The Friday Morning Listen: Bob Dylan – Tempest (2012)

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This past Tuesday, Bob Dylan released Tempest, fifty years to the day since his first LP came out. Fifty years as a recording artist. That’s a pretty amazing accomplishment, especially when you consider how much effort Bob has put into his music-making from 1997’s Time Out Of Mind to the present.

So a couple of days ago I’m listening short radio segment featuring a review of the new album. The host brings up the point that on a few of the songs, Dylan is really challenging his listeners…even his biggest fans. What they were referring to was not the record’s musical content — Tempest continues in his recent tradition of conjugating the sonic palette Dylan employs on his Theme Time Radio Hour — but the fact that a few of the tracks are rather long. True enough, there are three songs over seven minutes in length, one over nine, and a 13 minute and 54 second title track.

Seriously, at this point in his career, the fanbase knows that Dylan will be Dylan. Odd phrasing, not a lot of range, the rattle in the throat…despite his supposed limitations, he manages to tell some amazing stories that are supported by a fairly wide range of music. Since when has Dylan ever been particularly concerned with adverse fan reaction? The switch to electric, the re-arrangement of his own tunes (exactly why I always enjoyed the Budokan record), the foray into Christianity — the man has always followed his own internal compass.

I don’t think the reviewer was necessarily wrong for bringing up the topic, but it sort of set me off on a more general level. This idea that fans of any artist might be turned off by a slight change of direction. But hey, that’s the reason that radio has ended up in its current form. The programming is there to minimize the chance that a listener might change the station. Us music obsessives just can’t understand this. I suppose we don’t have to.

In the meantime, I’m happy to celebrate Bob Dylan’s latest effort this morning. The music adds a lot of color to a set of stories that range from romantic to sad to violent. It just might be too much for some people.

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Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski is a writer and music obsessive based out of the woods of central New Hampshire. A past contributor to Jazz.com, Blogcritics.org and Salon, he originated several of our weekly features including the Friday Morning Listen, (Cross the) Heartland, WTF! Wednesday, and Sparks Fly on E Street. Follow him on Twitter: @msaleski. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Mark Saleski
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