Bob Dylan, Tempest
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It's Not The Tempest
Written by Dan Sinclair
Tempest is the newest album from the legendary Bob Dylan. Wait a minute, Shakespeare never wrote another play after “The Tempest.” Should we be worried that this is the last Bob Dylan record? Mr. Tambourine Man addressed this in his latest interview in Rolling Stone: “Shakespeare’s last play was called The Tempest. It wasn’t called just plain Tempest. The name of my record is just plain Tempest. It’s two different titles.” Oh, okay. Well, thanks for clearing that up.
Tempest (with no “The”) is Mr. Dylan’s 35th studio album and one that he produced himself. All songs were written by Dylan, except for “Duquesne Whistle,” which he co-wrote with Robert Hunter. Though most of the album is also played by Dylan, he is joined by other talented musicians such as Los Lobos’ David Hidalgo and long-time Dylan backers Tony Ganier and Charlie Sexton.
The album starts off strong with the catchy, poppy, yet country/blue-grassy “Duquesne Whistle,” which is one of the best tracks on the record. It’s just one of those songs that gets in your head, makes your head slowly bop up and down and gets at least one of your feet tapping along to the beat. Especially when the drums kick in right before Dylan starts his raspy singing. And by the way, is it just me or does Bob Dylan’s voice get deeper and scratchier every year that goes by? I think if the man makes it to 80, he’ll beat out Tom Waits.
“Soon after Midnight” gets a little slower, but the mood still feels light. It’s a good switch in tempo from the opening track, but not losing any momentum. Dylan sings, “It’s soon after midnight and my day’s just begun.” And even though he also sings of “a honey that took [his] money,” you still get the feeling that late night is where life begins in this memorable song.
“Narrow Way” gets a little faster and a lot bluesier and makes it three great Dylan tracks in a row to start Tempest. It’s not until “Long and Wasted Years” where the album starts to stumble. Though one can appreciate the darker tone of the song, it gets a little repetitive as it lacks any change and continues with the same guitar riff and non-radio friendly melody over and over again. But hey, it’s Bob Dylan. He’s probably earned the right to just fart into a microphone and still collect a Grammy at this point.
“Pay in Blood” features a little more rocking piano over Dylan’s scratchy words and is placed wonderfully at track five to break up “Long and Wasted Years” from the sixth song, “Scarlet Town.” The latter features a few of the same repetitive techniques as the former, but doesn’t feel as draining. Not being back to back helps, but also “Scarlet Town” sounds more like a cool, western movie with the fiddles and/or violins mixed in nicely.
“Early Roman Kings” is skip-able as it’s just a paint by number blues riff with lyrics that sound like Dylan is making them up as he goes along. Good thing “Tin Angel” comes along quickly thereafter and sounds like another cool Cowboy-esque tale. Really great track placement here again as if this song was placed alongside with “Scarlet Town,” it may not have had such positive impact on the ears.
Coming at number nine, the album’s title track is Dylan’s tribute to the Titanic sinking, weighing in at just under 14 minutes. Thanks, Bob. Just what we need. More Titanic. James Cameron will be proud. The song is long, sprawling and boring. And what’s worse is there’s no Leo…uh, I mean Kate Winslet. Yes, I totally meant Kate Winslet.
The last track “Roll on John” is another tribute, this one to John Lennon. This one, however, is not a worse alternative than hitting an iceberg. Though it may be slower like “Tempest,” it has more soul and is a better representative of what Mr. Bob Dylan does best. Also, a great way to close the album out.
Though Tempest stumbles at times with a few tracks that are nothing more than filler, overall, it is a solid record for any true music fan that appreciates good song writing. It’s pretty fairly balanced between dark/sad and catchy/happy and even has a few stand out tracks that any music fan would be proud to put on their playlist whether they were a Bob Dylan fan or not. Though this album may not be the Temp-est of all time, it is definitely Temp-er than most.
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