The following songs suck: “Watered-Down Love,” because serviceable one note riffs have hard times carrying 4 minute songs; “Dead Man, Dead Man,” because I know that Bob Dylan records aren’t the best place to find reggae music; “Trouble,” which might have been the soundtrack to that scene in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl where Kiera Knightley first learns that the crew are cursed, and they proceed to do a little song and dance for the kids or something. In case it wasn’t clear, that last one was not a compliment.
As for the rest of the album, there’s actually something worth liking in a lot of songs here, and it looks to me like Saved was so bad it scared everyone away because there’s no reason why this one should have charted worse across the globe. Broadly speaking, Bob Dylan is less aggressively religious as he was on the other two albums in his Born Again trilogy, and the band here – complete with one Ringo Starr! – is as good as you can hope them to be; when the cowbells come in on “Property of Jesus” (at the 0:45 mark) to carry the rest of the song through, it’s a pretty glorious moment. Also, on the first three songs, Bob Dylan actually sings discernible melodies and though “Lenny Bruce” might be thin in terms of melody and production, Dylan killed it, lyrically: “I rode with him in a taxi once / Only for a mile and a half / Seemed like it took a couple of months” and “He just showed the wise men of his day / To be nothing more than fools / They stamped him and they labelled him / Like they do with pants and shirts / He fought a war on a battlefield where every victory hurts.”
And obviously, closer “Every Grain of Sand” is a goodie, where Bob Dylan successfully consolidates melodic and lyrical qualities (best couplet: “Then onward in my journey I come to understand / That every hair is numbered like every grain of sand”; I’d like to think that when Bob Dylan said in a 1983 interview with NME that “It’s my most perfect song. It defines where I am spiritually, musically, romantically and whatever else. It shows where my sympathies lie. It’s all there in that one song,” he was talking about this one instead of the title track and accidentally mixed the two up). Inspired harmonica playing, and though arpeggios sure get boring, but memory foam beds of backing vocals are nice to lie in.