At 71 years old, Bob Dylan is still making music. While this is impressive, Dylan’s voice has grown weaker and weaker as the years go by. Some people think he should retire. This is what went through my mind when I heard that Dylan would release his thirty-fifth studio album. I wasn’t crazy about his last studio album in 2009, Together Through Life, and I didn’t bother getting his Christmas album Christmas from the Heart as a result. Luckily, I was wrong: Tempest is a very good album.
“Duquesne Whistle” is the first song off the album, as well as the lead single for the album. While the song is a bit dark, it still comes out very tender and warm. In fact, I could see this as a lost cut from the Blood on the Tracks era. As for Dylan’s voice, it is hoarse and shot. Still, Dylan delivers through the strong lyrics. There are a few bluesy tunes on this album including “Early Roman Kings”, which follows a simple twelve-bar blues structure, and “Narrow Way”. Dylan also tells more tales, which I’ve always liked about Dylan: he could tell you all sorts of stories through song. “Scarlet Town” might not be a story too much but the lyrics are really well written. Like many of the songs on here, “Scarlet Town” is another dark number. “Tin Angel” is another example but it’s the self titled track that tells the best story: it tells the story of the sinking of the Titanic. At nearly fourteen minutes long, it’s an amazing track. I think “Tempest” might rank up there in terms of greatness and how long it is (his longest song his “Highlands” from 1997’s Time Out of Mind). My favorite song off the album is “Pay In Blood”, which has nice beat and feel to it. It’s a bit radio-friendly but there’s something about instrumentation that I just really like. The album’s final track “Roll On John” is a wonderfully written song about John Lennon. Dylan goes from using lyrics from Beatles songs such as “A Day in the Life” and “Come Together” to describing Lennon’s tragic assassination.
Tempest is a surprisingly good album. All of the songs are great as they all have this dark twist to them, but still the outcome is very warm and soothing. Although Dylan’s voice is in bad shape, the songs on the album are so well written that it actually makes the album stronger (which is probably why I didn’t really like Together Through Life). It’s hard to say if this will rank as one of Dylan’s best albums but overall, it’s a very good album. If you’re a Dylan fan, I’m sure you’ll really enjoy listening to this album. I know I did.