Bob Dylan strongly returns to form with ‘Tempest’
Wed, Sep 12, 2012 (4:02 p.m.)
- Bob Dylan
Just when you thought Bob Dylan has finally lost the plot—see: 2009 holiday album Christmas in the Heart—the 71-year-old springs back with a focused, incisive effort. Tempest, his 35th studio album, is stormy and brooding (“I came to bury, not to praise,” he warns on “Pay in Blood”) but also lively and diverse. Buoyed by the talents of his touring band and well-placed instrumental color from Los Lobos’ David Hidalgo, the collection touches on roadhouse blues (“Early Roman Kings”), organ-buffed ragtime (“Duquesne Whistle”), strutting soul (“Pay in Blood”), vintage-country slow dancing (“Soon After Midnight”) and, er, waltzing sea shanties (the 13-minute title track, which addresses the sinking of the Titanic).
The latter song’s epic scope and economical language provide a good representation of Tempest’s lyrics, which (as usual) are full of literary allusions and erudite historical references. Still, these elegant songs address accessible emotional reference points. “Long and Wasted Years” mourns a lost marriage; “Tin Angel” describes a fateful (and disastrous) love triangle; and “Roll on John” is an elegy to John Lennon, using snatches of Beatles lyrics for effect. But really, Tempest underscores that the more Dylan ruminates on endings, the more alive—and creatively rejuvenated—he seems.