Sound Check: Bob Dylan’s Tempest
by Daniel Daw
Few artists are as ubiquitous as Bob Dylan. His impressive career has spawned 35 studio albums, his most recent being Tempest, along with several live and compilation albums. With over 40 years of performing, there is little to say about Bob Dylan that hasn’t already been said.
That having been said, Tempest showcases Dylan’s lyrical mastery and a unique mix of styles, including folk, rock and roll, swing and Celtic.
The album starts off strong with “Duquesne Whistle,” beginning with a nice swing guitar line that sets the tone for the rest of the song. You can hear Dylan’s age in his voice, sounding raspier and deeper than in his earlier work. Even if some consider his voice weaker in this album, he more than makes up with his lyrics and musical variety.
Title track “Tempest” has a more Celtic sound, featuring the fiddle and accordion, and clocks in at six seconds shy of 14 minutes — this is the longest track on the album. The track is about the sinking of the RMS Titanic. Through his lyrics, Dylan paints a beautiful yet terrifying account of the disaster, which includes references to and details about the wreckage, how it sank and how different passengers and crew members were thought to have acted — as well as references to James Cameron’s Titanic.
“When the Reaper’s task had ended/ Sixteen hundred had gone to rest/ The good, the bad, the rich, the poor/ The loveliest and the best” exemplifies Dylan’s dark and tragic lyrical style and subject matter.
It is important to note there is not a single chorus line in this song; it is in verse form only. Very few artists could get away with this.
Tempest as a whole is a strong album. The musical qualities and world class lyrics show Dylan in his best element and it is safe to say that he still kicking.
Best tracks: “Tempest” & “Roll On John”
4 ½ Stars