Guitar Aficionado

Ranking Bob Dylan's 33 Studio Albums: No. 21 — 'Saved'

The second album from Bob Dylan's Christian phase is "much sharper and spirited" and aesthetically pleasing than Slow Train Coming, as Rolling Stone wrote back in the day.
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By Bill Spurge

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A year ago, I decided to complete my collection of Bob Dylan albums. I was a few albums and some odds and ends short, but I purchased most and swapped items with a co-worker and fellow Dylan fanatic.

Then, in honor of the 50th anniversary of his first album, 1962’s Bob Dylan, I set out to rank every Dylan album and song. A monumental task, indeed. I listened to album after album, four or five times through. Even albums I knew in my sleep were placed under scrutiny.

Then came the hardest part: making the list. The albums came easier. The songs, not so easy.

My song list is coming soon. In the meantime, here's my album-by-album ranking of Dylan's 33 studio albums (NOTE: Dylan has actually released 34 studio albums, but I've chosen not to include 2009's Christmas In the Heart. I have to have some ground rules.)

These 33 album-ranking stories will take us right up to the release of Tempest, Dylan's new album, which is scheduled to come out September 11. Enjoy!

No. 21 of 33: Saved (1980)

The second album from Bob Dylan's Christian phase is "much sharper and spirited" and aesthetically pleasing than Slow Train Coming, wrote Rolling Stone back in the day.

It's easy for people to dismiss this phase, as many do. I agree with "people" when it comes to Slow Train, but not in this case, or in the case of the album that followed (More on that down the road). The gospel arrangements here are much more uplifting, and the choruses soar. This album has some real spark to it, and it's more inspiring as a religious LP.

"A Satisfied Mind," opens things up, and it's like a negro spiritual brought to life. The title track is like a rave-up with Billy Preston-like keyboards. "Covenant Women" is a nice song that sounds like something George Harrison would have recorded and/or written. "Solid Rock," well, rocks. The finale, "Are You Ready," has some oomph, and the keyboards are reminiscent of Booker T. & The MG's in some spots. The closing track is like a clash between heaven and hell. I like the backup singers here and on the rest of the album. There are, of course, some average numbers.

Part of the problem with people's perception of these Christian albums is the fact that they came out when New Wave and punk were big. Naturally, Dylan didn't follow the rest. He took his own path (to heaven's gate?) and figured to hell with people who didn't follow (Pun intended).

From a personal standpoint, this album grew on me with time.

Journalist Bill Spurge of New York City has been a Bob Dylan fan since 1974.