Bob Dylan is 71 years old. Most people his age are retired, enjoying the twilight years of their lives in peace and quiet. Not Dylan. The singer-songwriter released his 35th studio album on Sept. 11, a 10-track record called “Tempest.”
Dylan, who has played music since his early teenage years in Hibbing, Minn., has long been considered one of the greatest lyricists in musical history. Last year, Rolling Stone ranked Dylan as the second greatest artist of all time behind only the Beatles. “Like a Rolling Stone,” a single released in 1965, is considered by many, including Rolling Stone, to be the best song ever written. Dylan has decades of top-notch music to live up to, and “Tempest” delivers.
Like any of his previous works, the first thing about “Tempest” that strikes the listener is Dylan’s voice. Gravelly and hoarse from 50-odd years of overuse, it immediately jumps out over the bluesy, swing-style music of “Duquesne Whistle,” the album’s first song. Dylan follows up “Duquesne Whistle” with “Soon After Midnight,” a slow, melodic love ballad. Dylan’s trademark indignation is showcased in “Narrow Way.” The rebel in Dylan that made him a figurehead in the social revolutions of the ’60s shines through on “Pay In Blood,” a criticism of corruption in politics.
“Tin Angel,” a powerful, nine-minute ballad about a deadly love triangle, is one of the darkest songs in Dylan’s career, but is poetically brilliant all the same. When a man referred to as “The Boss” is informed that his lady was swept away by another man in the dark hours of the morning, he sets out for revenge. When “The Boss” found the two lovers, he stormed inside, and began arguing with the other man, who shot him down. When the lady saw her husband dead on the floor, “she raised her robe/ and she drew out a knife.” She then stabs herself through the heart, collapsing on the floor, “all three lovers/ together in a heap/ thrown into the grave/ forever to sleep.”
The final song on the album is a tribute to Dylan’s friend and fellow musical genius, John Lennon. The emotion is easy to hear in “Roll On John,” which features a few nods to Lennon’s lyrics: “I heard the news today, oh boy/ they hauled your ship up on the shore” and “another day in the life/ until your journey’s end.” “Shine your light/ move it on/ you burn so bright,” Dylan sings, saluting the foremost member of the greatest band in history. “Roll on, John.”
I give “Tempest” 4.5 out of 5 stars. It is moody, dark, sad and thought-provoking. Dylan’s lyrics, as always, are ingenious, and the bluesy, folk-inspired music works well with his older voice. The album is a masterpiece, one of the greatest in Dylan’s illustrious career.
Mike Stanton is a freshman in journalism and mass communications. Please send comments to [email protected].