Bob Dylan’s ‘Tempest’ blows away expectations
September 11, 2012
Today’s musicians should take note of the complicated combination of styles Bob Dylan uses to craft his newest album, “Tempest.” With elements of jazz, blues, country, folk and rock blending seamlessly with Dylan’s persistent lyrical genius, “Tempest” proves to be yet another jewel in his collection of 35 studio albums.
“Tempest” paints a disturbing picture with such tumultuous themes as violence, death, hardship and hard-won romance — messages that reach a crescendo of intensity as Dylan’s raspy voice pairs with haunting instrumentals.
Beginning with bluesy,
old-fashioned rock in “Duquesne Whistle,” Dylan invites the listener in with upbeat instrumentals. When he takes a sentimental look at lost love in the slow-tempo “Soon After Midnight” and “Long and Wasted Years,” the indignant attitude harkens back to the 1965 classic “Highway 61 Revisited,” emphasizing Dylan’s relentless vitality.
The album’s title track creates an eerie evocation of the sinking of the Titanic, as the use of an accordion and fiddle make for an unusually lively song about death and destruction sung in the form of an Irish drinking tune. Although the song lacks a chorus, Dylan captures the listener’s attention for all 13 minutes and 54 seconds in a testament to his exquisite storytelling ability.
Closing with a tribute to John Lennon titled, “Roll on John,” “Tempest” wraps up its chaotic tale with a reflective, sentimental piece that speaks to the reverence Dylan still holds for Lennon. While Lennon “burn[s] so bright,” and his music still does to this day, the hole that Lennon’s loss has created in the music world is conveyed by Dylan’s strained, tearful tribute.
A rumor circulated for a time that “Tempest” would be Dylan’s last album, just as “The Tempest” is recognized as Shakespeare’s final play. Dylan, however, dispelled these rumors — much to the relief of his fans. For Bob Dylan fans and anyone who appreciates meaningful music at a time when vapid pop songs dominate, “Tempest’s” power will roll through you and leave an indelible mark.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Sept. 11 print edition. Alison Wallach is a contributing writer. Email her at [email protected]