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Bob Dylan - "Hell is empty and all the devils are here".,
This review is from: Tempest (Deluxe) (Audio CD)
Of the accumulated reviews of this new Bob Dylan album its difficult to find one that has not referenced that "Tempest" shares its name with Shakespeare's final play. With the great man into his 70's is the master musician leaving yet another tell tale sign? Let us exhort that this is not the case for on this form you can only plead that long may he run. Whatever Dylan's intentions the title is accurately appropriate since " Tempest" is a dark and often stormy affair notably containing a 14 minute and 45 verses long title song dedicated to the sinking of the Titanic where Dylan throws in some of his most vivid images, torrid tales and pale sorrow not least a Captain who "In the dark illumination, he remembered bygone years/He read the Book of Revelation, filled his cup with tears". It is wordplay of the highest order and actually names check Leonard DiCaprio to bring it all up to date.
The album kicks off with "Duqunese Whistle" sounding like a track from a honky tonk jukebox until Dylan's voice kicks in and commences an excellent railroad song which skips along at a fair old pace as the stations pass by. The lovely country lament "Soon after midnight" follows, so effortless and yet so right. The mood changes quickly for the near eight minute long "Narrow Way" a barbed electric guitar piece which rocks hard enough to performed in garages across the US. Dylan's last proper studio album was "Together through life" in 2009 (let us forget his yuletide abomination in that same year) and that suffered from serious sagging in the mid section (a problem for all men of a certain age). "Tempest" is closer to "Modern times" in this respect since every song fits and it's a solid set not least the excellent trilogy of songs from four to six. This comprises Dylan at his most reflective in the superb "Long and Wasted Years" where the master lyricist concludes that "we cried on that cold and frosty morn/we cried because our souls were torn so much for tears/so much for these long and wasted years". He is at his snarling best in the belligerent "Pay in blood" where his excellent road band provide great support. He also appears to tip a nod to Gillian Welch in "Scarlet town" which appears a distant cousin of the song on "The Harrow and Harvest". It's a great Dylan performance with that old gravelly voice sounding as vital as ever and strong to boot. Next up Muddy Waters "Mannish Boy" provides the backdrop to "Early Roman Kings" with a great David Hidalgo cantina-blues accordion providing the necessary earthy accompaniment. Dylan has always specialised in songs where vengeance is the unifying theme and "Tin Angel" couldn't be further removed from the Joni Mitchell love song of the same name sounding more like a Nick Cave murder ballad with its gory bloodshot finale. Having mentioned the albums huge "Titanic" narrative leaves us finally to touch on "Roll on John" a seven minute tribute to John Lennon starting with his assassination, referencing the Quarrymen, Hamburg and various sources of Beatles legend not least part of the lyric of "A day in the life". At this point it is this reviewers least favourite song on "Tempest" since if it wasn't composed by any one other than Dylan it could sound somewhat gauche and overtly sentimental. It is certainly does not match Paul Simon's "The Late great Johnny Ace" but it's a tender recognition of an old friend and proves that Dylan can be sweet hearted and nostalgic when needed.
This is Dylan's 35th studio album and stands as a firm equal to "Love and Theft" as his best album of the 21st century. We have no right to expect albums this good after all this time and the fact that he continues to confound, puzzle and challenge should be cause for rejoicing. 2012 looks like being the year of the veteran with great albums by Dr John, Paul Buchanan, Bill Fay and Leonard Cohen. And yet amongst all this excellence "Tempest" confirms Dylan's rightful pole position as the greatest storyteller in rock history
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Showing 1-10 of 32 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 10 Sep 2012 09:17:53 BDT
In reply to an earlier post on 10 Sep 2012 10:48:14 BDT
Last edited by the author on 10 Sep 2012 13:38:06 BDT
Arthurly if this indicates that my review has sent you into a long sleep I feel that I have done the rest of humankind a great service.
Posted on 10 Sep 2012 12:19:32 BDT
Kim Hatton says:
The Album is called 'Tempest' not 'The Tempest' as Dylan himself was quick to point out when asked if it signalled the end of his recording career. 'No. Shakespeare's last play was The Tempest, my album is called Tempest'
Posted on 10 Sep 2012 14:00:45 BDT
Nice Review Red On Black. Thanks..
Posted on 10 Sep 2012 14:20:02 BDT
[Deleted by the author on 10 Sep 2012 18:15:19 BDT]
Posted on 10 Sep 2012 14:44:03 BDT
Big Jim says:
You've sold it to me, and I'm not a Dylan fan - nice one
Posted on 10 Sep 2012 20:20:09 BDT
[Deleted by the author on 11 Sep 2012 11:36:12 BDT]
In reply to an earlier post on 10 Sep 2012 20:28:30 BDT
Rjs. Many thanks. I have tried to change it but as yet my clanger refuses to move.
Posted on 11 Sep 2012 16:04:51 BDT
Mr. P. S. Rapaport says:
"Greatest storyteller in rock history"? I read books to get a good story. I listen to records to hear good music - and I'm afraid Old Zimmerframe is well past - some 45 years past - his best on that front. He is way behind Loudon Wainwright in terms of song-writing quality and consistency since the mid-seventies.
In reply to an earlier post on 11 Sep 2012 17:19:18 BDT
Last edited by the author on 11 Sep 2012 18:32:04 BDT
You are right Mr Rapaport. I'm sure when the definitive history of popular music is written of the 20th and 21st century Loudon Wainwright will viewed as the dominant figure who towers like a giant over our musical culture while poor old Bob Dylan will be a mere footnote. Equally I'm sure that pigs will fly, Wrexham will win the premier division and this government will solve our economic problems. Please seek some help or at least the embrace of a good woman. Thanks for the comment and equally for the views of big jim and rockawhile.