Highlights: Soon After Midnight, Pay In Blood, Scarlet Town, Roll On, John
Certainly you may have better things to do with your time. You may have a perfectly understandable aversion to that husky-throaty-hoarse voice of an old man (which – yes, doesn’t get any better with years). And you may be sick and tired of those basic blues bars much of this stuff is based on. Hell, you may even hate this album. The point being – who cares?
You just have to give this one an honest listen. Because it’s Dylan, and you simply won’t have this sort of experience anywhere else. His words are still powerful, and who knows how many more of those he still has in him.
As expected, Tempest is as much generic as it is masterful. Fortunately, it gets away from the tired, uninspired ramblings of Together Through Life, and is a lot closer to the addictive sound of Modern Times. Tempest may lack a song as powerful as the latter’s “Workingman’s Blues #2”, but it does have its share of half-classics (TTL, remember, only had “Forgetful Heart”), including the wistful, charming ballad “Soon After Midnight”, the downbeat, Time Out Of Mind-worthy “Scarlet Town” and the John Lennon dedicated “Roll On, John” that has the album’s strongest melody. Obviously you also get the sort of uneventful, obvious late-Dylan songs/grooves that drag on forever without doing anything for you. But this time around even those sound engaging, like Dylan was really into it.
Say what you want, but a Bob Dylan album is still an event. And if you don’t feel that way – well, that certainly is your loss. No, it’s not the five-star classic music magazines still have the guts (or is that lack of guts?) to call it. And no, the waltzy, 14-minute title track is as far from “Desolation Row” as a Dylan epic can get. But there is something endearing about Tempest. Something that made me think of the title of Shakespeare’s last play. A depressing thought, but who knows?..