Album review: Bob Dylan’s ‘Shadows in the Night’

Annie Zaleski

Three and a half stars

Bob Dylan Shadows in the Night

Bob Dylan has been in an uncharacteristically reflective mood lately, starting with 2012’s Tempest and ending with last year’s unleashing of The Basement Tapes Complete. His latest studio album, Shadows in the Night, appears to be just as sentimental: It’s a self-produced collection of pop standards associated with Frank Sinatra, recorded live with Dylan’s band without overdubs. But Dylan has never been one for rote nostalgia, so although the collection includes versions of traditional songs such as “Some Enchanted Evening” and “I’m a Fool to Want You,” it’s no Rat Pack revival.

For starters, Shadows’ arrangements are ascetic, forgoing the schmaltz and pomp of the originals in favor of vintage country signifiers: island-vacation pedal steel, velvety horn accents and the faintest hints of percussion. This no-frills instrumentation keeps Dylan’s craggy vocals at the forefront, an interesting move given his increasingly mumbled live performances and sandpaper singing. But he sounds stronger and more clear-headed than he has in years; in fact, Shadows in the Night reveals he’s an impressively nuanced, even-keeled crooner who sounds unabashedly romantic on some songs (“Stay With Me”) and utterly despairing on others (“Where Are You?”). As is his way, Dylan keeps people guessing—and comes out on top.

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