7 hours ago
Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Bob Dylan Tempest 2012
Dylan's work in the 60s and 70s was mostly laudable with only a few ill-chosen missteps (Self Portrait and 1973's Dylan come to mind), and many outright classics. Too many to name. A remarkable consistency overall.
Then throughout the 80s and early 90s he managed to follow one weak record with another. Of course there are some gems (songs, not whole albums) in the mix, but not enough.
Then in 1997 he released Time Out Of Mind to rave reviews as his return to great work. I'm less enthusiastic about that one, mostly due to Daniel Lanois' production, but Dylan was clearly getting his groove back.
In 2001 and he self-produced Love and Theft. This time there's no hesitation on anyone's part, Dylan is firing on all cylinders. And Modern Times in 2006 is equal to its predecessor. Full of blues, rock, country, and old-fashioned vaudevillian story songs, both are really very fine work, equal to his best. If you have any interest in Dylan, they are both must-hear.
Together Through Life 2009 didn't quite sustain the same high water mark, but it had its moments.
And now there is Tempest. This one's not quite Love and Theft or Modern Times either, but it's a good record, and it shows another side of Dylan. It's mostly a dark side. Duquesne Whistle kicks it off, a fast bluesy shuffle. Narrow Way and Early Roman Kings rock basic blues a la Highway 61, and Pay In Blood is a classic mid-tempo Dylan song structure with interesting changes. Dylan explores aging in the country-folk ballad Soon After Midnight and the hypnotic riff of Long And Wasted Years. Tempest is a fourteen-minute rolling rhythm that recalls 1978's Changing Of The Guards while telling the story of the Titanic on its way down.
Tempest can be challenging. Scarlet Town and Tin Angel are 7- and 9-minute dirges that a talented band tries, and almost succeeds, to keep interesting. Tin Angel has a lyrical darkness of biblical proportions. The closer Roll On John is a slow ballad that has a nice chorus and little else. Hey, 7 out of 10 is pretty darn good.
These last four records since 2001 have been recorded by his touring band, with Dylan producing. There's been personnel changes, but they are always tight, and the band includes some serious talent. Dylan's voice is little more than a rasp these days, but he can still write a lyric, and he's still got something to say.