For an artist whose career is flush with enigma, myth, and disguise, Nashville Skyline still surprises more than almost any other Bob Dylan move more four decades after its original release. Distinguished from every other Dylan album by virtue of the smooth vocal performances and simple ease, the 1969 record witnesses the icon's full-on foray into country and trailblazing of the country-rock movement that followed. Cozy, charming, and warm, the rustic set remains for many hardcore fans the Bard's most enjoyable effort. And most inimitable. The result of quitting smoking, Dylan's voice is in pristine shape, nearly unidentifiable from the nasal wheeze and folk accents displayed on prior records.
Mastered on Mobile Fidelity's world-renowned mastering system and pressed at RTI, this restored 45 RPM analog version zeroes in on the shocking purity and never-again-replicated croon of Dylan's vocals. Enhanced, too, are the images associated with the calmly strummed and picked acoustic guitars and decay connected to the fading notes. The dimensions and ambience of the Columbia studio translate via subtle echoes and natural blend of instruments melding with one another, akin to honey integrating with tea. Providing comparably soothing effects, relaxing vibes pour forth from this reissue, which affords this masterpiece the fidelity it's always deserved. Wider grooves mean more information reaches your ears.
"Is it rolling, Bob?," Dylan famously queries producer Bob Johnson at the beginning of "To Be Alone With You," indicating the laissez-faire feelings that surrounded the sessions and helped yield the laidback, convivial music defining the album-arguably the most unique in the artist's vast catalog. While he dipped his toes into country waters on the preceding John Wesley Harding, Nashville Skyline throws its collective arms around the style in bear-hug fashion and drops any obvious folk references. Everything from the songs' moods to the amicable arrangements reacts against the era's turmoil and popular sounds.
Indeed, if any Dylan masterpiece is overlooked, it's Nashville Skyline. In addition to his superb singing and infallible songs, Dylan enjoys backing from a crackerjack assembly of Nashville session musicians including Charlie Daniels, Marshall Grant, W.S. Holland, Charlie McCoy, Ken Buttrey, and Norman Blake. Country pros, and their respective performances, don't come any better.