Sometimes with Dylan I feel overwhelmed, and also like I’ve misunderstood what he’s about. Should I have been paying more attention to his lyrics all along? Looking back over my Dylan reviews, some were the earliest I ever did, and I kind of wish I could re-write them all, but I’ll stand by them now. You should never re-write your past.
Dylan himself shied away from writing 'message' songs for part of the 70's and much of the 80's. To quote "Chronicles", he'd say it’s not just about the lyrics, otherwise why would an instrumental guitarist like Duane Eddy perform an album of Dylan cover versions?
Musically, Dylan’s tunes have always been extremely pliable to other arrangements, yet his own arrangements often work the best. But he’s not always had the combination of lyrics/music right - potentially good songs from the mid-80's for example, suffered in the studio. That’s frustrating for a listener, and was likely frustrating for Dylan too, trying to realise those tunes.
could be seen as the third album in a latterday Dylan trilogy, also consisting of Time Out of Mind
and Love and Theft
, though it’s closer to the latter in terms of sound and style.
Dylan is still penning jaw-dropping lyrics too, and whilst I can hear echoes of all sorts of old rock'n'roll numbers in the opening number, Dylan’s voice and lyrics glue me to my speakers. His voice sounds even deeper and croakier than before, yet he uses that to his advantage, as the blues-based tunes suit his age.
A couple of tracks jump out - the opening "Thunder on the Mountain" and "Workingmans Blues #2" - the latter being a lengthy mid-tempo ballad which I guess may not sound too exciting, yet the execution, vocals, lyrics and melody see Dylan at his finest. It’s one of those tunes that stop me dead whenever it comes on - grand, breathtaking, relaxed, and all round brilliant.
by Reviewer: Adrian Denning
(blogging at Adrian's Album Reviews