Joan Baez

Any Day Now

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Recorded in October of 1968, Any Day Now marks Joan Baez's first foray into the recording studios of Nashville, armed with an entire program of Bob Dylan's material and backed by a stellar cast of Music City's finest session players. Dylan himself, coming out of an imposed exile after a motorcycle crash, had issued only one recording since 1966's Blonde on Blonde; his low-key "comeback" outing, John Wesley Harding, released in December of 1967, had also been recorded in Nash Vegas with some of the same A-list players. Baez's interpretations on this double album are simply stellar. Her empathy for the material, her keen understanding of Dylan's sound world, and her own glorious voice brought another dimension to these 16 songs and, if anything, extended their meanings. There is no greater interpreter of Dylan's music, and while evidence of that certainly was offered on earlier recordings (such as 1967's Joan), the verdict was solidified here. The album's most famous track is "Love Is Just a Four-Letter Word," and because of the definitive performance of it here, it has basically belonged to Baez ever since. Another fine choice is "Walls of Redwing," a tune Dylan rarely performed and no one had yet recorded. Baez's read of "Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands" brings its full complexity to the fore. Though Dylan later confessed (after Joan and Bob split) to writing it for his wife, Sara, on the album Desire, there is plenty in the song that alludes to his relationship with Baez. Her version of the song is almost identical in length (11:15 to Dylan's 11:22) and is utterly beguiling. Likewise, her a cappella approach to "Tears of Rage," which immediately follows, is a beautiful version with a strangely fascinating placement. The bottom line is that Any Day Now, like Joan and David's Album, found Baez at an intensely inspirational and creative peak.

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