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60 of 64 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars When the curtain falls, all on the stage lie dead, October 4, 2012
This review is from: Tempest (Audio CD)
It seems possible that Bob Dylan will gain new fans with this album. Roll on John, the last track, is a highly accessible tribute to John Lennon, mixing-in some lines closely associated with John both as a solo artist and as one of the Beatles. The tune too, and Bob's rendering of it on piano are reminiscent of John's style. The track before that, Tempest, about the sinking of the Titanic, also has easy appeal through its theme and a tune that reflects the triumph of "All the lords and ladies heading for the eternal shore". The tune of course also serves to counterpoint the tragedy of those who "drowned upon the staircase of brass and polished gold" and the "dead bodies floating in the double bottomed hull".

Now you've got a taste for it, start the CD from the beginning and enjoy Duquesne Whistle, with its distinctive old-style intro and an absolutely first rate shuffle arrangement that clearly the musicians themselves found a lot of fun. Continue to Soon After Midnight, a gentle ballad with some truly beautiful words, and some that might puzzle at first ("I've been down on the killing floors" and "I'll drag his corpse through the mud"). Explanation (maybe): Bob's in the Deep South; New Orleans, perhaps, or Atlanta? Both these tunes pass the old grey whistle test - i.e. are catchy enough for the old chap on the door to be heard whistling them.

While we're picking out the pretty tunes, let's try the descending scale of Long and Wasted Years. As ever, though, beware of the pretty tune. Behind this one is as bleak a picture of failed marriage as was ever put in song.

There are two twelve bar blues songs on the album, Narrow Way and Early Roman Kings. The key to Early Roman Kings is not Romulus and his 8th to 6th Century BCE successors, but a 1960's New York City gang. The words of Narrow Way remind me of From a Buick 6 on the Highway 61 Revisited album; Bob seems to have hit on another junkyard angel. The words at first seem inconsequential - not a lot more than something to fit the music - but then they coalesce and do after all have meaning.

Scarlet Town again has a very full and interesting instrumental backing, even including an instrumental break, which most of the songs here do not. The words describe a place that certainly isn't heaven, "The streets have names that you can't pronounce. Gold is down to a quarter of an ounce", but it doesn't seem to be Hell either, just another wretched place here on earth. This is the song in which the lyric police have found lines that owe something to the 19th Century 'Fireside' poet John Greenleaf Whittier. I have no argument with that; it adds to the richness of Bob's work and the experience of not only listening to it but following-up the many leads to other music and literature. (In amongst the Lennon quotes in Roll on John, by the way, is some William Blake.)

I have left Pay in Blood and Tin Angel until last. In Pay in Blood, Bob has come to bury, not to praise:-

"How I made it back home, nobody knows
Or how I survived so many blows.
I've been through hell, what good did it do?
You bastard! I'm suppose to respect you?
I'll give you justice, I'll fatten your purse,
Show me your moral virtues first."

Those are mighty tough words, and yet "I pay in blood, but it's not my own" and more than a few other lines are surely Christian New Testament references (with a renewed visit to Bob's earlier theme - in Foot of Pride - of the uncertain or mixed parentage of Jesus). It's deep, very deep.

And so, as a total verbal and musical experience, is Tin Angel. Again Bob is dredging the depths of human experience; this time betrayal in love, confrontation, murder and suicide. When the curtain falls, all on the stage lie dead.

I won't go down the road of comparison with other Bob Dylan albums. All are different, and in my view he never yet made a bad one (Yes, really!). Tempest stands on its own, and it most certainly does stand, not fall. Some may be easier to get in to, but, as I have written, there is much here that will be attractive to those who have not previously been touched by Dylan. There is also an absolute feast for those of us who have already travelled a very long way with him.
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Showing 1-10 of 10 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Oct 4, 2012 4:47:46 AM PDT
Keene says:
Yes....very good review.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 4, 2012 10:42:05 AM PDT
Lost John says:
Thank you. This was of course the short version!

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 4, 2012 11:34:08 AM PDT
Keene says:
Sometimes short is just fine.
I like reading reviews that get to the heart and soul of a piece and make me want to try it...whatever it is. You do a pretty good job. Best to you....

Posted on Nov 1, 2012 12:55:05 PM PDT
[Deleted by Amazon on Nov 1, 2012 1:00:13 PM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 1, 2012 1:45:54 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Nov 1, 2012 1:58:41 PM PDT
Lost John says:
Thanks for the compliment.

It seems to me that, because of the pressure to be first, tight deadlines and maybe other reasons too, many of the reviews in big name papers are sketched-up before the album is actually available and just sprinkled with a few first impressions when it is. The reviewer may have listened to it through just once, or more-likely just sampled it. And anyway, he's a general writer who isn't personally into the artist or the sort of music being reviewed. We therefore get reiterations of what's fashionable to say about a particular artist at the moment, and learn little or nothing about the album supposedly being reviewed that wasn't already widely known from tit-bits carefully 'leaked' beforehand by the artist's management and/or record company.

I'm old enough to remember bad reviews for Bob Dylan albums from John Wesley Harding onwards (the papers and magazines that came my way didn't review him at all before that). The predominantly good reviews that greeted the four studio albums before Tempest (not including Christmas in the Heart) were therefore a bit worrying and it's a relief in a way that they have been more mixed for Tempest.

EDIT: Amazon has deleted the comment I was responding to! It was strongly negative about a review in a big name magazine and the editor of that magazine. The name of the magazine is found in a Bob Dylan song, the name of a British R&B band, and a song by Dr Hook refers to its cover.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 1, 2012 2:00:50 PM PDT
Keene says:
Very good, Lost John....you too daniel....

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 1, 2012 4:33:49 PM PDT
Dee Dee Tee says:
yeah, it just shows how much power this jerk Jann Wenner wields. He and his magazine were once relevant. now they are just a part of the establishment. his ass-minion do-boy reviewers like Will Hermes make me wanna go have a bowel movement

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 20, 2012 7:17:34 AM PST
Good for you Lost John. Tempest is an excellent release. "that magazine" is not an excellent release.

Posted on Nov 21, 2012 7:40:08 AM PST
Thanks for an insightful review. The music and lyrics in songs touch us all in different ways and we have various associations with them. Your comments help me to see some of what Dylan was thinking with these songs.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 21, 2012 11:31:27 AM PST
Lost John says:
Thank you.

Like those others who have commented here, you are so courteous. Happy Thanksgiving!
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