A pretty rare one, this!
If like me you believe Bob Dylan's 1987 album, 'Down In The Groove', to be in dire need of re-evaluation then get a copy of this soundtrack release to the bizarre film of that same year, 'Hearts of Fire', starring none other than Bob Dylan and featuring his music.
This album contains the best track from those 'Down In The Groove'/'Hearts of Fire' soundtrack sessions, a cover of John Hiatt's 'The Usual' that is superior to the Wilbert Harrison cover, 'Let's Stick Together', that opens 'Down In The Groove'. It helps that Hiatt's song is such a great one but Dylan's performance here is energised and powerful and bears comparison with any of the great vocal performances he was giving with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers a little earlier.
The second track that is gold here is 'Night After Night', a Dylan original that has the big band feel of the sessions that made up 'Knocked Out Loaded'. A tortured love song ("Night after night another bottle finds a bed") against a backdrop of global turmoil ("Night after night another plan to blow up the world"), it nevertheless bounces and dances with the most infectious of Stax-Volt style horn riffs.
A third treat on this rare gem of a CD is an alternative take of Down In The Groove's 'Had A Dream About You, Baby', featuring Eric Clapton's chunky rhythm guitar. Much maligned by the critics and commentators, this song has to be one of Dylan's great lost pop songs. With its cheeky blues-rock structure and tragi-comic lyrics (with the yearning "Late last night you were rolling across my mind")this song is possibly waiting for its definitive version (Joe Cocker please consider). But I have always loved the slightly chaotic, slightly throwaway bar-band feel of the rock tracks on 'Down In The Groove' and this alternative take with its varied vocal mannerisms is a genuine pleasure.
By adding these three tracks and then sourcing some of the bootleg recordings from these sessions like, for example, the gorgeous cover of Gene Vincent's 'Important Words', or Slim Harpo's 'Got Love If You Want It', and ditching the 'Infidels' derived 'Death Is Not the End', it is possible to begin to hear the 'Down In The Groove' album as it should be heard: a seminal collection of great interpretations, with some originals thrown in, experimenting with a vast range of musical styles from grungy bar rock to narrative Western ('Silvio') to 50's pop to exquisite covers of folk standards ('Shenandoah') and Appalachian Mountain music ('Rank Strangers').
This 'Hearts of Fire' soundtrack album gets three stars from me, one for each Dylan track. Where is the other great Dylan cover that appears in the film - Shel Silverstein's 'A couple More Years'?
Please Sony, dust off the boxes of tapes and give us some more of this rich material on the next Bootleg series release so the world can hear 'Down In The Groove' for what it should have been all alongBy P. C. Judge
Fiona Flanagan - Hearts Of Fire
Bob Dylan - The Usual
Fiona Flanagan - I'm In It For Love
Rupert Everett - Tainted Love
Fiona Flanagan - Hair Of The Dog (That Bit You)
Bob Dylan - Night After Night
Rupert Everett - In My Heart
Fiona Flanagan - The Nights We Spent On Earth
Bob Dylan - Had A Dream About You, Baby
Fiona Flanagan - Let The Good Times Roll