Ralph Gleason, the esteemed music writer from back-in-the-day, gushed over New Morning when it came out. He wasn’t the only one, but we’ll pick on him.
It came on the radio in the late afternoon and from the first note it was right. Bob Dylan bringing it all back home again.
I couldn’t believe it. There was no warning, only the knowledge that it had been, in fact, completed and was due out shortly. But there it was with that warm, rich, groovy sound and Bob singing out to all of us that everything is all right. “I’d be lost without you, and you know it’s true,” and I thought, what about us?
Then there was that great line about the locusts singing, “the man standing next to me, his head was exploding, while I was praying the pieces wouldn’t fall on me.” Ah, there we were. Back home again.https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/perspectives-weve-got-dylan-back-again-234946/
I guess we should cut Gleason a bit of slack given that New Morning followed the purposeful (?) awfulness of Self Portrait. But his enthusiasm is a bit misplaced. New Morning is a minor effort for Dylan, sort of touch and go, some hits, some misses. Nothing terrible, but really nothing in comparison to his earlier work (which of course is an unfair comparison, the earlier work being so great).
Clinton Heylin, in his Revolution in the Air, quotes Dylan from around the time of the New Morning sessions:
After the accident, I started thinking about …how short life is. I’d just lay there listening to the birds chirping. Kids playing in the neighbor’s yard or rain falling on the window. I realized how much I missed.Dylan in converstion with Sam Shepard 1986
Dylan biographer Howard Soundes interviewed one of the musicians on the recording, Charlie Daniels. “Anything you threw at [Bob], he could sing….It was such a nice thing, such a great day, hour after hours. It wasn’t just Bob Dylan and George Harrison [who was at some of the sessions]. It was four guys in the studio making music.”
At least three songs were written for a play by Archibald MacLeish but were not used because, according to some sources, were not delivered on time. According to Dylan (in the Biograph notes), he withdrew from the project after MacLeish expressed reservations about the song Father of Night.
Dylan recorded a slew of songs around the time of New Morning: Tomorrow is Such a Long Time, Watching the River Flow, When I Paint My Masterpiece, Spanish Is the Loving Tongue. All arguably superior to anything on New Morning.