sun 24/03/2019

CD: Bob Dylan - Shadows in the Night | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Bob Dylan - Shadows in the Night

CD: Bob Dylan - Shadows in the Night

Dylan paints masterpiece with songs that Sinatra made famous

The master and elder from Minnesota

Bob Dylan closed his recent concerts with a heart-rending version of “Stay with Me”, a melancholy lament made famous by Frank Sinatra. It's worth remembering that, born in 1941, Bob Dylan didn’t grow up on a diet of folk and blues. Sinatra was the biggest hit-maker of his early youth, a dominant presence on the airwaves he was exposed to as a child.

This is no tribute album, neither is it a piece of opportunism, as Dylan has never traded on received ideas or well-tried music business tricks. Even his Christmas album was shot through with irony as well as joy. With Time out of Mind, which now feels like one of his very greatest albums, he embraced his senior years with a remarkable combination of sadness and joy, celebration and surrender. He’s too old to be a baby-boomer, though his original fans mostly are. Unlike some slightly younger rock stars who persist in pretending they’re still teenagers, Dylan is a shining example of how an entertainer can grow old gracefully while still firing on all creative cylinders and making the world new.

Once the prototype rebel and dreamer, Dylan does Sinatra songs, light years away from the surreal rock’n’roll of Blonde on Blonde or Highway 61 Revisited. The pace is almost eerily slow, as if death and regret were his constant travelling companions, and yet, without a trace of the maudlin or sentimental, let alone self-pity. “What’ll I Do”, a gem written by Irving Berlin, rendered at a pace that comes close to stillness, is probably one of Dylan’s greatest ever tracks: loaded with emotion yet restrained, floating on a sea of ethereal steel guitar and occasional and discrete washes of bowed double bass, his voice is timeless, full of the ripeness of age, and yet still vibrant with the everlasting innocence of youth.

Dylan has spoken of this enterprise – revisiting songs that were laden with big brass sections, lush strings and angelic backing vocals, and stripping them right down – as "brave". He was not "covering" them but uncovering their essence. Recorded live, with no overdubs, Dylan and his musicians sound as if they are playing late at night, in a small bar, possessed by the ghosts of American popular music, and yet embracing the instant. As was clear on stage during their last tour, they're having a ball, albeit at a funereal pace: going against the grain of public expectations, as Dylan has done over and over again, and painting yet another masterpiece.

The pace is almost eerily slow, as if death and regret were his constant travelling companions

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Editor Rating: 
5
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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