For the Record: Bob Dylan – Tempest

My Dylan-loving friends (all two of them) have pretty much written off modern Dylan. While it’s certainly true that Bob hasn’t put out anything as perfect as “Blood on the Tracks” since, well, “Blood on the Tracks,” that doesn’t mean his post-1970s work is all bad. I can usually find at least one or two gems on any Dylan disc.

So when E-Becks took the time to badmouth “Tempest” on Facebook, I figured I should check it out for myself. I’ve spent the last couple of weeks with it in heavy rotation. It’s not bad. It’s not great. It’s pretty typical of Dylan’s post-1990s work.

The album starts off pleasantly enough with “Duquesne Whistle,” an uptempo little ditty, and from there it’s just, well, more Dylan. Strangely, the complaints I have with the album — songs run too long, songs are often simple musical refrains repeated ad infinitum — are complaints you could make about every Dylan album ever. Maybe I’ve just been listening to Bob for too long.

The best example of what I’m talking about is the title track, a 13.54 minute dirge about the sinking of the Titanic. It just drones on and on. I probably would have thought this genius when I was in my 20s. To be fair, he does get the story across effectively in 3 hours less time than it took James Cameron.

As I mentioned earlier, I can usually find a couple of gems in any Dylan album. I think the best songs here are “Scarlet Town” and “Narrow Way,” but I wouldn’t put them up there with the greats. In fact, now that this review is written, I don’t know that I’ll ever listen to this CD again.


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