- Album name: Nashville Skyline
- Artist name: Bob Dylan
- Year: 1969
- Number of discs: one
- Label: Columbia Records
- Collection: Brenner / Gessner
- Who owned it: my father
- Buy it on Amazon: $25.02
Level of familiarity before listening
As with John Wesley Harding, I’ve only listened to this record a handful of times in my life, because it wasn’t played a lot for me when I was growing up and because I mostly prefer Dylan’s earlier work. I know many of the songs on it, though. It will be the fifth of Dylan’s records that I’m reviewing, and the previous four were:
- The Freewheelin’ (1963): 5/5
- Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits (1967): 5/5
- John Wesley Harding (1967): 4/5
- Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits, Vol. 2 (1971): 4/5
What I expected
It’s called Nashville Skyline because it’s a country record.
What it was actually like
The first thing I noticed about this record was that Dylan’s voice was very different in it: smoother, deeper, probably noticeably superior to people who are qualified to assess other people’s singing voices, but also far less distinctive. The second thing I noticed was that it had way less harmonica than John Wesley Harding had. I liked it.
I did not like this version of Girl From the North Country, though, and in fact I would say that I probably could not have hated it more. When reviewing The Freewheelin’, I wrote:
My favorite (at least for today) is Girl From the North Country. Every time I hear it, I think of Scarborough Fair…
Dylan’s original version of this song is really one of his most sublimely beautiful compositions and wonderful recordings, so evocative and so simple. This version, a duet with Johnny Cash, really trampled over my love for the original, though I do think it would be wonderful to have heard a Johnny Cash (solo) cover of it, and it reminded me of Eric Clapton’s horrific cover of Layla, inconveniently also named Layla. Interestingly, there do not seem to have been many great covers of Girl From the North Country, but this one is solid.
I Threw It All Away, Tell Me That It Isn’t True and Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here with You were all passable, but not very interesting, and they sounded like filler to me.
I really loved Nashville Skyline Rag, a non-bluegrass instrumental with a bluegrass style: wonderful pace, excellent steel guitar and harmonica.
One More Night was another favorite, with a great country sound and a bit Oompa Loompa, and Peggy Day was similarly Oompa Loompa and good, sounding at parts more like traditional country than “Nashville” style country of the 1960s.
To Be Alone with You was another solid country song with honky tonk piano that I thought was fine, and Country Pie was the record’s most cosmic American song. I thought it was danceable and had excellent guitar, but why did it end so suddenly?
When reviewing Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits, Vol. 2, I wrote:
Lay Lady Lay is another favorite that I almost never remember because it’s on “Nashville Skyline,” and therefore not in my regular routine.
My impression has been that this was one one of his most popular songs from this era, and hearing it now has made me want to listen to Nashville Skyline more frequently.
4/5: would listen again