Release Date: Sep 11, 2012
Record label: Columbia
Genre(s): Folk, Pop/Rock, Contemporary Folk
Bob Dylan’s fantastic new album opens with a train song. Given the wrath to come and the often elemental ire that accompanies it, not to mention all the bloodshed, madness, death, chaos and assorted disasters that will shortly be forthcoming, you may be surprised that what’s clattering along the tracks here isn’t the ominous engine of a slow train coming, a locomotive of doom and retribution, souls wailing in a caboose crowded with the forlorn damned and other people like them. “Dusquesne Whistle”, instead, and at odds it will shortly transpire with much we go on to encounter, joyfully evokes the jubilee train of gospel legend, bound for glory; a salvation express full of hopeful hallelujahs, its destination somewhere better than here, this sickly place and its trampled sadness, unceasing strife and grief everywhere you look.
Bob Dylan's 35th album begins with a train whistle exploding in his mind. He sees an old oak tree he used to climb and imagines a woman smiling through a fence. He hears the voice of "the mother of our Lord" – and still, that whistle, screaming "like the sky's gonna blow apart." It's astonishing, " Duquesne Whistle" suggests, how much can be channeled through a simple sound.
He’s never been mistaken for Enrico Caruso, but on his death-haunted latest, Tempest, the 71-year-old is in especially fine rattle, wringing every wrecked nuance out of his almost unbearably expressive voice. He applies that battered instrument to 10 remarkable new songs, tackling topics like the Titanic disaster (the epic title track) and the assassination of John Lennon (the deeply felt ”Roll On John”). Thirty-five albums in, Dylan remains as magical and mysterious as ever.
When all is said and done, only Bob Dylan knows the reason for Bob Dylan’s remarkable devotion to his life’s work. What more does he need to prove? After all, this is a man who, had the consequences of his mythical/alleged 1966 motorcycle accident been graver, would still have gone down as one of the most influential artists to grace the world. A man who has continued to produce classic albums with each passing decade.
I’ve been conflicted about how to approach this review, and with a couple of failed attempts under my belt, I have decided to turn to the bullet-pointing antics of two of our own writers (Gumshoe’s Dylan Shearer piece, and Nathan Shaffer’s Passion Pit piece). These little dots, book-ended by some quotes I find relevant, will present a fragmented look at Bob Dylan’s Tempest, which has already garnered many incorrect parallels to Shakespeare’s work of a similar title. Even in the wake of Dylan’s highly revered late career, Tempest seems to stand out from its precursors in ability and scope, including the much lauded Time Out Of Mind.
I’m staying up lateAnd I’m making amendsWhile the smile from heaven descendsIf love is a sin and beauty is a crimeAll things are beautifulIn their time-”Scarlet Town” Can anyone remember the last time there was so much hype and publicity surrounding a new Bob Dylan album? The ominously titled Tempest is his 35th collection to hit the record stores, 50 years after his self-titled debut came out in 1962, and in the weeks prior to its release, critics almost universally began to sing its praises in advance of the public hearing a single note. Some, like Rolling Stone’s Mikal Gilmore have gone so far as to venture that Tempest may be the greatest album of Dylan’s long career. Dylan fans can be a strange lot, with many conjecturing that as The Tempest was the title of Shakespeare’s last play, it may also indicate that it is the last time the septuagenarian singer will enter the recording studio.
Not even counting the new album, the last year has been a pretty retrospective one for Bob Dylan. First came The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams, a full-length project Dylan curated as a tribute to the country legend in whose work he once said he'd found “the archetype rules of poetic songwriting." Then it was this past March 19, which marked the 50th anniversary of Dylan’s self-titled debut and produced several rearview-gazing thinkpieces (shameless self-promotion alert). Finally, it was Chimes of Freedom, a four-disc set released by Amnesty Internatonal featuring artists ranging from Elvis Costello to Adele to the Gaslight Anthem covering major songs from virtually every period of Dylan’s career.
Bob DylanTempest[Columbia Records; 2012]By Jason Hirschhorn; October 2, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGOver the past 15 years, Bob Dylan has leaned heavily on a single compositional formula: seaming together disparate pieces of pre-rock n’ roll music into a fresh, albeit hodgepodge musical tapestry, over which he sings increasingly dark poetry about the last stages of the life cycle. Tempest is no exception to this, and like its conceptual brethren, success or failure is determined by how deeply Dylan reaches into his well of early 20th century music, and how vivid the images are in his stories. As for the latter concern, Tempest is full of them.
There is a lovely little instrumental passage that opens up Tempest, the new studio album from Bob Dylan. It’s completely unassuming and charming, something that might accompany a beautiful sunset or moonlight glancing off a tranquil ocean. It in no way prepares the listener for the grit and tumult that lies ahead. The beginning of “Duquesne Whistle” turns out to be a perfect opening to this album of sudden juxtapositions and mood shifts that occur not just within songs but sometimes within verses.
There has always been an element of musical bootlegging running through the folk and blues genres. From the earliest songs by Blind Lemon Jefferson, Dock Boggs, and Tampa Red, folk and blues have run shoulder to shoulder in a continual back-and-forth struggle to prove who can co-opt the other more successfully. As these genres developed and evolved and slowly became inextricably entwined, this aspect continued without resolve.
"Ipay in blood," growls Bob Dylan on his first album since Christmas in the Heart in 2009, "but not my own..." This Dylan is the fire-and-brimstone version, a figure who's not just steeped in the country blues and old murder ballads but a character from one of them. But the wind keeps blowing in different directions on Tempest: it begins with the breezy Duquesne Whistle, blows harder on Early Roman Kings, howls with longing on Roll on John, a tribute to John Lennon. Elsewhere, he borrows from the Carter Family to tell of the sinking of the Titanic but manages, too, to namecheck Leo DiCaprio.
On his 35th studio album, Bob Dylan declaims in the old, epic mode. A new, if appropriately pre-faded, anthology of anti-heroic narratives, Tempest sets a lengthy stream of swiping, understated action—much of it described in a self-implicating, first-person voice—to simpleton roots rock. Much like his 1976 near-masterpiece Desire, the album pays homage to the sinister, protracted plots of prewar folk, and represents a welcome retreat from the fuzzily declarative lyrics of his last two releases.
Bob Dylan's new album arrives and – as has become traditional – you can hardly hear the old boy for the clank of five-star reviews hitting the table. Connoisseurs of the latterday Dylan review will be pleased to learn that 2012 brings a fine vintage, with many old friends present and correct. There's been a strong showing from the How Did He Do That? faction, marvelling at the superhuman leaps of imaginative daring that have led Dylan not only to mention Leonardo DiCaprio in a song about the Titanic, but also to use the line "I read the news today, oh boy" in a song about John Lennon's murder.
Fifty years after Bob Dylan's debut album appeared, we get Tempest. Since he returned to recording original material on 1997's Time Out of Mind, he's been rambling through American musical styles -- blues, country, folk, rockabilly, swing -- that were popular before he was even on the scene. Tempest continues the exploration, but more urgently than on Modern Times and Together Through Life.
As you may or may not know, Bobby D’s been on a bit of a roll this last decade. This may seem like ages to you, but the guy’s 71(!) and since 2001 he’s released the albums ‘Love And Theft’, ‘Modern Times’ and ‘Together Through Life’ (which are all ace), as well as ‘Christmas In The Heart’, an ode to drunk festive grandadness. So the time is now for his 35th(!) studio album, which features 10 sprawling yarns about the misery in this world.
Critics, fans, musicians, writers, musical historians—whoever else you might think to include—have spent decades studying and puzzling over Bob Dylan. Dylan as the unknowable, constantly shifting persona. Dylan of the slippery facts. There is both intrigue and frustration in this quest, in the idea of finding something of the man Robert Zimmerman in the mythology of Bob Dylan, or just figuring out what it is precisely that makes that mythology tick.
It seems redundant to apply more adjectives to Bob Dylan's singing voice-- easily the most infamous rasp in American music, a cultivated tangle of disdain and nicotine and bad love-- but it remains the defining characteristic of his work, as essential to his legacy as vowels or the acoustic guitar. Dylan's long-lauded backing band, which has helped define much of his later work, may crank out a first-rate iteration of honky-tonk bar-rock, but it's primarily a canvas. His voice is so unique (even when it's approximating other voices) that I crave it the same way I might crave, say, an apple: It's a thing unlike any other thing, a whole food, a singular expression.
While you wouldn't know it from reading most of the breathlessly gushing reviews of Bob Dylan's 35th studio album, Tempest, not all music critics think he's a god. Maybe it's a generational thing, but some of us think he's vastly overrated and can't get our heads around the idea of a supposed counterculture hero cheerfully doing a Pepsi ad with Black Eyed Peas' will.i.am (not to mention selling his tunes for bank commercials). With that disclaimer in mind, this is one of his best albums in many years, although that's not exactly a ringing endorsement.
“Well, I think of myself more as a song and dance man,” a young, smirking Bob Dylan once told a room of San Francisco press. Why not a fisherman? Media and Zimmy diehards alike have nibbled on every little line that Dylan — or at least his PR team — has dropped since first announcing the release of Tempest, his 35th studio album. We balked at the high school Photoshop cover art.
Bob Dylan's 35th studio album arrives on the 50th anniversary of his eponymous debut. In that half century, he's given popular music more than its fair share of certifiable masterpieces. What Tempest shares in common with his best work is an unparalleled knack for narrative. The 14-minute title track, retelling the sinking of the Titanic complete with references to James Cameron and Leonardo DiCaprio, may not equal "Chimes of Freedom," "Desolation Row," and "Hurricane," but it's still a spectacular yarn no other songwriter would attempt.
Out of Bob Dylan's countless achievements throughout his 50-year career, the greatest is how he's consistently fended off all attempts to knock him off his lofty pedestal. Those battles have become intense in this digital age, with accusations of plagiarism now dogging him at every turn. Into this atmosphere comes Tempest, a ten-track collection of familiar blues and folk themes, with the equally familiar cast of musical characters that Dylan's surrounded himself with since 2001's Love and Theft.
Songs blessed with a wry and dusty charm, but Dylan is too often on auto-pilot here. Sid Smith 2012 The arrival of a new Bob Dylan album is usually heralded by convoluted pomp and ceremony. While such anticipation is often inversely proportional to the finished results, such declarations on the maverick from Minnesota’s continuing genius are really about acknowledging a lifetime making music.
Since 1997’s acclaimed “Time Out of Mind,” Bob Dylan’s records have played a crucial part to his preserving and even fortifying his legacy. Anyone who has seen Dylan in concert over the past decade can attest that his live performances are hit or miss. With the right sound mix and the right crowd, you’ll be electrified; otherwise, you’ll wonder why you even bothered.
“Tempest” (Columbia) Bob Dylan’s voice isn’t getting any prettier. At 71, on his 35th studio album, “Tempest” — and a full 50 years after he released his debut album in 1962 — Mr. Dylan sings in a wheezy rasp that proudly scrapes up against its own flaws. That voice can be almost avuncular, the wry cackle of a codger who still has an eye for the ladies.