Bob Dylan challenges himself like no other artist can and whether it be a stepping stone to his next venture or a final curtain call, he has once again given us something magical
There are many faces to Bob Dylan; his long standing career has been made on the ability to pull off one mask to reveal a completely different man underneath. He’s transformed so easily from folk’s gentle son to gritty rock enthusiast; to enlightened spiritualist song writer in the eighties and then to current crooner to name just a few. His ever changing persona and complex material keep fans ever faithful and always intrigued in his latest directions. Dylan’s new album, “Fallen Angels” – a sequel of sorts to “Shadows in The Night”- continues this latest chapter, where he delights in flicking through the Great American Songbook to recapture the forties and fifties ballroom ditties that he and his contemporaries initially replaced at the start of the sixties.
The first track and old favourite, “Young at Heart”, is so light and breezy that it wouldn’t go amiss on something like Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris”. The slow paced jazz number – one of many on the album that have been recorded by the late great Sinatra – is as elegant as it ever has been. Dylan’s rust and nails vocals are full of heart and make it feel the most honest version to date.
“All The Way” is played beautifully by his band, Tony Garnier’s stand-up bass along with Donnie Herron’s gentle plucking and sliding of guitar provide a great backing to Bob’s gentle croak to give this classic the great warmth befitting its subject matter.
Cited by some as not being able to carry a tune, you could understand why Dylan’s singing on “Skylark” might receive some criticism – but it’s his ability to put words across and give them such weight and meaning that have made him so famous, and here is no exception. It’s clear from the first line that he is in love with the material and the feelings behind the words aren’t lost behind his tongue-in-cheek delivery.
“It Had to Be You” was always going to be a big challenge. The iconic song has so many great renditions and has been the theme to so many people’s favourite romance that it was perhaps the hardest cover of the whole album. Your nerves will quickly be calmed as it’s delivered in such a relaxing and intimate fashion that it’s hard not to feel enchanted by it.
Perhaps the best recording on the album, “Melancholy Mood” is the closest to his best that he’s been in years. Once again his backing band gives such an exceptional performance they manage to capture the grandeur that Harry James’ whole orchestra achieved with Sinatra, while with Dylan it feels so much like his own with his brand of gritted lyrical swoon.
From slamming the door on his folk roots to embrace the dirt of electric rock ‘n’ roll or taking on the back-catalogue of one of the world’s greatest singers, Bob Dylan has never been afraid to confront limitations or expectations. With “Fallen Angels”, he once again challenges himself like no other artist can and whether it be a stepping stone to his next venture or a final curtain call, he has once again given us something magical.
This Bob Dylan article was written by Adam Stevenson, a GIGsoup contributor