcome stance from a great artist. As with Shot of Love, its predecessor, it needn’t have been this way: the sessions yielded important work excluded from the release, including what is perhaps Dylan’s greatest single recording of the 1980s, the lapidary ‘Blind Willie McTell’. Best of the released tracks: ‘I and I’ (though this admonishes you into feeling it’s important, rather than claiming a place in your heart) and the album’s one incontestable major success, ‘Jokerman’.

Paul Williams (Bob Dylan: Performing Artist, Vol 2: The Middle Years 1974-1986):

….Infidels contains some very good and some very bad performances side by side. The album title is suggestive and ambiguous in the best Dylan tradition; I hear it as a comment on the unholiness and corruption of the world. In the end, some of the better songs and performances from the sessions were left off the album, including an unmistakable masterpiece, one of the true high points of Dylan’s astonishing career as a composer and performer, “Blind Willie McTell.”

 

 


There were some really brilliant outtakes from the Infidels recording sessions… This could have been “Major” Dylan album if he had chosen other songs for the album. This lead Paul Williams to suggest his “infidels”, this Infidels would indeed have been a “Major” Dylan record..

Foot of Pride (outtake):

Paul Williams’s “Infidels”:

Side one

  1. Foot of Pride (outtake)
  2. Blind Willie McTell (outtake)
  3. I and I
  4. Jokerman

Side two

  1. License To Kill (alt. version*.. not released)
  2. Don’t fall apart on me tonight
  3. Sweetheart like You
  4. Tell Me (outtake)
  5. Someone Got A Hold On My Heart (outtake)

* Paul Williams “hates” the drum sound in the released version of LTK…

My Spotify playlist & “Album” of the day:

 

2 versions “Someone’s got a hold of my heart”:

Version released on Bootleg series 3:

Alt. take version – note released (Rough cuts bootleg):

...AND the best outtake & Dylan’s 5th best song is:

Blind Willie McTell (electric version):

Check out:

-Egil & Hallgeir

16 thoughts on “October 27: Bob Dylan released Infidels in 1983”

  1. Great post and a great spotify list of an album that could have been even better had he chosen other songs. But the spotify list published contains “I and I” two times and no “License to Kill”.

  2. The sessions produced some of his greatest songs and performances sadly most were omitted from the album which is certainly his worst sounding album which is saying something given ‘ Time Out of Mind’and also makes Sly and Robbie sound like a drum machine on autopilot. The outtakes would have made a terrific album full of the energy and passion, brilliant guitar interplay and rhythm chops, so desperately missing from the released album…
    1. Blind Willie McTell (acoustic version)
    2. Julius and Ethel
    3. Someones Gotta Hold of My Heart ( the great Rough Cuts electric version )
    4. Lord Protect My Child

    Side B
    1 Angel Flying Too Close to The Ground
    2. Clean Cut Kid
    3. Tell Me
    4. Foot of Pride ( any version as they are all great despite the horrible drum sound on the Bootleg Series version )

    Strong contenders include ‘ When The Night Comes Falling from the Sky’ and ‘ This Was My Love ‘ ( an earlier Dylan cover which was covered by Sinatra ). The years 1980 to 1984 comprise many of his greatest songs ,one of his finest albums ‘ Saved ‘ and, most importantly, live performances of enormous power and passion.

  3. I think it’s such an underrated album. If we did not know about the unreleased tracks I think the album would have gotten much more praise but I think it gets some unnecessary extra hate just because of what was left off rather than what made the album, which isn’t completely fair to the album imo but it is what it is.

  4. “infidels” is the album that not only brought me back to Dylan, it led me to a Dylan renaissance that continues to this day. “Jokerman” knocked me out when I first heard it on the radio. I ran out and purchased the album, listened to it intently, and then began to collect his entire catalog, starting with his first release and continuing in chronological order. Until then, I had only owned his first greatest hits album and “Live at Budokan. “Like so many others, I had felt alienated by his religious-based recordings.
    When vinyl albums were replaced by compact discs, I started the process all over, again. I just ordered “The Bootleg Series Vol 12: The Cutting Edge 1965-1966” today.
    Fostering the myth that you can’t trust anyone over 30, I attended my first Dylan concert on that fateful birth date. It was at a now-defunct outdoor venue in suburban Chicago during his “Down in the Groove” tour in the summer of 1988. I’ve seen him a few times since, never quite knowing what or how he’s going to perform, but enjoying each and every one.

  5. “Neighborhood Bully” gets no love, but I think it says something that needs saying every so often. Frankly the world does hold Israel to a double standard as compared to its neighbors. It’s one of Bob’s most politically incorrect songs and it still has plenty of bite.

    1. Agreed. Another song that stands the test of time and is just as relevant today as it was when it was released in 1972, is REO Speedwagon’s “Golden Country,” from “R.E.O T.W.O. It addresses the issues faced by blacks, freaks and women, which have never really changed.

  6. This was the first Dylan album I bought brand new at a record store – I became a fan in the very lean years right after “Shot of Love” was released, so that was two whole years without a tour, major appearances or music. A really long time, but plenty to catch up on.

    It’s a very good album, but the funny thing is that it isn’t that dissimilar from “slow Train” – both have Knopfler, both are amongst Dylan’s most crisply produced records, and have tight songs and playing. Some of the songs might be interchangable – “Man of Peace” certainly would fit on “Slow Train”, and how much different is “Precious Angel” from “sweetheart Like You” (just add one line about Jesus into “sweetheart”, and it fits perfectly)! Come to think of it, how different is “Slow Train” from “Union Sundown”? Again, they seem to be bookends of a sort.

  7. When “Infidels” was first released, I thought it was an okay album, but nothing special. Thirty years down the road, it seems to me to have aged pretty well. “I and I” is a masterpiece that can comfortably sit in the company of Dylan’s best songs. The more one peels back its multiple layers of meaning, the better it gets…I’ve noticed that there isn’t a lot of love in this posting for “Union Sundown,” but the song rings true and is just as true today as it was then. With Dylan coming out of the “organizing labor against The Man” folkie tradition, that was a huge turnaround…”Man of Peace” could have been a “Slow Train Coming” outtake–and that’s not a bad thing…Am I the only one who thinks that “Jokerman” is “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”? It is a collection of vivid images to be sure, but to what end? After listening to it for 30 years, I still don’t have an answer, (but maybe that’s the point)…And certainly, with the addition of “Blind Willie McTell” (the band version where Dylan coughs or something near the beginning) and “Foot of Pride,” it could have been a major Dylan album.

  8. Do forget what these folks say and buy the cd if you haven’t already. It is one of Bob’s very best and is very balanced considering every song is solid.
    Drum and bass? Sly and Robbie turn in an extremely strong foundation and is their best outside of the reggae genre.

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