Monday, September 24, 2012

Class of 2012: Bob Dylan - Tempest

At this point, we all know how we feel about Mr. Zimmerman.  Personally, I prefer the early stuff, tend to avoid the middle years, and consider anything since Oh Mercy worth my time.

As I was listening to Tempest over the weekend, my mother-in-law, who was visiting and who is a Dylan fan herself (she saw him in concert at some point in the seventies), remarked, "He still can't sing."  If you've heard recent Dylan, then you'll recognize that voice, which at times gives Tom Waits a run for his money.

Tempest gets off to a good start with "Duquesne Whistle," not immediately catchy but the kind of song that stays with you even as the next song begins.  "Narrow Way" is sped-up blues but goes on a bit too long (this happens more than once).  "Long And Wasted Years" finds Dylan at his most charming (and at his best).  Standout track "Pay In Blood" sounds like it could be decades old, and at one point, Dylan can't help but chuckle as he sings, "I pay in blood / but not my own."

The second half of the record begins with the banjo and violin of "Scarlet Town," but the song runs a little long.  Song lengths, and consequently the album length, are really my only issue with Tempest.  Eight songs last over five minutes, and five of these songs go for over seven minutes.

"Early Roman Kings" is bluesy, and two songs later, the title track reminds me of "Misty Morning, Albert Bridge" with a country feel to it.  It's also Dylan's second-longest song ever, clocking in at 13:54.

Tempest is Dylan's 35th studio album, and  it continues his streak of recent winners.  The 71-year-old still has it, and I'm pretty sure that if he decides to do another record (or two), the streak will continue.

Grade: B  (86.7%)

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