Shot of Love, released Aug. 10, 1981, would be the third and final overtly Christian album released by Bob Dylan. The reviews were critical and the sales poor but it would be the most accessible of his religious releases. First, it would feature a return toward a rock sound. Second, while the message would still be sermonic and overbearing in places, there is an innate sense of humanity and balance present.
“Shot Of Love” and “Heart Of Mine” begin the album and they both tread a secular/religious line. While it was unknown at the time, they would hint at Dylan moving in a different direction. “Shot Of Love” contained Biblical imagery but would combine an anti-drug message with that of escaping life. “Heart Of Mine,” featuring Ringo Starr and Ronnie Wood, is a love song based on Jeremiah 17:9.
The oddest song contained on the album is “Lenny Bruce,” which centers on the obscene, Jewish comic. It has a nice piano base but portraying him as a martyr or possibly a Christ figure is a stretch, even for Dylan.
The album’s superior song is “Every Grain Of Sand.” It features beautiful poetry and finally explores Dylan’s personal beliefs. Are we in control or is it predestination is the eternal question that is on his mind? The song does not end there, however, as it offers hope and the promise of redemption. I rank it as one of his best songs of the 1980s, religious or otherwise. “In The Summertime” is also very good as it finds a wistful Dylan seemingly at ease with himself and his beliefs. “Watered Down Love” would continue the run of positive messages as it takes its inspiration from the famous love chapter of I Corinthians 13.
The album was reissued in 1985 with one important change. “The Groom Is Waiting At The Altar” was added. This defiant rock song increased the impact of the album and simply made it a better work. The imagery is superb but it was the vocal that makes this an outstanding track.
Shot Of Love would end Dylan’s Christian trilogy but in a positive manner. In retrospect I think that he knew it was time to move on and begin a new phase of his career. Maybe he had finally reached a point where his faith was solid enough to express it without having to overwhelm a person. Here Dylan presents a softer evangelical style which is more effective. Shot Of Love may not be a classic but it is a nice and possibly more important, a hopeful listen every now and then.