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Bob Dylan - new album 2012


Josh Hurst
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  • 2 months later...

It's called Tempest and will be released on September 11--fifty years after Dylan's first album and eleven years after "Love and Theft". It's available to pre-order now.

Rolling Stone has a preview of an upcoming interview on their site now:

"I wanted to make something more religious," he says. "I just didn't have enough [religious songs]. Intentionally, specifically religious songs is what I wanted to do. That takes a lot more concentration to pull that off 10 times with the same thread – than it does with a record like I ended up with."

Apparently Leonardo DiCaprio gets a mention in the title track (the one about the Titanic disaster).

Edited by NBooth
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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HHLsThejspo

"Early Roman Kings" doesn't grab me immediately, but if I could hear it without, I dunno, dialogue and shooting, I might like it better. As it is, it just seems very familiar.

This guy has had a chance to listen to the album, though, and he's impressed:

It’s the first time since “Oh Mercy” that I listened to a new Dylan album for the first time and liked everything I heard. Every track grabbed and held my attention. Dylan has a strong album. He should be pleased with the result.
Edited by NBooth
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  • 4 weeks later...

...and here's a recording without the shooting and stuff:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KawJXM64xrQ

Apparently, an excerpt from another song on the album, "Scarlet Town," played at the end of some show on Cinemax:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NMAsndtUCCM&feature=plcp

EDIT: NPR's All Songs Considered has "Dusquesne Whistle".

"Listen to that Duquesne whistle blowing," Dylan importunes, the burr in his voice recalling none so much as Louis Armstrong. "Blowing like it's gonna sweep my world away." The verses, co-written with old friend Robert Hunter, are typically mysterious and playful. This could be the same train Dylan took with The Band in "Lo + Behold!": as in that song from The Basement Tapes, something strange, raucous and scary is happening. And like that older iron horse, this one runs through Pittsburgh and seems to be carrying a very attractive lady. Maybe it's on the rails to heartbreak or disaster, or a new

EDIT EDIT: Having now listened to "Dusquesne Whistle" several times at this point, I'm legitimately excited for Tempest in a way I wasn't with "Early Roman Kings." It's a positively joyous song, and loads of fun to listen to. I can imagine it serving as the backdrop to one of those Fleisher cartoons from the thirties. It's a real day-brightener.

Edited by NBooth
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Rolling Stone has the video. Like the one for "Beyond Here Lies Nothing," it's an unexpected take on the song, but I think I like this one more. It's funny, for one thing, if you can get past the fact that most of the humor is pretty dark. For another thing, it subverts most "love at first sight" conventions from romantic comedies, which gets points in my book.

EDIT: I've thrown together six thoughts on the video. None of it is definitive, and none of it is even fully developed. And I'm not a music critic, as should be obvious by now, so most of it is very likely to be misguided.

EDIT EDIT: Embedding:

Edited by NBooth
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I'm not sure what I think of the entire album yet, but "Tin Angel" is sublime. A return to narrative songwriting that manages to retain much of his late-period epigrammatic style and apply it to a sturdy, cohesive lyric that holds together beautifully. It's a wonderful song. Dark and mysterious and beautiful, with his ragged and broken voice suiting the sound and the atmosphere perfectly.

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A listen down and I love "Roll on John." It's beautiful. Also really like (no particular order): "Tempest" (the title track); "Dusquesne Whistle"; "Long and Wasted Years."

EDIT: Oh, and I second "Tin Angel".

EDIT EDIT: A couple of more listens, and the only song I don't particularly care for is "Early Roman Kings." Can't say why; it seems out of step with the rest of the album, like it wandered in from Together Through Life. The rest are pretty good, I think. "Scarlet Town" is great; "Pay in Blood" is very good; "Soon After Midnight" (for all its "money/honey") isn't all that bad, either. I'm just not into "Early Roman Kings."

I think "Tempest"--the title track--gets more impressive the more I hear it.

I wouldn't put the album on the level of "Love and Theft", but it might be as good as Modern Times (that will require some reflection) and certainly surpasses Together Through Life.

Edited by NBooth
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"Tin Angel" and "Roll On John" are the standout tracks so far. I'm disappointed with "Tempest", the 14-minute Titanic track. I was hoping for something epic and haunting like "Cross the Green Mountain" and instead got a rather forgettable, light 6/8 waltz that goes on wayyyyy too long. The rest of the album is very much *meh* for me as well, actually.

Which brings us to a discussion about latter-era Dylan and what we should expect from a guy over 70. Does he get a pass for trying and staying true? For the rich, vintage patina of the instrumentation, or for just the lyrics and Dylan being Dylan?

I just don't get this album at all, but then again I havent really solidly enjoyed anything since Time Out of Mind. I keep waiting for an interesting chord progression... and it never comes anymore. Or for a howl, just to shake things up, and that doesn't come either. I can totally appreciate the croaking at this stage, but man, gimme something else beside the standard roots music progression gristle to go on.

Edited by Greg P

"The things we enjoy are channels through which the divine glory strikes us, and those who love and delight in any good thing may yet learn to love God." --Gilbert Meilaender

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Oh, I don't give Dylan a pass for anything. Together Through Life, as I commented somewhere around here, was fun but not bone-crunching. [Full confession: I loved Christmas in the Heart, but more for its camp value than anything else]. But I am a devotee of late-period Dylan--partially through an accident of autobiography, since Modern Times was the first "new" Dylan album to come out after I started listening to him. I love the gristle.

What I find interesting in Tempest--particularly in the title track--is the way Dylan continues to mine older forms and recast them in new ways. "Tempest" is, on the surface, a fairly simple ballad. It's the sort of thing that would have been produced immediately after the Titanic sank. But Dylan populates his song with figures and characters that convert the song into a dream-prophecy of the sort that, honestly, I don't think he's produced much of since his "Desolation Row" days. I know that characters like Tweedle-dee and Tweedle-dum and Judge Simpson have evoked, for many, the surreal storytelling of Dylan's heyday, but even the former (for all the regard I have for their native album) always struck me as just a little pale. "Tempest," however, lassos up a whole raft (um, no pun intended) of memorable characters and sets them loose on a ship that seems increasingly less like an historical event and more like a reflection of current situations. It may not be too original to compare the modern economy to the Titanic, but Dylan does it with such imaginative forcefulness that I'm won over anyway.

So we have the contrast, the tension, that Dylan's been working through for the past decade--between creaky old forms (his "Bing Crosby" stuff) and violent, sometimes terrifying imagery. No, he's not the only artist to do this, but he does it very well (at least, I think he does in this album). The deceptively simple outside masks something else, and that something else is far more interesting than any number of chord changes or howls. The tension moves through the entire album; for all its vaunted variety, the album is pretty cohesive in the way it moves from "Dusquesne Whistle" through "Scarlet Town" and on to "Roll on, John" (this last is, I think, a true example of that most over-used designation: an instant classic).

Then again, I'm a literature person--not a music person. And when an album has lyrics like this, it tends to win me over (warning: wall o' text):

Can't you hear that Duquesne whistle blowing

Blowing like the sky's gonna blow apart

You're the only thing alive that keeps me going

You're like a time-bomb in my heart

(Dusquesne Whistle)

We looted and we plundered on distant shores

Why is my share not equal to yours?

Your father left you, your mother too

Even death has washed its hands of you

(Long and Narrow Way)

In Scarlet Town, you fight your father's foes

Up on the hill, a chilly wind blows

You fight 'em on high and you fight 'em down in

You fight 'em with whiskey, morphine and gin

You've got legs that can drive men mad

A lot of things we didn't do that I wish we had

In Scarlet Town, the sky is clear

(Scarlet Town)

They battened down the hatches

but the hatches wouldn’t hold

they drowned upon the staircase

of brass and polished gold.

(Tempest)

From the Liverpool docks

To the red-light Hamburg streets

Down in the quarry with the Quarrymen

Playing to the big crowds

Playing to the cheap seats

Another day in the life

On your way to the journeys end

Shine your light, move it on

You burned so bright,

Roll on, John

(Roll on, John)

There's nothing to touch this in Together Through Life; it ain't perfect, but it's grand and stirring. Not bone-breaking, but I think it's definitely solid stuff. No need to make allowances for age.

Edited by NBooth
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I really like the album-- at this point, maybe a little more than Modern Times, but definitely nowhere near as much as Love & Theft-- but I will admit that it starts to lost me in the last three, epic songs. I know those are supposed to be the standouts, but I agree with Greg's take on the title song, and am not as moved by the Lennon tribute as others seem to be.

But "Duquesne Whistle," "Scarlet Town," "Pay in Blood," etc. are all stellar, to my ears.

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What I find interesting in Tempest--particularly in the title track--is the way Dylan continues to mine older forms and recast them in new ways. "Tempest" is, on the surface, a fairly simple ballad. It's the sort of thing that would have been produced immediately after the Titanic sank. But Dylan populates his song with figures and characters that convert the song into a dream-prophecy of the sort that, honestly, I don't think he's produced much of since his "Desolation Row" days. I know that characters like Tweedle-dee and Tweedle-dum and Judge Simpson have evoked, for many, the surreal storytelling of Dylan's heyday, but even the former (for all the regard I have for their native album) always struck me as just a little pale. "Tempest," however, lassos up a whole raft (um, no pun intended) of memorable characters and sets them loose on a ship that seems increasingly less like an historical event and more like a reflection of current situations. It may not be too original to compare the modern economy to the Titanic, but Dylan does it with such imaginative forcefulness that I'm won over anyway.

This is excellent. Not the song, but your analysis. smile.png

I think Dylan's lucky to have legions of fans just like you to argue his case for him, because in my estimation the music alone doesn't do it anymore. Tempest is FOURTEEN minutes of I-IV-V played blandly until the brain goes numb... And trust me, I love Dylan enough to know he's convincingly done lengthy three chord tunes, countless times before--Desolation Row a perfect example-- but that song had swagger, it had apocalyptic imagery, it had a real edge to its delivery and it had some tasty improvisational flourishes (if I recall, one Highway 61 outtake has electric guitar solo accompaniment)

In complete contrast, Tempest has three chords played straight under a nursery school "melody" delivered in the most unrelentingly monotonous and unimaginative sort of way possible. The tune would be a throwaway if it was 2-minutes long. The lyrics might be incredible, but who can endure them in this setting? I'm listening to it again as I type this and I think it just might be the worst song of his latter era albums.

Then again, I'm a literature person--not a music person.
My point exactly. This is the criticism I bring against latter-era Dylan in general. Not so long ago, he used to write great songs. Edited by Greg P

"The things we enjoy are channels through which the divine glory strikes us, and those who love and delight in any good thing may yet learn to love God." --Gilbert Meilaender

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FWIW, I'm attending a book party Friday for Jon Friedman (never met the guy, was invited by the party's host) to hear him talk about his new book, "Forget About Today: Bob Dylan's Genius for (Re)invention, Shunning the Naysayers, and Creating a Personal Revolution."

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Rhis is excellent. Not the song, but your analysis. smile.png

Thanks, I think. smile.png

In complete contrast, Tempest has three chords played straight under a nursery school "melody" delivered in the most unrelentingly monotonous and unimaginative sort of way possible.

But that's the point--at least, by my reading (though I don't find it monotonous or unimaginative; indeed, the sort of juxtaposition I see here is incredibly dynamic in its interplay and shows the raw core of imagination). It's like one of Faulkner's famous long sentences; it lulls you, carries you along--deadens you, if you prefer--and before you know it, you're glimpsing sights that are unexpectedly beautiful. For "you" here read "I"; perhaps my experience with the song is different from everyone else's. Which I'm fine with.

Who could stand these lyrics for fourteen minutes? I can, and I have several times over the past couple of days. (Now, if you want to talk too-long Dylan songs, when it comes to "Highlands," we're speaking the same language; I've not had the nerve or the interest to listen to it more than a couple of times since I got my hands on Time Out of Mind. I can enjoy it in snippits, but not in its full sixteen-minute runtime).

Then again, I'm a literature person--not a music person.
My point exactly. This is the criticism I bring against latter-era Dylan in general. Not so long ago, he used to write great songs.

All I meant by that was that I don't know (or care about) the lingo enough to trade chord-change for chord-change. I do think these are great songs, but I'm not equipped to argue their merits on anything but lyrics. Heck, I'm not too confident in that, most days. But I do believe that a good lyric can make up for any musical limitations possessed by the song (be they deliberate or no), and I'm more interested in that sort of thing than in how many chord changes Dylan can work into a given song. To my mind, sophistication isn't the highest good when it comes to music, particularly songs of the type Dylan is writing lately. Sometimes what a song needs is "three chords played straight under a nursery school 'melody'". If that's the kind of song that Dylan's writing, then it's nonsense to expect him to write another kind of song (or, to invoke Henry James, we must grant Dylan his donee; whether he executes it well is another question. I think he does; you think he doesn't, and there's an end to that).

"Tempest" aside, "Dusquesne Whistle" is a great song, I think; "Roll on, John", "Scarlet Town", etc are pretty great songs. They're visceral and moving and hold the interest pretty well.

I'm no knee-jerk Dylan fan; as I said before, I found TTL fun but slight; I would never defend any of the songs on that album as anything but good-time romps. I could probably name two or three other albums that didn't stick with me, though there's still swaths of his career that I've not explored. The point is, I'm not coming at this album from the perspective of a die-hard who expects everything the Master touches to be great. I think this album is pretty great, but that's another matter entirely.

FWIW, I'm attending a book party Friday for Jon Friedman (never met the guy, was invited by the party's host) to hear him talk about his new book, "Forget About Today: Bob Dylan's Genius for (Re)invention, Shunning the Naysayers, and Creating a Personal Revolution."

Cool. I've been curious about that book; it looks pretty interesting.

Edited by NBooth
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Thanks, I think. smile.png

Well, I meant it. I just felt that the analysis somehow neglected that this is an album of music and not a coffee table book of prose.

All I meant by that was that I don't know (or care about) the lingo enough to trade chord-change for chord-change. I do think these are great songs, but I'm not equipped to argue their merits on anything but lyrics. Heck, I'm not too confident in that, most days. But I do believe that a good lyric can make up for any musical limitations possessed by the song (be they deliberate or no), and I'm more interested in that sort of thing than in how many chord changes Dylan can work into a given song.
It's not a matter of complexity or number of changes, I'm looking for interesting musical ideas-- even if those ideas are inside the framework of three or four chords. Dylan is famous for a number of reasons, but a big one is memorable and interesting songs. This has been seriously lacking in his latter-era work and seems to have all but vanished on this new one. Edited by Greg P

"The things we enjoy are channels through which the divine glory strikes us, and those who love and delight in any good thing may yet learn to love God." --Gilbert Meilaender

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A bit more from Friedman about his new Dylan book. The interview includes this exchange about Tempest:

His 35th studio album Tempest is about to come out. Have you heard it yet?

It’s great! I was very impressed. I only heard it once, so I couldn’t really get a full appreciation for it, but I heard some great lyrics. His voice sounds very good, very strong. It’s the first time since probably Oh Mercy, which came out in 1989, that I’ve heard a new Dylan album where I liked every song. That’s very encouraging because he makes an album now every four or five years, and this is probably his last one for awhile.

Not the strongest endorsement, but there ya go. And for all I know, Dylan could put out a new album next year, not four or five years from now.

Edited by Christian

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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The album is currently $5.00 on Amazon--in the US, at least.

EDIT: Make that "most of Dylan's albums are currently $5.00." I filled in some of the edges I hadn't bothered exploring yet: Knocked Out Loaded, Nashville Skyline, and Slow Train Coming.

EDIT EDIT: Rolling Stone has a cover story. Excerpts at the website, including Dylan's first public comments on the Timrod kerfuffle:

Oh, yeah, in folk and jazz, quotation is a rich and enriching tradition. That certainly is true. It's true for everybody, but me. There are different rules for me. And as far as Henry Timrod is concerned, have you even heard of him? Who's been reading him lately? And who's pushed him to the forefront? Who's been making you read him? And ask his descendants what they think of the hoopla. And if you think it's so easy to quote him and it can help your work, do it yourself and see how far you can get. Wussies and pussies complain about that stuff. It's an old thing – it's part of the tradition. It goes way back. These are the same people that tried to pin the name Judas on me. Judas, the most hated name in human history! If you think you've been called a bad name, try to work your way out from under that. Yeah, and for what? For playing an electric guitar? As if that is in some kind of way equitable to betraying our Lord and delivering him up to be crucified. All those evil motherf****rs can rot in hell.

--which is surprisingly not cagey. (And I note he says "our Lord," which should give grist to the what's-Dylan-believe mill. I've given up on the question, but it seems like every time I mention him to someone new, the first thing they say is, "So, what do you think? Was he for real back when he made Saved?" Or words to that effect).

Edited by NBooth
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From America's finest news source: Posthumously Recorded Dylan Album Receives Rave Reviews:

“Dying has lent his voice a certain rough yet poignant gravitas. One can clearly hear how the dead tissue in his vocal cords has deteriorated to the point where there’s almost nothing left. Nothing, that is, except the genius of a master songwriter still in full command of his powers, even seven years after expiring.”
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