Friday, March 15, 2013

James L Spiegel Examines Dylan's Tempest for Christianity Today

When Bob Dylan's Tempest was released this past September it received accolades from all sectors including Ennyman's Territory. Sure, there were some who panned it, and at least one comical reviewer who declared the cover art to be the worst of all 35 of Dylan's albums. (We're all entitled to an opinion, I suppose.)

When Tempest was released on 9/11 Christianity Today printed a brief review of the album and published a piece by John J Thompson titled "The Dark Side of Dylan."  Reviewer Josh Hurst gave the album four stars, but at the time listed "Pay in Blood," "Duquesne Whistle" and "Scarlet Town"as Tempest's "top tracks." I'd be curious to know if he still feels that way and by what measure? "Duquesne Whistle" is definitely a fun opener, but there are many other selections that I would put ahead of the other two, including "Roll On John," "Early Roman Kings," and "Long and Wasted Years."

It is now March and Christianity Today has once again given some attention to the album with a review by James L. Spiegel in a piece titled "The Light's Still Burning." It's a fairly concise overview of the cultural context into which Tempest has been delivered and a breakdown of the content of the songs. It's a good read for all you Dylan fans out there.

I do find it interesting how reviewers work so hard to invent new ways of making the same observation. Specifically, that Dylan's vocal quality has deteriorated. "Dylan's voice is now a raspy growl, tattered from a half century of singing, including the last two decades of his Never Ending Tour. But for all the wear and tear, he is no less effective in conveying emotion and delivering memorable melodies." You can tell that Spiegel is a fan because he "hears through" to the heart and I whole-heartedly concur that the Bard has become "no less effective in conveying emotion." He is a master.

If you don't have time for the whole review, this excerpt will give you the flavor. "As for the songs on Tempest, they display what are now recurrent themes in the later Dylan—regret, injustice, world-weariness, and exasperation with other people, especially women. These themes emerge in the poignant "Long and Wasted Years," which features a sublime, rolling melody over which Dylan speaks more than he sings: "It's been such a long, long time since we loved each other and our hearts were true. One time, for one brief day, I was the man for you." But rather than lapsing into sentimentality, the song morphs into scattered reflections on past mistakes and lingering sorrows, closing with the somber recollection, "We cried on that cold and frosty morn. We cried because our souls were torn. So much for tears, so much for these long and wasted years."

Great album. And yes, Dylan's light is still burning.   

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