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Bob Dylan's Tempest (EN)

 

zzxbobdylan240712w   zzx1346639540902 cached“Beginning is half the battle”… That’s what I’m thinking about, as I look at the blank page in front of me, feeling stunned, listening to the 35th studio album of the legendary musician for the sixth time in a row! However, how can I impress my thoughts into paper (alright, the screen!), how can I bring out the general feeling of “Tempest”? I better give up and cut to the chase. This is one of the best albums I’ve listened to in years and the best album for 2012 so far! Definitely!
 
   I'm no "Dylan-ologist" neither can I be described as a “fan” of his. I’ve always appreciated his quality, I have heard many of his projects, yet I was never touched to a large extent. But here we are dealing with a masterpiece, dominated from beginning to end by the unsurpassable voice of Dylan. A voice, as good as wine, which seems to get even better as time passes. There were times, actually, when I thought that even if “Tempest” had no music at all, I could, again, stick to it while listening to this characteristic voice color, one of the most gifted voices that have ever emerged in the music history. “Tempest” confirms its title, moving towards us like a raging storm, tearing apart the calmness of an average year so far, in terms of new albums being released.

   zzxBob-Dylan-at-Benicassim-2-008“Duquesne Whistle” is the opening track which seems like it jumped out of an old Woody Allen movie creating a swing rhythm and atmosphere. Then it’s “Soon After Midnight”, moving in a slower tempo, with Dylan singing “It’s soon after midnight/and my day has just begun”.

   “Narrow Way”, the following song, with the ensemble of bass, drums and violin sounding in the background at the same rhythm, is a complete recital of mighty vocal performance.

   “Long and Wasted Years” is a bit more “sad” and delicately melancholic, referring to a great romance which didn’t evolve that well. I do not know whether it’s a personal story or not, Dylan’s delivering is exquisite though. “Pay in Blood” features a splendid chorus, which completely gets into you where Dylan’s well-known hoarseness reminds of Tom Waits. What a song!

   zzxBob-Dylan-TempestRhythms are slowing down once more over “Scarlet Town”, and another diamond is offered to us. This is more of a poetry narration, accompanied by exceptional music, a magical blend of traditional string instruments, a violin, an acoustic guitar and discrete following drums. “If love is a sin/then beauty is a crime/all things are beautiful in their time”. Delightful as well as heart breaking!

   “Early Roman Kings” enters blues pathways, with a harmonica to be heard throughout the song, based on the classic “Mannish Boy” rhythmical footsteps: “I ain’t dead yet/my bell still rings/I keep my fingers crossed/like the early Roman Kings”. Magic!

   We have already crossed most of the album, reaching the last three songs. “Tin Angel”, “Tempest” and “Roll On John”. I’d like to mention the songs in group because I don’t think that Dylan put them there by accident or at random. I have to go a long way back in time, to find three songs in a row, equally powerful, concerning dynamism, quality and volume. Just like a great ancient Greek tragedian, Dylan is offering us the pinnacle/ climax of the “Tempest” drama, using this enchanting “trilogy”. I’m using the word “tragedian” as the lyrics of the album are quite darkened; in addition he develops his stories by using the maximum time required for such length and level projects.

   zzxbob-dylan-headline-bluesfest-blog-316x400“Tin Angel” lasts a bit more than nine minutes, talking about passion, love, infidelity and death, using, as its “vehicle”, the tragic story of a love triangle. Music is plain, with guitar, bass and drums playing at a low rate leaving the grandeur to Dylan.

   Title track is almost 14 minutes long; an epic referred to the Titanic shipwreck, with the lyrics quite tough to describe images: "Dead bodies already floating/In the double-bottomed hull". It is a genius simple piece of music, built on a traditional Irish melody… There are no choruses here (!!!!) but a violin along with an accordion giving the “necessary depth” where requested, following almost a math pattern / on selected mathematical patterns.

   The album closes with the song “Roll On John” which is a seven minute long ode dedicated to John Lennon; Dylan and Lennon were friends. Sensitive and immensely personal, this song contains lyrics from The Beatles songs, such as “Come Together” (Slow down you’re moving too fast Come together right now over me) and “A day in the Life” (I heard the news today, oh boy They hauled your ship up on the shore Now the city’s gone dark There is no more joy They tore the heart right out and cut it to the core). Overwhelming!
 
   zzxBob-Dylan-performs-in-201-008It is essential to listen to “Tempest” while reading the lyrics. Apart from Dylan’s statement that he wanted to do something more religious on this album, he’s an extraordinary poet. In fact, “Tempest” resembles poetry which uses music, performed by the great musicians whom Dylan tours with. The album sounds like a mixture of folk, blues, boogie and gospel elements, paying tribute to the traditional American music. Vocals are positioned a click louder than the rest of the instruments and this ‘crystal’ production, arranged by Dylan himself, under the name “Jack Frost”. Its depth and the brand new elements one would discover within those seventy minutes of the album are enjoyable. The magnitude of Bob Dylan’s creativity, in his 71 years of age, is something unreal… I have the feeling that his devoted fans will adore “Tempest”. You cannot get enough of this album even if it does require several hearings. I guess that’s the way to deal with all those things worth in life that do require devotion in order to be conquered …

Review by Nick Kaskaras
Adapted in English by Costas Coulis
Edited by Nopi Angelou
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