The Songbook Must Go On.
You know Bob Dylan is the greatest, American singer/songwriter of this, or any generation. That's because his vastly epic songbook outweighs even the pages of the Sinatra's and Marvin's of musics legendary legacy. Today only the blue-collar hard-work of 'The Boss' Bruce Springsteen could one day possibly go spine to spine with the journals of Dylan's legendary lyrics. Even in these 'Modern Times' an aging Bobby is still 'Together Through Life' with music, bringing the deep and dark, decadent age-old classics later in his life like Johnny Cash's 'American Recordings' with Rick Rubin (arguably-even with all the 'Ring Of Fire' greats before him-his best work) did. Now like Shakespeare, America's bard writes his latest, greatest, lasting sonnet with the 'Tempest'.
This monster album has it's own sinking ship too in the 14 minute, epic title-track of Titanic proportions. Dylan gives us his own account of the disaster with his haunting and harrowing, worn and weathered vocals. The man that once held a banner proclaiming 'I Can't Sing' stirs the echoes of the spirits with the texture of his taught and traditional singing style. Dylan rows throught the lyrics "The pale moon rose in its glory/Out on the Western town/She told a sad, sad story/Of the great ship that went down/T'was the fourteenth day of April/Over the waves she rode/Sailing into tomorrow/To a golden age foretold" with a chilling account. It paints a unique picture that even the blockbuster effects of modern-day cinema couldn't canvas. Even the James Cameron film that made Leo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet famous is absorbed here. The tides are a'changing on this one as Dylan takes a sink or swim concept and survives head and shoulders above the water and the rest. '
Tempest' would have served as the greatest climax to its own story if it wasn't for the classic closer 'Roll On John'. Mixing heartfelt tributes and homage paid lyrics, like "Shine your light, move it on, you burn so bright, roll on John/From the Liverpool docks to the red light Hamburg streets/Down in the quarry with the Quarrymen" Bob's ode to Lennon is as beautiful as the late singers life message as all he heeds is love. Bringing the 'Tempest' to peace the only man that can claim to have as much of an influence on Rock N Roll music as The Beatles rolls out his best as John lives on. It all comes together perfectly over record. Now let's stop playing Tarantino for a second and take it back to the beginning of the record for a man that could have called it a one-of-a-kind career 34 incredible albums ago but still keeps rolling out the stone cold classics.
The wind of the album begins with the blowing of the 'Duquesne Whistle' and it's inspired, instrumental opening before 'Soon After Midnight' evokes the tranquil, still beauty of the mid-nite hour as our man marvels over his muse. As Dylan sings "I'm searching for phrases/to sing your praises", even in the simple, most straight-forward way, no one puts word together like Bob. The seven minutes of 'Narrow Way' take us on an long but upbeat journey of the good ole days of music before the shorter 'Long and Wasted Years' gets deeper and darker as it gets straight to the point.
There's blood on the tracks with the chilling 'Pay It In Blood' and the 'Scarlet Town' letter as these two brooding, back-to-back numbers get bold and brilliant for the count. Matching the tone of the red tinted, photographic artwork of the Pallas-Athene Fountain from the front of the Austrian Parliament Building in Vienna the texture of these tracks covers the albums themes well. With red-room like, chilling darkness this is a murderous vision of blood-soaked, Hitchcock penmanship proportions. If music was cinema (and this albums already making soundtracks) this would be the best picture.
Muddy Waters would be proud of 'Early Roman Kings' as Dylan's murky voice flows magnificently over the dun, dun, dun, dun of the classic blues riff, before the heaven sent, silver tongue of 'Tin Angel' leads to the closing tracks of this album that could mark a new start in this old mans career. This storyteller begins again with tense, taught tales whether your sitting comfortably or not. If you though the beautiful dedication of 'Together Through Life' from the artwork to the master song strokes was something special than wait until you hear and see 'Tempest'. This is no 'Romeo & Juliet' style, back on the classic muscle car entwined embrace however. It's something much darker and dedicated. Still hate has no home here no matter the critic, as Dylan lives and battles on he shows his career is nowhere near deaths door. He will not go down with this ship. If this ten-track 'Tempest' is Bob Dylan's final act then it's a valiant one. TIM DAVID HARVEY.