Over looked, underrated and generally seen as a lesser work due to the fact it wasn’t recorded in the 60s or Blood on the Tracks, Planet Waves is one of those albums that you eventually buy when you see it cheap in a sale. This is a little unfair as it’s actually one of Bob Dylan’s unheralded high points and one of his most rewarding albums in terms of a listening experience. Planet Waves is not the tiresome political folk of his early albums, or as iconic as his electric trio and lacks the emotional impact of the aforementioned Blood on the Tracks, but what it is, is a great collection of Bob Dylan songs.
After an admittedly shaky start to the 70s, an ill-advised change of record labels and far too few brilliant songs from an alleged voice of a generation, no one really expected his Bobness to ever regain his muse for the entire length of an album. Planet Waves was the first indication that Dylan was still capable of making a significant artistic statement and with The Band backing him, he was back to his most musically supple and daring (is it me, or does “Tough Mama” have a touch of Neil Young and Crazy Horse about it?).
From the oddly bouncy “On a Night Like This”, to the crushing despair of “Dirge”, Planet Waves is both one of Dylan’s most dynamic and consistent albums. Of course “Forever Young” is the song that even the uninitiated will recognise, but at least two thirds of Planet Waves could be regarded as some of Dylan’s finest work and given that this is the only studio album he recorded with his most celebrated backing band, it is one of the Bob Dylan albums that should be investigated sooner rather than later. An album where one of it’s strengths is that it doesn’t have to try to hard to impress, were it released before any other album than Blood on the Tracks, it would be hailed as the classic it undoubtedly is.