Saturday, January 31, 2015

Drumroll Please... Dylan's Sinatra Tribute, Shadows in the Night, To Be Released Tuesday

The band was playing "Strangers in the Night" when I kissed my first steady girl friend for the first time in high school. It was after a country club hay ride and for a spell Sinatra equalled romance. We were standing in the shadows and it was night.

Who would've thunk it that nearly a half century later Bob Dylan would take up the Sinatra mantle to record a CD of the late crooner's love songs? The unexpected tribute has a February 3 release date.

What exactly is a release date these days? We live in a whole new age with pre-publicity not only giving you opportunities to hear but to order in advance. Tomorrow's Super Bowl commercials began airing last week. It used to be these multimillion dollar spots were kept under wraps till the Big Game. That's no longer the case. When Bootleg Series #10 (Basement Tapes) came out I pre-ordered, and guess what? It arrived at my door on the release date. That was a pretty slick deal. Now, you can hear Shadows in the Night and place your order any time you want.

When it comes to the notion of Dylan singing Sinatra, I can imagine plenty of raised eyebrows. Some of the folk who've heard Dylan on recent tours have wondered if he's even able to carry a tune any more, so singing romantic melodies must feel like a stretch. But guess what? The surprise on this album is not that he attempted it, but that he can actually put a tear in your eye while he expresses the sentiments contained in these heartfelt expressions.

The songs themselves were written by many of the great songwriters. Every singer is to some extent an interpreter. Sinatra brought them to the public in his way, and Dylan has mined them from Sinatra's catalog for his own translation. The surprise is that the sentiments haven't been lost in the translation. Here's Buddy Kaye & Ted Mossman's Full Moon and Empty Arms, based on Sergei Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto #2.

The Daily Beast has this to say about Shadows: "Is this the strangest tribute album of all time? Dylan singing relatively obscure Sinatra songs over a pedal steel back-up? Weirdest of all? It’s pretty compelling."*

What's funny to me is that part of me almost anticipated this album, as much as it seems a total departure from "All Along the Watchtower" or "Hurricane." Here's what I mean. Go through his albums and setlists in recent years and notice how many songs have to do with longing and love. A few minutes ago I randomly selected his Thessalonika, Greece concert of June 22 last summer and noted these song choices. The opening number the past few years has been "Things Have Changed," with this line jumping out: "Feel like falling in love with the first woman I meet, putting her in a wheelbarrow and wheeling her down the street."

"She Belongs to Me" is next, which he selected for inclusion in the Victoria's Secret CD he produced a dozen years ago along with "Things Have Changed" and "Love Sick", the Time Out of Mind hit which he also included in this set list.  Song three in the set is "Beyond Here Lies Nothing," a song about love in the face of despair. "Tangled Up In Blue" takes up the twists and turns of hearts connecting, disconnecting and re-connecting. The line that jumps out for me in "Early Roman Kings" is "I ain't dead yet, my bell still rings."

I could go on but that's just the point right there. Dylan may have aged, may have changed, but he ain't dead yet. And like Sinatra, he's done it his way.

His heart still bleeds, and Shadows in the Night appears to be just the vehicle to express it. His encores last fall frequently featured "Stay With Me" by Jerome Moss and Carolyn Leigh, especially interesting when you reflect on how he opened many of his Rolling Thunder Revue concerts with "Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You." He seems pretty serious about the grooves on this album.

It's likely not for everyone, but even if you're not in sync with it you may find the album's tune selections useful as a stepping stone to songs and music from an era generally forgotten in today's high-strung world. For more about Dylan's take on this album read his interview with AARP editor-in-chief Robert Love.

Shadows in the Night is available for pre-order in either MP3, CD or vinyl at

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Reminder: Tonight is the Winter Dance Party at Sacred Heart in Duluth's Central Hillside. Notices have appeared in the Trib and elsewhere. Here's a clip from the Northland News Center regarding the purpose of this anniversary event.

Check out the details on the Facebook announcement, or go straight to the Eventbrite ticket counter.

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For details on the songs on this album check out the Bob Dylan Facebook page

*Bob Dylan Does Dylan and It's Actually Good, The Daily Beast.


Anonymous said...

The other day when I read the AARP Interview, I posted on my Facebook that Bob Dylan had been reincarnated. That word usually means someone has been born again in another body. In this case he was born again in the same body. That interview was the most surprising things he’s done in years. And now “Shadows In the Night.”

This hit the part of me where the emptiness lies. Whatever combination of circumstances has caused the hole in my heart and the lonliness that abides there, which I don’t dwell on ofthen, this album affected. The way Dylan sings these Sinatra songs both fills the lonliness and makes it worse. I felt, all the way through, like I was sitting down with his arms around me, holding me, and just gently and sweetly rocking back and forth. Trying to heal. Trying to soothe. Trying to feel love and kindness and hope.

Thank God this album has fallen from the skies and brought back the original feelings I had about Dylan 40 some years ago, meaning he and he alone can do what he does the way he does it. This was such beauty in every way. I had no idea he has a voice left because he proved on stage that there was nothing left; this album disproves that 100%. I’m glad I lived long enough to hear this and hope he is on a new track and that I’ll be around to hear and feel him get better with age and be as mellow as he is here. I wonder what he’ll do next. Frank would be so proud!

Anonymous said...

i ve never lost my special bond to Bob in 50 years he has always been here on the road ! He opened my soul to so many things when i was only a kid your post is moving thanks jm