Bob Dylan,
World Gone Wrong
(Sony, 1993)

World Gone Wrong was Bob Dylan's follow-up to the equally folk/blues-oriented album Good As I Been To You. Like its predecessor, World Gone Wrong consists exclusively of cover songs. While the lack of Dylan originals is always a little disappointing, rest assured that these 10 songs have all been pretty thoroughly Dylanized. The words may not be his own, but he brings each song to life with subtly passionate and natural vocals, the raspy overtones of which seem to reflect and magnify the feelings behind the lyrics.

These songs are noticeably darker in tone that those found on Good As I Been To You, making it a similar yet very different album, more quiet and reflective. At times, particularly in the haunting final track "Lone Pilgrim," Dylan's voice softens to little more than a whisper. It's hard to speak about individual songs, though, because to me World Gone Wrong is to be judged and appreciated as a whole.

There is more than a hint of nostalgia in these songs; in fact, in their own quiet way they seem to represent a rebellion again modern society. This falls far short of becoming the sort of protest music Dylan produced in his early years, but nostalgia for a world that can never be regained is unmistakably present. Fame and fortune are given a thorough analysis herein and are declared wanting; as Dylan says in the very interesting if sometimes cryptic liner notes, when opining upon the meaning of the song "Stackalee," "no man gains immortality thru public acclaim." I don't think Dylan really even cares how many people appreciate this album; as always, he records the music that speaks to him, not what he thinks audiences want to hear.

Sometimes the short-term results of an album such as this are criticism and less than stellar sales, but eventually, the music is recognized for the greatness that lies within it. It is quite possible that many Dylan enthusiasts will listen to World Gone Wrong, then put it away and forget about it for years, but that's OK. I did that, but now that I have given these 10 somber folk songs a second chance to impress me, I am pleasantly surprised at the power this unassuming little album possesses.

- Rambles
written by Daniel Jolley
published 31 May 2003

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