Bob Dylan // Tempest
Released 9.11.12 Columbia Records
Not many artists stay sharp, relevant, and great into their 70’s and later (Picasso, Neil Young, Vladimir Horowitz, et al., come to mind), I have no problem including Bob, at 71, in this elite group. If you are a Dylan fan and don’t have this record you must run, not walk, to your computer and order it.
A store would work also. Fan or not you won’t be sorry – just listen closely a number of times so the mysteries can unfold, humor appear, politics rear its head, and great story telling evolve. This album is Bob’s 35th studio album released on the 50th Anniversary of his first LP. Produced by Jack Frost, aka Robert Zimmerman, aka Bob Dylan this is a great anniversary album. I’m not a fan of compressed MP3 sound, so this review is of the CD, as I anxiously await arrival of my 180 gram vinyl LP’s, which come with a copy of the CD, (I’m drooling actually, mop please).
One can easily get lost in or enter these songs with images popping into the head and moments of insight and just plain “Oh Yeahs.” There’s music to wash dishes by and dance to, but the highest level of listening is forgetting you are listening and becoming one with the music. I did just that with Tempest. This is great music, however it is Dylan and dense with many trails to follow. With each listen new things pop out and lyrics become more meaningful or not. As all great poets he allows the listener to place their own meanings on his words in places. Other cuts, e.g., Roll on John, a tribute to John Lennon –listen for some Beatle’s lyrics - have an obvious point, but getting to it is half the fun. It’s very hard to pick favorite tracks because they are all really good, but Duquesne Whistle, Long and Wasted Years, Pay in Blood, Scarlet Town, and Early Roman Kings are standouts for me right now. This is an album that will keep on giving though, so who knows what may change.
Accompanied by his regular touring band, plus Los Lobos’ David Hidalgo, they are so tight musically that blowing on them would make them hum like a tuning fork. I found myself tapping my feet and swaying to this music automatically. Even when the topic of the tune is the Titanic sinking in the title track you will be tapping and/or swaying. This album is about life and, as all our Titanics are sinking (some more quickly than others), there is a how-to sense to this recording also. We all “sink” in different ways. Some with less fun than others, more regrets, sorrows and “wish I hads.” I could go on, but Bob does it for us on this record. I can’t say it better than reviewer Michael Fremer, who said, “Dylan showed 60’s youth how to move beyond the rigidity of the 1950’s and now he’s showing that same generation (and younger ones too) how to move gracefully and vibrantly into old age.”
If the quality of sound is important to you, this recording is a nine out of ten for sound, and the music a ten. Some will disagree with me, but “different strokes for different folks” as Sly said. There is depth, presence, and each instrument appears in its own space across the soundstage. And, then there’s that voice, reaching out and into you. This is vintage Dylan and not to be missed.
-Dr. Mikey (and his Vinyl Psyche)