'I don't see how he does it': Bob Dylan set to release The Tempest after 50 years of song

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We now have a name and release date for Bob Dylan’s 35th studio release: The Tempest is set to arrive via Columbia Records on September 11, 2012. Preorder it here!

Dylan hasn’t issued an album of new material since 2009’s Together Through Life. This new self-produced, 10-song project arrives just more than 50 years after his self-titled debut — and finds the legendary singer-songwriter on a roll: 1997’s platinum-selling Time Out Of Mind earned a Grammy as album of the year; the follow-up Love and Theft was awarded another Grammy for best contemporary folk album. 2006’s Modern Times earned another pair of Grammy statues, while selling 2.5 million copies worldwide. The million-selling Together Through Life then became Dylan’s first-ever recording to debut atop the charts both in the U.S. and in Britain.

Still spritely at 71, Dylan is already on tour, with ongoing dates continuing in Europe. The newly minted Presidential Medal of Freedom winner will return to North America later this summer, and is set for stops in the UK next year.

Included on The Tempest, according to various reports, are a pair of epic songs, one of them nine minutes and the other 14 minutes long. That last song, according to music writer and Dylanologist Michael Gray (author of 2006’s The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia), will focus on the Titanic. Dylan previously mentioned the doomed oceanliner in “Desolation Row,” the closing track of 1965’s Highway 61 Revisited: “Praise be to Nero’s Neptune, the Titanic sails at dawn — and everybody’s shouting: ‘Which side are you on?'”

Los Lobos’ David Hidalgo, who played on both of Together Through Life and Dylan’s 2009 holiday-themed release, also earlier confirmed that he is appearing on the The Tempest. “It was a great experience — and different,” he said. “Each one has been different, all completely different approaches. It’s an amazing thing, how he keeps creativity. I don’t see how he does it.”

The complete track list for Bob Dylan’s ‘The Tempest’ …

“Duquesne Whistle”
“Soon After Midnight”
“Narrow Way”
“Long and Wasted Years”
“Pay In Blood”
“Scarlet Town”
“Early Roman Kings”
“Tin Angel”

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Here’s a look back at our recent thoughts on Bob Dylan. Click through the titles for complete reviews …

SOMETHING ELSE! FEATURED ARTIST: BOB DYLAN: In honor of Bob Dylan’s birthday today, Something Else! Reviews presents 7 for 70 — our list of top recordings from across the 70-year-old’s lengthy career. We were careful to select at least one project from each of his five decades in music, stretching between 1963 and 2009, but didn’t order them in any particular way. The list is necessarily subjective. But like all birthday presents, it’s the thought that counts.

BOB DYLAN – TOGETHER THROUGH LIFE (2009): Bob Dylan, commissioned to do some soundtrack work, kept recording with the assembled group — ultimately producing a powerfully personal result. “Together Through Life” is a revelation in its stubborn unwillingness to move into the realm of Statements. Of Big Records. Of Career-Defining Blah Blah Blah. Dylan wants to make a small, good thing — focusing inward, mostly, talking about relationships with both honesty and a ragged sense of humor — and he brilliantly succeeds. Highlights include “Beyond Here Lies Nothin'” and “My Wife’s Hometown,” both of which sound like shambling leftovers from Dylan’s late-1980s sessions in New Orleans with Daniel Lanois — complete with surprising synocations, biting guitar (courtesy of Mike Campbell of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and fun, braying vocals.

ONE TRACK MIND: BOB DYLAN, “NOT DARK YET” (1997): For me, “Not Dark Yet” is the best thing Bob Dylan has done in ages, this perfect enigma from a guy who’s made a career of such sleights of hand. An edgy post-modern lament downshifted into quiet Civil War balladry, “Not Dark Yet,” remains a riddle — and maybe that’s the very definition of good art: It’s something that you never quite figure out. At first, when it appeared on 1997’s perhaps over-celebrated Time Out of Mind, I was thinking that this was Dylan looking back on his own life, on his many accomplishments, and seeing more to be done. Dylan, issuing his first original songs since 1990’s Under the Red Sky, had been slowed by a life-threatening illness. So, he realizes, now more than ever, that the clock is ticking. In a larger sense, he’s a guy, in keeping with the title of the Grammy award-winning album from which it came, who is out of time. Dylan is both misunderstood by a new generation, and also moving into the last third of his life.

SHOWS I’LL NEVER FORGET: BOB DYLAN, APRIL 21, 1993: On this night, Bob Dylan once again proved he was no fan of history. And that’s why I’ve been a fan of his for so long. See, I’ve always loved the in-concert head fake. After all, I already own the albums. Alas, showgoers in the modern age want the hits, and they want them note for teeth-splinteringly boring note. My response: You could hardly blame someone for not wanting to play a 25-year-old song the same old way. (In fact, to be honest, you could hardly blame him for not wanting to play them at all.) Well, some folks around me during this performance — right up front, third row — certainly did. Too bad. If you wanted to hear “Like a Rolling Stone” simply regurgitated, Dylan’s hard-eyed message was this: Buy the record. All night, he played with structure, changing the tempo (and sometimes the key) of most every tune. I was enthralled.

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The Something Else! webzine, an accredited Google News affiliate, has been featured in The New York Times and NPR.com's A Blog Supreme, while our writers have also been published by USA Today, Jazz.com and UltimateClassicRock.com, among others. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
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