Bob Dylan
Street Legal



by Sepstrup USER (20 Reviews)
January 11th, 2007 | 12 replies

Release Date: 1978 | Tracklist

Review Summary: "Street Legal" has potential, but is ultimately too polished, inconsistent and often downright cheesy to become a good album.

While Bob Dylan’s golden years were in the sixties, many of his fans think that “Blood on the Tracks” is the greatest album he has ever cut. The following album, “Desire”, enjoyed a similar amount of praise although it was far, far inferior in my opinion. Any possible notions that Dylan might be commencing a second golden era were put down with 1976’s “Street Legal”.

”Street Legal” is what you call a mixed bag. Were this a track-by-track review, you would see basically the whole scale of ratings in use for the individual songs. The result is a deeply inconsistent album. “Desire” of the previous year saw Bob Dylan move into unfamiliar musical territory. He attempts this again with Street Legal, as his blues-rocked song is backed by a gospel choir, and full band of saxophones, violins and whatnot. Problems arise here. While the first song “Changing of the Guards” is a great song, using the choirs and a saxophone to aid the song, the choir becomes tiring as you listen to the album as a whole. In fact, you only need to get to track three, the annoying “No Time To Think” before it becomes tiring. After you’ve heard Bob Dylan sing “Equality, liberty, humility, simplicity”, all repeated by a gospel choir in an obnoxious fashion, you basically want to punch every member of said choir in the face. After the album is done playing, the choir has become so intolerable that it hurts even the songs that use it properly.

Bluntly put, “Street Legal” is a mess of an album. The good songs are bogged down by the rest and the soul sound of the album, that comes off as artificial more than anything. Most of these songs would reward from sparse instrumentations, but become too cluttered and cheesy after being subjected to Dylan’s full band. One example is the aforementioned “No Time To Think”. The verses are great, but the chorus becomes annoying with the choir, especially as the song drags and drags for more than eight minutes. “Baby Stop Crying” suffers from the same problems but to a much lesser degree. It’s still overlong, but it’s a much better song than “No Time To Think”. Everything between track 1 and 6 is basically a dry spot. Tracks 2 to 4 are average or worse, and the abysmal “Is Your Love In Vain"” is a love ballad cheesier than that song Adam Sandler sings to his girl in “The Wedding Singer”. It’s one of the worst songs Bob Dylan has ever written. Musically poor, lyrically awful. Ugh.

What follows, however, is a true oasis among the lacklustres that clutter this album. The fairly stripped-down, acoustic “Señor (Tales of Yankee Power)” is a fantastic song and not just in the context of this album. It’s one of his very best songs ever really, and sounds refreshing among the overly-instrumented songs on the album.. On every song except this it seems that Bob Dylan has completely missed the principle of “beauty in simplicity”. The songs are very polished, packed with tasteless saxophones and backing vocals and their impact are greatly dulled as a result. The album picks up again on the closer “Where Are You Tonight" (Journey Through Dark Heat). It’s not at all spectacular, and not a stand out in Dylan’s great book of songs, but it’s a pretty great song nonetheless. It seems like a truly great song, however, with all the rubbish surrounding it. Get tracks 1, 6 and 9 and you won’t be missing out on anything.

Had Bob Dylan only shot the choir and cut half of the album (maybe 60-70% actually), he would have had the foundations of a great album on his hands. What we’re left with is a scattered mess of inconsistency, filled with lacklustres and potential winners covered in an artificial soul sound that quickly becomes unbearable. “Señor” stands at the only truly great song that doesn’t have any problems dragging it down. Overall “Street Legal” is a mixed bag with too many problems to be considered a good album in any way.

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Comments:Add a Comment 
January 11th 2007


Album Rating: 2.0

Hope you enjoy the review. I realise many Dylan fans think better of this than I do.

January 11th 2007


Album Rating: 2.0

I'm not a rabid fan but I really have a lot of time for this guy and his output. His late 70's LPs were all pretty below par in general and this is no exception, it's like he doesn't mean a single word (or note).

2 is just about right for this 'un, even though it looks strange under a Dylan album. Concise review :thumb:

January 11th 2007


yea i think higher of this album from what i've heard. but i haven't heard all of it. i'll get it soon.

senor is the shit.

July 9th 2007


Senor is the only song I've heard...and it really is a great lost Dylan gem.

April 22nd 2012


Album Rating: 3.5

Quite simply, I love Dylan, all of Dylan. I'll agree this album is not his best, but it is still a favourite of mine. Sometimes bad reviews of this album make me think, its 1965 and Highway 61 all over again, there is a not so much change of style, but an experimenting with a style in this Album. While to many it won't stand out as one of the best of Dylan's Catalog, it must surely stand out as a Brave album and as a 'New' Album. Changing of the Guard and Señor are truly fantastic tracks, Baby Stop crying and Is your Love in vain, are perhaps the better of the rest of the tracks musically, but lyrically they give an insight that sinks deeper into who Dylan was at that time than any of his interviews. It stands out for me as not one of his best, but no where near his worst album. It also shows that Dylan is a true artist, instead of painting the same type of scenes over and over again in the same style of brushwork, he attempted a sculpture of ideas he rarely ever approached in most famous works, and if he never receives plaudits for the album as a piece of music, he must receive plaudits for the bravado of going somewhere different.

June 29th 2013


Album Rating: 3.0

Underrated album.

January 3rd 2014


Senor is the only song I've heard from this, and I think it's great, I'll check out the rest of the album

Staff Reviewer
January 3rd 2014


Album Rating: 3.0

Changing of the Guards is a good song too but overall I remember it's a pretty average album.

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August 20th 2015


Yes Changing of the Guards is great, and with a different sound than so much of his other stuff with the giant backing band and singers and strange backyard live-ish production kind of quality

May 24th 2016



January 10th 2017


Album Rating: 3.5

Underrated hard, great album.

January 11th 2017


Changing of the Guards is great, only heard the whole album once or twice though and it didn't do a whole ton for me.

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