Dylan Still Finds His Words, (But Too Bad He Didn't Clear His Throat)

Here’s the deal with this record. Tempest is a solid addition to the Dylan canon. It proves that the man can still write great songs with rich lyrics. As always, he is personal, yet completely mysterious. Also worth noting: there are numerous songs about murders. Tempest might possibly be Dylan’s bloodiest record. If you pay attention to many of the songs’ story lines, you will notice that body count quickly adds up.
The catch with Tempest is Dylan’s vocals. Yes, I know people have been harping about his singing since he was in his early twenties. I also recognize that a singer’s voice usually gets lower over time. Dylan’s once nasally voice is now a smoky growl. It’s been that way since he released 1997’s masterpiece, Time Out Of Mind. I don’t have a problem with this. I have a problem with the fact that he didn’t clear his throat before singing several of the tracks and you can hear the flem in his throat. That is gross. The opener “Dusquesne Whistle” has a lot of energy. It is a great track until you hear the flem gurgle in Dylan’s voice. Even Dylan’s touching tribute to John Lennon, “Roll On John”, is marred by flemmy singing. Too bad, no one in the studio had the nerve to say, “Hey Bob, this track sounds sweet. Why don’t you clear your throat and we’ll take it from the top?”

That being said, there is still plenty to appreciate in Tempest. “After Midnight” with its pretty melody waltzes along like a summer night. “Pay In Blood” rocks like Bob Dylan fronting the Bridges of Babylon-era Rolling Stones. “Early Roman Kings” and “Narrow Way” are two groovin’ blues rock tracks that sound like they could have been recorded at Chess Studios in the 1950s. “Scarlet Town” has some incredible lyrics, including the biting: “Set ‘em Joe, play “Walkin’ the Floor”. Play it for my flat-chested junkie whore.” It is very dark, but still poetic.

Tempest, has its flaws, but is anchored by many more moments of undeniable brilliance. So yeah, at the end of the day, Dylan’s still got it.

Essential tracks: “After Midnight”, “Narrow Way” and “Scarlet Town”

Leave a comment

Add comment