August 10: Bob Dylan released the album Shot of Love in 1981


August 10: Bob Dylan released Shot of Love in 1981

I hear the ancient footsteps like the motion of the sea
Sometimes I turn, there’s someone there, other times it’s only me
I am hanging in the balance of the reality of man
Like every sparrow falling, like every grain of sand

Shot of Love is Bob Dylan’s 21st studio album, it was released by Columbia Records in August 1981.

It is generally considered to be Dylan’s last of a trilogy of overtly religious, Christian albums. Also, it was his first since becoming born-again to focus on secular themes, from straight-ahead love songs to an ode to the deceased comedian Lenny Bruce. Arrangements are rooted more in rock’n’roll, less in gospel than on Dylan’s previous two albums. So maybe it is more of a new start than a gospel-tinged end?

Bob Dylan France 1981

At the time of its release, Shot of Love received mixed reviews; Paul Nelson of Rolling Stone in particular savaged the album, though he did single out the last track, “Every Grain of Sand,” as a stand-out. Shot of Love, while reaching UK #6, continued Dylan’s US commercial decline, reaching #33 during a brief chart stay. By contrast, Bono of Irish band U2 described Shot of Love as one of his favorites, particularly due to Dylan’s singing ability.

“To those who care where Bob Dylan is at, they should listen to “Shot of Love.” It’s my most perfect song. It defines where I am spiritually, musically, romantically and whatever else. It shows where my sympathies lie. It’s all there in that one song.”
– Bob Dylan (NME 1983)


A large number of songs recorded during the Shot of Love sessions were ultimately omitted from the final album, but several outtakes later found their way into private circulation.

Best of the outtakes is Caribbean WindAngelina…follow the links to listen to some fantastic versions and read about those two gems!

Bob Dylan france 1981 2

A number of critics had already turned on Dylan for the evangelism of his last two albums, but the reception for Shot of Love was particularly harsh. Despite lavish praise of “Every Grain Of Sand,” Paul Nelson of Rolling Stone savaged the rest of the album. Nick Kent of New Musical Express called it “Dylan’s worst album to date.” Despite heavy touring in Europe and North America (in which all but two songs were performed), sales of Shot of Love were below CBS’s expectations. Still, in an interview taken in 1983, Dylan would describe Shot of Love as a personal favorite.

Great live version of Every Grain of Sand – Paris 84 (audio, with Mick Taylor on lead guitar):

Shot of Love finds Dylan still in born-again mode, but he’s starting to come alive again — which isn’t as much a value judgment as it is an observation that he no longer seems beholden to repeating dogma, loosening up and crafting songs again. And it’s not just that his writing is looser, the music is, too, as he lets himself — and his backing band — rock a little harder, a little more convincingly. Shot of Love still isn’t a great album, but it once again has flashes of brilliance, such as “Every Grain of Sand,” which point the way to the rebirth of Infidels.

– Stephen Thomas Erwine (allmusic)

I still believe it is an underrated album, yes I know that it has been somewhat reassessed, but the new reviews normally says: “It’s not as bad as they said…”. I think that is wrong, it is in fact a very good album. Put in on, play it loud and marvel at yet another great Bob Dylan record!  And check out all these fantastic versions of Every Grain of Sand!

Album of the day:

Here are some great Shot of Love outtakes:
Shot of love, Heart of Mine, Yonder Comes Sin:

Let it be me:

– Hallgeir

5 thoughts on “August 10: Bob Dylan released the album Shot of Love in 1981”

  1. Writing from the perspective of a “true believer” as Bob claims he still is in his interview after the release of the Christmas Album, I found this one to be my favorite of the so-called “Chrisitain Trilogy.” I completely resonate with “The Property of Jesus” which to me is the sanctified version of “Like a Rolling Stone.” How Does It Feel to be “Resented to the Bone!” All those people paying money and going out of their way to come and boo your artistic expression! They got something better…… they got the Biblical heart of stone. Then he drops in the masterpiece at the end so that even the harshest critics have to grudgingly admit that there is nothing else quite like this on earth, and only in Dylan can come up with something like this. Chrissie Hynde figured out the power of “Property” and used it as her live concert closer: in a way similar to the way many in the 60’s and 70’s used Like a Rolling Stone. The one that I wish had been included on the album is the great, “Yonder Comes Sin.” This is Bob Dylan doing his thing, you gotta listen to it about 5 or 10 times before you can get all the lyrics, and there is some good harmonica in the fade out, but you don’t have to imagine how Dylan was feeling about his critical reception at the time:

    Jeremiah preached repentance
    To those that would turn from hell
    But the critics all gave him such bad reviews
    Put him down at the bottom of a well
    Kept on talking, anyway
    As the people were put into chains
    Wasn’t nobody there to say “Bon voyage”
    Or shatter any bottles of champagne.
    Yonder comes sin

    It get it, It only makes sense if you know your Biblical history and understands the vibe of the Babylonian Captivity of the Jews under Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon and all that, but if you do, it is great way to describe how Bob can relate a little to what Jeremiah was feeling during the time of his preaching and it fell on deaf ears.

  2. I may not remember correctly, but I believe Springsteen commented after this album arrived that anything you wanted to know about life could be found in the grooves of Every Grain of Sand. The live version with Mick Taylor is a keeper.

  3. When I first listened as it just was released out, with bad feelings about the simplistic poetry Dylan had delivered on the two preceding albums, side one just started fabulous for me, but when the once again preachy Property of Jesus set in I got suspicious, Lenny Bruce touched and grated me in the same time, the singing so emotional, the tune too, but most of the words, too childish despite some good ideas, then Watered Down Love made me want to cry, so awful did it sound, and the lyrics were even worse . Disheartened I put on side two yet was consoled by the driving Dead Man, I rejoiced when I heard the lovely In the Summertime, Trouble had a good groove though it lasted too long with little to say. Needless to add that Every Grain of Sand convinced me Dylan was still a Genius. So I was confronted with a confusing work. As I later learned which songs could have been on this elpee, Carribean Wind and Angelina, which could have replaced the last three songs on side one if you asked me but no one will of course, and Groom still waiting at the Altar… well I just exploded: what was the matter with him as an artist, was he afraid of being once again on the level of Bringing it all Back Home, did he want to keep it humble as a Christian? It still spoils the fun of Shot of Love for me… And the story would be repeated in a lesser grave way with Infidels that at least could stand as a good album, even if some of the best songs were left of. Oh it was a bumpy road the eighties, I mean, even Oh Mercy showed some strange choices. He sure knew how to frustrate and entangle us thus…

  4. I remember purchasing SOL when it first came out, but I seldom listen to it anymore. Aside from the magnificent “Every Grain of Sand” (a song that compares favorably with any of Bob’s finest songs) and “The Groom’s Still Waiting at the Altar” (which wasn’t even included on the first pressings), I do not find this album particularly compelling. I seem to remember that Bob said something in the early ’80’s about how this was the closest that he had come to recapturing that “wild, thin mercury sound” of his best 60’s work, but I just don’t hear it. To me, the overall sound is dry and brittle. “Lenny Bruce” and “Heart of Mine” are embarrassingly clichéd. “Property of Jesus” (which wallows in self-pity), “Trouble,” and the title track all sound like songs that Bob might have written right after he woke up on the wrong side of the bed one morning. The inclusion of “Caribbean Wind” (a prime example of the kind of storytelling song at which Bob excels) would have made this a much stronger album. However, SOL marks a transition from the literal gospel-tinged albums that preceded it into some of the more impressionistic language that he would later use on “Infidels.” (See “Jokerman,” “Man of Peace” and “I and I.”) For that, we can be grateful.

  5. This album has it all-Chicago blues, reggae, total variety. Understand the title track was written after Lennon was murdered. One of my favorites. Easy top 10 on my album list

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