I’m not really a Bob Dylan fan. A voice like that, and a tunesmithing talent like that, come along only a few times per century, but he’s still kind of irritating. That aside, the song One More Cup of Coffee, from the 1976 album Desire, can’t be ignored; wonderful tune, wonderful orchestration, wonderful performance. (“5✭♫” series introduction here; with an explanation of why the title may look broken.)

Desire, by Bob Dylan

The Context · Nothing I can possibly write will add any wisdom to the millions of words, some 90% of them in excess of needs, written on the subject of this particular person.

A personal statement: Bob Dylan has long irritated me for, during the first thirty years or so of his career, never having given a straight answer to a straight question, and for writing songs with dozens of boring verses. But they’ll still be listening to lots of his performances long after I’m dead, and in recent years he’s become a better, more direct, interview.

My taste in Dylan is a little unusual: once you get past One More Cup of Coffee, my favorites would be Baby Let Me Follow You Down (from the Last Waltz soundtrack) and Crash on the Levee (Down in the Flood) from The Basement Tapes.

Desire, the record, is hit and miss. Joey, glorification of the life of some mafioso, is flawed in concept and unlistenable in execution. Hurricane, whatever you think about Mr. Carter, that song rocks; and Isis hits pretty hard too.

The Music · Is there anything in One More Cup of Coffee that’s not perfect? Well yes, in the verses, the lyrics on occasion drag (“He oversees his kingdom / So no stranger does intrude / His voice it trembles as he calls out / For another plate of food”). But apart from that, the sentiment is compelling, Scarlet Rivera’s violin is beautifully scored and played, the tune is to die for, and the backing vocals are by Emmylou Harris, who you can bet is going to be here in the 5-✭ series one of these days. And while there’s not much middle ground on the subject of Dylan’s singing, if you like it, you’ll really like this song.

Listen to the choruses: Bob and Emmylou veer wildly around the rhythm, then coalesce on the beat when it matters, and they’re making it up as they go along, they’re wholly inhabiting the moment, and it’s quite, quite perfect.

Sampling It · Oh yeah, it’s out there. And there’s a live version too; but the smart thing would be to go buy the un-compressed un-DRM’ed shiny round silver version of Desire; it’s a keeper.


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April 24, 2006
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