Review: Tempest – Bob Dylan
He is seventy-one years old, his voice sounds like a millions cigarettes have passed over his vocal chords and his days of mind blowing poetry are surely behind him. Still his lyrics can hit you like an unexpected left hook. They might not come at you as fast as they did when he was a young man, but when he connects it will still snap your head back. He is Bob Dylan and his latest album, Tempest, is a slow descent down into Cormac McCarthy visions of love/lust, revenge/justice and dark dreams of death.
The media hype machine has been working overtime for this album with a select few ‘Dylan friendly’ rock critics listening to the album months in advance. Those critics have doled out little bits of information and praise about the album over the past couple of months. They reported that the title track was 14 minute long and about the sinking of the Titanic. There was a song of ‘staggering emotion’ about his friend John Lennon. That Dylan was stepping away from the blues based music of his last couple of albums. There was talk of it being a dark and brutal collection of songs…and even talk of it being a modern Dylan masterpiece.
Hype can build up the expectations, but it can crumble down to indifference if the album falls short of those expectations. Relax. This is a strong Dylan album. Not his modern masterpiece perhaps, but only time will tell how this one stacks up with other very good later period albums like Love and Theft, Time Out of Mind and Modern Times. I believe this album will hold up and grow with repeated listens.
The songs are the stars of this collection. Dylan is in fine voice (with which he can inflict a audible wink or scowl) and the band compliments the songs perfectly, but this collection of songs are the shining gems. From the old-time, happy-go-lucky feel of Duquesne Whistle to the love triangle murder ballad of Tin Angel these are songs that feel like they have been around from yesteryear…timeless would be the word to use. That ‘lived in’ feel of old standards.
I did have a little residual effects from all the hype…the song about John Lennon, Roll On John, has not grown on me yet. And I feel putting this song on the end of the album after the walk down the increasing darkness of human greed/lust/murder/death blew the chance to retain heaviness of the album. It feels like a cop out and seems tacked on.
Dylan is still the cranky prankster, the sculpture of words, the most guarded public figure of all time. Do yourself a favor and read the Dylan interview in the latest Rolling Stone. The man knows how to confuse and baffle…and how to deflect and protect what is his. And with this album he proves he can still make your head snap back.
4.5 out of 5 Stars
Posted on September 19, 2012, in Random Thoughts and tagged album review tempest, bob dylan, dreams of death, dylan tempest review, hype hype, hype machine, john lennon and bob dylan, murder ballad. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.