Empire Burlesque

Empire Burlesque

Posted by leeshkay | Published a year ago

With 133 ratings

By: Bob Dylan

Purchased At: $6.95 (30 used & new offers)

I just got this CD for my wife, who had worn out the LP and tape. (She was too thrifty in the 80's.) I have nothing great or original to say here, but I don't understand why everyone trashes "Empire Burlesque." When Dylan released the 1965 album "Bringing It all Back Home," all the folkies wept bitter tears--Dylan had gone electric! He was abused and reviled by his coffeehouse beatnik fans, and deeply mourned as having sold out. What BS. He was only getting started. This is a man who won the Pulitzer Prize for literature, and some of his best lyrics are on this album. My wife is obsessed with "When the Night Comes Falling from the Sky," and with good reason. It rocks, it says much about relationships, and is perfect poetry. She'd play her (unplugged) Fender Strat along with the video on MTV every time it came on. She was a very good electric guitarist then, tho she's had to stop playing now for physical reasons. So the 80s used synths. This song can be duplicated exactly by a live band, too. It's all the haters again. Nothing a genius like Dylan does is liked across the board because tastes and prejudices are so varied. The video rocked out, featuring Eurythmics Dave Stewart, bassist Phil Chen, and some of Tom Petty's crew--pianist Benmont Tench, and drummer Stan Lynch. There was a gritty, urgent sound to the song that lent itself to the images of the poor neighborhood in which that video was filmed.

Let Dylan do what he wants, WHEN he wants. He will, anyway. Give a little. He wanted to do this album in 1985 and he did. He produced it himself, and every song on it is a treasure. His future second wife sings on it, with some of the finest female backing vocalists ever. The studio musicians were the best to be had. Why people can't let Dylan express whatever he's feeling at any given time is beyond me. And why synth is so appalling to people today is a mystery. The music that came after the 80s was really problematic. We never could understand why grown men used to scratch vinyl LPs by pushing them back and forth against the stylus, in order to make noise. What was THAT? Well, it was called "music." We just let it go. It was modern--it appealed to a new generation. We didn't trash it, we ignored. Most of the non-musician critics on here could learn to do the same.

- ensley_cook

This is a fantastic album. I've read some reviews from people who call it overproduced, 80s junk, etc, and I suppose that applies if you hate the 80s. However, it's Dylan. And Dylan singing on this is as good to me as Dylan singing on anything. It's a very fine album. I'll remember you, emotionally yours, and dark eyes are very fine tracks. I personally love Dylan's 80s period. Infidels is also a very fine album. So if you're not into this era of his, skip it. But I think it's great. And I don't feel pressured to like anything Dylan just because it's Dylan. I like listening to this album. Sample it. If you like it, buy it. If you don't, don't.

- armani_rodriguez

This recording has special meaning. The poetry is poignant and typically searing Dylan in how it begins in one place and rambles off point to the real point so effectively. These works represent a rather chaotic period in Dylan's life and is often disregarded as unproductive. But I see these works as a cohesive presentation of a seeker who has not found that which he seeks, moans openly and sometimes with great imagination about his inner angst, and works his way through the grief cycle unsuccessfully.

I find a good contemporary and more lucid if pedestrian album to be Bonnie Raitt's new release. As I listened to a couple of songs on this album, and coincidently bought and am listening to "Dig in Deep" by Bonnie Raitt. 

The first song, Tight Connection To My Heart (Has Anyone Seen My Love) starts with, "I’ll go along with the charade until I can think my way out.   I know it was all a big joke.   Whatever it was  about.   Someday maybe  I’ll remember to forget."  Unrequited love can be like that - confused and defensive.  Denial is the psychological phase.

The second song, "Seeing the real You at Last" has -- " Well, didn’t I risk my neck for you,  Didn’t I take chances?  Didn’t I rise above it all for you -  Whatever you gonna do;  Please do it fast." Is about feeling like a martyr. A broken heart is like that when you are on some kind of seeker's quest and you forget there is love involved. Eyes sometimes open. And lights come on. It's the true beginning of the curve in the grief cycle.

A song of love and alienation in the back of a pickup in a love embrace. "I’ll remember you". "When I’ve forgotten all the rest.   You to me were true.   You to me were the best.   When there is no more.   You cut to the core.   Quicker than anyone I knew.   When I’m all alone in the great unknown.   I’ll remember you."  Perfect. 

"Clean Cut Kid" is a horse beat dead. He's the lover you married thinking it was a good idea and then everything went the way of the Dream. But you're stuck. And you live with it. We do. We all still do. "Never Gonna be the Same Again" tells another Part of a story of a broken relationship failingly forged by a seeker. "Sorry if I hurt you, baby.   Sorry if I did.  Sorry if I touched the place.  Where your secrets are hid.  But you meant more than everything.   And I could not pretend.   I ain’t never gonna be the same again." 

"Trust Yourself" is about trusting your own fearful, insecure, appearances driven heart or not.  There are always unintended consequences. "Emotionally Yours" is not a simple a love dog as it seems, but one can take it that way and enjoy it. "When The Night Comes Falling From The Sky" is just the epic summary of a failing relationship.  "I don’t want to be a fool starving for affection  I don’t want to drown in someone else’s wine" it complains - complaints worthy on both sides.

"Something’s Burning, Baby" is my lingering hope and desire that some things can be undone.  It says, "I don’t wanna see you bleed, I know what you need but it ain’t what you deserve.   Something is burning, baby, something’s in flames.  There’s a man going ’round calling names.  Ring down when you’re ready, baby, I’m waiting for you.   I believe in the impossible, you know that I do." 

The album ends with "Dark Eyes".  "Oh, the French girl, she’s in paradise and a drunken man is at the wheel (me).  Hunger pays a heavy price to the falling gods of speed and steel.  Oh, time is short and the days are sweet and passion rules the arrow that flies.  A million faces at my feet but all I see (in my dreams) are (her) dark eyes."

Pure Dylan whether you like him or not.

- nalani_martinez

As many Dylan fans will argue, EASILY one of his most underappreciated efforts. Critics, I feel, put the whammy on this before a lot of listeners would have given it a chance. Lyrically and musically it is as diverse and inspiring as many of his better reviewed later efforts. Give it a try. I'm sure many fans will find it one that you'll go back to often.

- atticus_roberts

Dylan went through a down period ... and once he began to write and sing like the "old" Dylan of the 60's ~ his comeback was assured. This album was released in 1985. I don't like every song on it. I rarely like all songs on all the albums I have. But I DO like Bob Dylan and his lyrics. He has HIS style like all great artists ~ and you can tell it is HIM, when he sings.

- leonardo_long

The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Bruce Springsteen, Elton John, Rod Stewart, Paul McCartney.....they all succumbed to the synthesised curse that was mid-eighties music. Bob Dylan, seemingly, was no different, and this album has been roundly criticised ever since for being an appalling, over-synthesised waste of time. Every time I listen to it, I expect the worst because of this, and I am always pleasantly surprised, to be honest. Yes, it is not the match of 1983's "Infidels", but it is nowhere near as bad as some say, nor even quite as synthesiser-dominated as it has been accused of being, either. He did don an awful eighties jacket for the cover though!


1. Tight Connection To My Heart
2. Seeing The Real You
3. I'll Remember You
4. Clean Cut Kid
5. Never Gonna Be The Same Again
6. Trust Yourself
7. Emotionally Yours
8. When The Night Comes Falling From The Sky
9. Something's Burning Baby
10. Dark Eyes

"Tight Connection To My Heart" is a lengthy, gospelly call-and-response number with hints of the previous album, "Infidels". The upbeat "Seeing The Real You" is also a bluesy reminder of some of that album, while "I'll Remember You" is a delicious, yearning love song with some excellent piano and organ breaks, big drum sound, addictive bass and Dylan on fine vocal form. "Clean Cut Kid" is a barroom bluesy rocker that has Dylan sounding as if he is having a good time. The sound is good, crystal clear and the backing vocals and lead guitar are top notch. Dylan could still rock and here was the proof. This is not a bad track, by any stretch of the imagination. I really like it. An enjoyable, underrated song. "Never Gonna Be The Same Again" is, admittedly, though, pretty blighted by its eighties keyboards. It is a bit of a throwaway, both musically and lyrically, unfortunately. Elton John put out a lot of material like this in the same period.

"Trust Yourself" is no lyrical masterpiece but it does have a big, bassy insistent groove and another strong, impassioned Dylan vocal, like something from his "preaching" years of 1979-1981. There is an intoxicating bass line that runs throughout it, too. Because I don't listen to this as much as other Dylan albums, listening to it now I am almost enjoying it as I would a new album. That can only be a good thing. "Emotionally Yours" is an orchestrated, tender love song apparently written for Elizabeth Taylor(?). Its chorus definitely taps into "Forever Young" but it does suffer from over-the-top eighties production.

"When The Night Comes Falling From The Sky" is the album's tour de force. Again, though, its contemporary production overshadows it somewhat. A far better version of it can be found on "The Bootleg Series 1-3", where Dylan is backed by Steve Van Zandt on guitar and Roy Bittan on piano from Bruce Springsteen's E St. Band. They truly rock it up E St. style and you can almost sense Dylan feeding off it and really enjoying himself. The version on here is far more trundling and, in comparison, lifeless. Not that it is bad, but that version just cooks, big time. There are some excellent percussion parts at the end of this one, though.

"Something's Burning, Baby" is another hark back to the devotional material, even though it is a love song. Dylan's vocal is good and the electric guitar chops are good, but there is another production problem, it has to be said. Given a starker, less melodramatic backing, it may have been a much better song, there are some great lyrics in it. I have to admit that by the end of the album, the production is beginning to get a tad tiresome. "Dark Eyes", though, is completely different - a stark, folky song that sounds like the set of material he would do seven or eight years later on "Good As I Been To You" and "World Gone Wrong". A pointer to the future, perhaps?

NB - despite being supposedly "remastered" for the "Complete Works Box Set", the sound still sounds slightly under par to me, a bit bassier but that's it. For me the only truly decent Dylan remasters are those released as "HDCD" remasters. They all have wonderful clarity and warmth of sound.

- joselyn_jackson

Some critics dubbed this 1985 album ‘Disco Dylan’ as Dylan adopted elements of the predominant ‘1980s sound’ on many of the tracks: drums with reverb and an electronic feel, and synths. This works well on some, particularly the uptempo opener ‘Tight Connection to My Heart’, ‘Trust Yourself’ and the apocalyptic ‘When the Night Comes Falling from the Sky’, which has contributions from the reggae-dub masters Sly and Robbie. But it does not work well on track four, ‘Clean Cut Kid’; - a song about a young all-American whose life is altered for the worse by experiences in the Vietnam War. The 80s-style drums dominate the recorded version of this song in an irritating way, while the backing vocals also don’t fit. Dylan’s live version with the Tom Petty Band on Across the Borderline is far superior. Despite this misstep, Empire Burlesque finds Dylan in fine and passionate voice. There are two heartfelt ballads, ‘I’ll Remember you’ and ‘Emotionally Yours’, which might be reflective of his personal life at the time – in 1986, he was to secretly marry backing singer Carolyn Dennis. The closing track, ‘Dark Eyes’ marks a break in sound from the rest of the album, being a stark acoustic track with just Dylan, guitar and harmonica. It was written at the end of the sessions after a request by Arthur Baker, who assisted with production, for a further song: the album extends to 46 minutes. It is a strong track and its placement at the close of the album means it does not jar. Overall, Empire Burlesque is one of Dylan’s stronger albums from the 1980s.

- octavia_castillo

I listened to a CD called Empire Burlesque quite a lot about 20 years ago. Not great, but I love Dylan, so I persisted, and got to like it. Then that CD case became one of many with no CD in it, as a result of life, children, moving house, lending and borrowing, losing down the sofa, leaving in a car - that sort of thing. Recently, I have been filling the gaps again. My recent purchase of Empire Burlesque differs markedly from the one that I remember - the songs are in the same order, but most seem to be very different takes. How does that happen? I don't mind having a different version, but I would like to have access to the earlier version, and I would like to have been told. And no, my memory is not that bad.

- miller_gomez

Resisted it for years but took the plunge recently as I'd bought all his other albums. Surprisingly not that bad, actually good, as good as Tempest if you can get through the 80s production. Go on, give it a go. Now onto the live albums...

- maxine_kelly

I found this very disappointing.

- zeke_taylor

Ignore the critics, this is an excellent album

- jordyn_morris

Great-- I have one goal now---buy everything he's made--. thought I had it all until i watched You- Tube---How wrong I was !

- lydia_james

This isn't Dylan's best album but it's worth buying,.

- sunny_wood

Love this album

- heavenly_james

Yet another classic

- aleena_mitchell

I came to Dylan late in life (after all the early stuff which is in my bones, like every other preboomer whether they know it or not) and I really freaked out on his last three or four albums, which are among his best. Since then I have been going to the back catalogue, which for me is 70's, 80's and 90's...lots to explore there!. In this treasure trove so far, my fave is Oh Mercy, produced by Daniel Lanois and released in 1989. On the strength of Amazon reviews, I bought Empire Burlesque. I have just listened to it. On first hearing, I must say I only share the general enthusiasm to a point. The first five songs (to my ears) sound like cheap electro-pop. Starting with track 6, however, the Dylan musical genius starts to shine brighter with every song, ending with a solo guitar and harmonica song (Dark Eyes) which comes as a sort of welcome anti-climax. I will be returning to these last 5 songs often, but I doubt I will listen very much again to the first five.

- zander_nguyen

Cet album de 1985 a eu un certain succès des deux cotés de l’Atlantique (#11 UK et #33 US). Pour ma part je ne l’apprécie pas, je le juge globalement fatiguant avec peu de morceaux attrayants. L’orchestration est souvent répétitive. Après un premier titre acceptable « Tight connection to my heart » le second « Seeing the real you at last » n’est pas une réussite. « I’ll remember you » est plus reposant mais manque d’originalité. « Cleancut kid » est fatiguant avec une orchestration saccadée tout comme les suivants « Never gonna be the same again » et « Thrust yourself ». Un peu de plaisir avec « Emotionally yours » qui propose une mélodie plus dylannesque avant la reprise d’un rythme saccadé avec « When the night comes falling from the sky ». « Something’s burning, baby » n’accroche pas. Enfin une ballade plaisante avec « Dark eyes », il était temps mais c’est fini.

- nico_gonzales

Ottimo cd per gli amanti del vecchio Dylan

- maryam_cox

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