Bob Dylan : The Tempest
Ever since he gave the proverbial one-finger salute to his precious folkie audience almost 50 years ago, critics, punters and any half-witted industry type has been condemning Bob Dylan to the garbage bin of musical history. But still Bob keeps coming back, sometimes good, sometimes strange, always intriguing.
So what does Bob Dylan have left to say in 2012? Judging by Dylan’s latest record, Tempest, plenty, and most of it doused in the blues. There’s the whimsical vaudeville Duquesne Whistle, which finds Dylan’s cigarette-ravaged voice channelling Louis Armstrong (with lyrics co-written by former Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter), or the Fats Domino-inspired tenderness of Soon After Midnight. On Narrow Way Dylan charts an action-packed seven-minute journey to the heart of the blues; if Dylan wasn’t so much of a bloody contrarian, you’d assume the lyrics to the track were an autobiographical assessment of his time in the music caper.
Or maybe it’s the dialogue in Long And Wasted Years that is Dylan’s personal narrative – we’ll never really know. Pay In Blood shows Dylan in slick rock’n’roll mode, basking in the glittering spell of West Coast indulgence; on Early Roman Kings Dylan is in John Lee Hooker mode, making blues gold from bugger all ingredients. On Tin Angel Dylan stumbles through a classic Stagger Lee-styled country rock tale where the imperfection of humanity is on display for all to see; the ballad Roll On John closes out the record with the ghost of The Band loitering in the background.
But it’s the almost 14 minute epic title track that offers the best glimpse of Dylan’s current state of being. It’s a rambling story like your grandfather might embark on after a couple too many ports, and an audience too scared to leave. And that’s what Bob Dylan is these days. We don’t know if it’s going to be any good, but somehow he still manages to deliver.
BY PATRICK EMERY
Best Track: Tempest
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In A Word: Bob