Dylan Struggles On

November 4, 2012 · Print This Article

Possibly one of the most easily identifiable voices in the music world, Bob Dylan has created a legacy that will endure beyond his time on this earth, spanning over fifty years of songwriting. Dylan is to folk and blues what bands like Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones are to rock n’ roll: the unavoidable backbone of a broad and far-reaching sound. While he can often be viewed as a relic of a past generation, his music continues to hold a presence to this day.

Dylan can write music—that goes without saying. However, with the release of his most recent album Tempest it becomes apparent just how long Dylan has been doing all this. To put it simply, he sounds old, tired, and a little worn out. Some of the original fire that made him a legend from the start is lost and absent from the sound. His voice sounds more ragged than it ever has, bound by a rasp that makes his words sound more forced than anything.

The opening track “Duquesne Whistle” features a voice that is now reminiscent of Louis Armstrong. It’s tough to approach because while the sound isn’t bad, it also isn’t necessarily great. He abandons his initial vocal sound and returns to the more familiar sound for the remainder of the album, but there is still an edge to his voice that does feel forced.

Some of the content that makes his songs resonate with the hearts of average people is still present. “Pay In Blood” features lines like, “Come here, I’ll break your lousy head. Our nation must be saved and freed. You’ve been accused of murder, how do you plead?” The struggles we face every day, the adversity created by the people who lord themselves over us, those are the topics that often make a Dylan song a Dylan song. While it’s comforting to know that topical torch is still there, some of it lacks the subtlety and expert craftsmanship that he’s known for. Many of the lines feel plain and stripped-down.

Tempest isn’t a bad album. When I picked it up I listened to it the whole way through while driving out of Knoxville one night. It was fitting, and I enjoyed it. However, since then, I haven’t had much of an urge to pull it back out and listen to it more. There are good songs on here, it’s true, but as a whole, the album fails to live up to the standards that many have come to expect of a Bob Dylan album.  –Jordan Frye, Contributing Writer


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