Thursday, February 15, 2007

Bob Dylan - Modern Times

Everyone salivates when Dylan puts out a new album. When Time Out of Mind came out in 1997, everyone called it one the best recordings in his catalog (which is saying a lot). Then, when he released Love and Theft in 2001, they said the same thing. “Amazing, amazing stuff.” (If I remember correctly, both of those albums got a perfect 5 star review from Rolling Stone…an honor only a handful of albums through the years have received.)
Now, I’m a pretty big Dylan fan, and I didn’t really think either of those albums were anything special. Sure, they had their moments, but I wouldn’t classify them as great albums. If anyone else would’ve recorded those albums, no one would’ve given them a second glance, much less a Grammy for album of the year (which he received for Time Out of Mind).
So you can just imagine what I thought when, just last year, he released a new album, immediately heralded by critics as one of the best albums he’s ever released. “Here we go again.”
But, when I finally listened to it, I fell in love with it…from the very first blues lick. Musically I guess it’s not too far from what he was doing with the previous couple of albums, but it seems to work a little better on this album. Perhaps it’s a little more cohesive. Perhaps it’s a little more spontaneous…like he was recording just for the heck of it. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but something about this album makes it better than those other two.
At first look (and even getting through the album the first couple of times), it seems like a rambling, meandering album. Only one song clocks in less than 5 minutes (“Someday Baby”), and even that one just barely makes it at 4:55. The upbeat blues songs are long…the slower ballads are long. But, once you get into it, you don’t really notice the length of the songs…you just know that you love what’s coming through your speakers. I can’t really imagine these songs being any shorter and still make sense.
This album shows that Dylan still has it. He’s not some washed-up, used-to-be-great artist. This is the work of someone who, after all these years, still has a number of things in his creative and musical tank. For all of us music lovers, that’s a pretty exciting thought.

Rating: 8.6

Essential Tracks: “Thunder on the Mountain”, “Spirit on the Water”

Favorite Tracks: “When the Deal Goes Down”, “Someday Baby”, “Workingman’s Blues #2”
Check out Dylan's website here

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