50 YEARS, 35 ALBUMS, 3 CHORDS, AND THE TRUTH Bob Dylan

Defying the odds (or
the gods, or even the elements), the Bard unveils yet another album on the
epochal date of 9/11.

 

BY A.D. AMOROSI

 

Bob Dylan released his eponymous debut for the Columbia label fifty
years and thirty-five albums ago. With the new Tempest (Columbia),
he finally got it right. With its live wet vocal production, bleaker-than-black
lyrical mien and varied musical layers, the album could be one of the Minnesotan
folk singer’s finest ever, a richly diverse and dire epic revolving around the
burning suns of love, death, truths and lies with only two weak songs in the
bunch.

 

In Tempest, the
craggy voice of the bard is rapt and
crapped out, a blazing bright light bulb with a weirdly wired short to the
prickly proceedings. The tangled blues are shimmering cobalt and sooty gray,
dirty, mangy and dusty from the detritus of a life long and wrongly lived. The
guitars are ticklish and jiving. His lyrics are out for blood, yours not his.

 


Bob Dylan ‘Tempest’ (story of the Titanic sinking) from the 2012 album’ by isis7585

 

 

Dispensing with the less strong songs first, we find the
title track weighing in at nearly 14 minutes, with 45 verses, no chorus, an
Irish lilt and references to Leo DiCaprio and James Cameron. This is the track
that speaks of the sinking of the Titanic, historically and cinematically, with
accordion and fiddle to guide its dreaded way. Though the lyrics are a mix of
the brave, the savage and the tender, its Celtic feel leaves me colder than an
iceberg. Its metaphors too loom larger than a sinking ocean liner and sink
twice as hard.

 

 “Roll On,
John,” the album’s closing song, and one dedicated to Dylan’s Beatle-ly
friend John Lennon is lazy. “I heard the news today, oh, boy,” sings
Dylan in reference to the Beatles’ classic “A Day in the Life” and Lennon’s
slaying, Though Dylan’s voice swells with rarely-heard passion, the sentimental
lyrics are too trite to sustain the weight of the singer’s want. No one can get
away with this cornball shit. Not even Dylan.

 

Out with the bad, in with the good, the rest of Tempest is a vaudeville show based on
Dylan’s dead-eyed winter of discontent on its last nerves. There’s old-timey
goodness of the blues-and-rhythm ballad “Soon After Midnight,” a lovely
loving song where the croaker croons “My heart is cheerful, it’s never
fearful: I need to tell someone”…..”I’m searching for phrases, to sing
your praises,” sings Dylan coyly. The winds and the trains blow and chug
throughout the jaunty “Duquesne Whistle” co-written with Grateful Dead
lyricist Robert Hunter even while its skies are torn asunder. The all-gears
grinding blues kick of “Narrow Way” seems to settle itself in violence (“I’m
armed to the hilt”) that is until it nestles itself in a woman’s bosom.
“I’ve got a heavy stacked woman with a smile on her face, and she has
crowned my soul with grace…. “I’m still hurting from an arrow that
pierced my chest, I’m gonna have to take my head and bury it between her
breasts.

 

Sex can’t answer ever battle cry. In the nine-minute long
murder triangle “Tin Angel,” the gun wins over the shaft. The wet mic
technique of “Pay in Blood” finds the disgusted singer up in the grill of evil
incarnate with the sort of punk-ish rage worthy of a Penelope Spheeris
documentary. The Muddy Waters-y blues of “Early Roman Kings” and the
curtly carousing “Scarlet
Town,” take on
corporate raiders and snake oil salesmen with the sort of Biblical brio
reserved for locust rains. “They’re peddlers and they’re meddlers, they
buy and they sell / They destroyed your city, they’ll destroy you as
well.” He ain’t going down though, not with this growling taunt. “I
ain’t dead yet/My bell still rings.”

 

Obviously.


 

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