Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Review was an eclectic, mid-70s carnival of souls that not only artistically invigorated ol’ Bob, but also planted many ideas in many minds throughout the tour’s run. Dylan would be inspired by Christian co-Roller T-Bone Burnett to find Jesus. While Roger McGuinn walked away from the tour with Mick Ronson in tow (yeah, the guy from Bowie’s Spiders From Mars), as well as Rob Stoner, David Mansfield & Howie Wyeth, who all aided and abetted some of McGuinn’s finest solo work, Cardiff Rose. What’s unique about Roger’s performances on this album is his new-found vocal energy. Listen for his riveting vocal inflections on “Pretty Polly” and the outstanding cover of Joni Mitchell’s “Dreamland.” Obviously inspired by Dylan’s hyper-delivery during Rolling Thunder, McGuinn, for the first time in years, found a new source of energy within himself on Cardiff Rose. Sure… it’s still McGuinn (the obligatory Dylan cover is the then-unreleased, “Up To Me”), but you’ll hear an artist who just got side-swiped by his long-standing mentor, and was suddenly intent on expressing himself without the safety net of his past success. Musically, there’s a contrasting energy weaving throughout – from drunken pirate songs (“Jolly Roger”) to elaborate 50s sock-hop (“Partners In Crime”) to Jersey shore balladeering (“Friend”). But, it’s all held together by an elastic band of vets playing with a genuine intensity and road-forged alchemy. Lyricist Jacques Levy, a co-writer on The Byrds’ (Untitled) is aboard, too. Dylan was so knocked out by that LP’s “Chestnut Mare,” he’d later enlist Levy to co-write one of his best albums, Desire.
There’s also one truly bizarre oddity on Cardiff Rose. A sore thumb track that didn’t make any sense back in the mid-70s, since it clearly didn’t belong with the rest of this album. McGuinn was apparently unconcerned, because there it is, three tracks high in the running order. “Rock And Roll Time,” written by McGuinn, Kris Kristofferson and Bobby Neuwirth (another Roller), sounds almost exactly like… The Clash!. Before The Clash ever made an album. Listen for yourself. How funny would it have been as a UK single at the dawn of the punk movement? It’s included on the player below just to amaze you (and mess with your fragile musical bearings). Apparently out of print, there are numerous CD versions of Cardiff Rose floating around at Amazon.
Take Me Away (3:02)
Jolly Roger (4:58)
Rock And Roll Time (2:47)
Partners In Crime (4:52)
Up To Me (5:38)
Round Table (4:07)
Pretty Polly (3:17)
Soul Love (Demo Recording) (3:07) – Bonus Track
Dreamland (Live) (5:30) – Bonus Track