Monday, December 31, 2012


One of the first big releases of 2012 was a 4 CD Bob Dylan tribute Chimes Of Freedom put out by Amnesty International.  It had legends (Elvis Costello, Joe Perry and Pete Townshend) younger acts (Band Of Skulls, Gaslight Anthem) and pop stars (Ke$ha, Miley Cyrus).  It was a great tribute and showed the man's far reaching influence.

But as if to remind us of his continued relevance and greatness, a few months later Bob released his latest album, Tempest. It's not a huge departure from what he's done lately:  he takes a lot of influence from pre-rock and roll Americana (a lot of the music that he used to play on his satellite radio show Theme Time Radio Hour), adding his distinct lyrical touch.

I don't love Tempest as much as his last album -- Together Through Life was my favorite album of 2009. Still, its another incredible addition to his untouchable cannon of songs.

I love the first single "Duquesne Whistle" (which, like all of Together Through Life, featured lyrics co-written with The Grateful Dead's lyricist Robert Hunter). The video kind of set the scene for the album, which turns out to be kind of violent.

My favorite song on the album is "Pay In Blood" ("... but not my own!").   There are other songs haunted by death.  The title track is about the Titanic, and even references James Cameron's famous movie.  And "Roll On John" is about John Lennon.  In the very Chess bluesy "Early Roman Kings" he says "I ain't afraid to make love to a bitch or a hag."

It's kind of shocking that this guy who is seventy-something, doing his thirty-something-est album, still has so much edginess to him.  But as he says in the aforementioned song, "I ain't dead yet/My bell still rings/I keep my fingers crossed/like the early Roman kings."  No doubt!

Other than the above video and one very contentious Rolling Stone cover story, he didn't promote the album too much, which is too bad.  On the other hand, it's fine and very Bob.  I guess the deal is, if you're a fan you have it already, and if you're not, it's probably not a good starting place for you.  But there's not a clunker here, the album is great from start to finish.

One other thing I have to mention: David Hildago of Los Lobos, who played on Together Through Life and Christmas In The Heart, joins Dylan again on this album.  He definitely adds a vibe to the album, and I hope Bob uses him again in the future.

No comments: