‘Long and Wasted Years’ – Some First Impressions of Bob Dylan’s ‘Tempest’

Let’s run this review in reverse. Bob Dylan’s latest album, ‘Tempest’, is not a masterpiece. Worse than that, although it unquestionably offers much to enjoy, admire, and even celebrate, its flaws are sufficiently serious to disqualify it from any claims to greatness. In fact, if we were still inhabiting the olden days of vinyl, we’d be saying that this is an ill-balanced ‘record’ of two halves, with ‘side one’ of the album being by far the strongest. Overall, this is a very good set of songs, with some frustratingly grievous shortcomings. It’s not quite as good as the very best of his late period work, but it is, overall, a lot better than his last couple of studio albums. It’s lyrically rich, if musically uninspiring, and its best tracks should stand the test of time as well as anything he’s done since, say, 1990.

Given the hype that comes as standard these days with any Dylan release, and the hopes of the faithful that the Great Man may yet produce one more all-time classic – before the mortality that’s been a key lyrical theme of his late period finally claims him, sealing up the living discography and bringing the never-ending tour to a halt – this assessment might seem disappointingly bleak. That would be a false impression, however: for one thing, Dylan’s greatness is such that even his mediocre works tower forbiddingly over the best of the rest of contemporary popular music; more importantly, perhaps the most apposite way of summing up this album’s place in the canon would be to say that it lays a much better claim to an affinity with ‘Time Out of Mind’ and ‘Love & Theft’ than Dylan’s wildly overrated 2006 album, ‘Modern Times’, which is often cited as part three in a glorious ‘comeback’ trilogy.

Timing is everything. After the underrated and misunderstood ‘Under the Red Sky’ album in 1990, Dylan didn’t release another set of original material until ‘Time Out of Mind’ in 1997, meaning he basically spent the 1990s in a critical blackout. During those years, and contrary to received wisdom at the time, he gave some of his best post-60s concert performances, and released two albums of folk and blues covers (‘Good as I Been to You ‘ and ‘World Gone Wrong’) that garnered little fanfare but which, were they issued today, would be hailed as masterpieces. ‘Modern Times’, on the other hand, was released during the full flush of what we might call Bob Dylan’s ‘second critical honeymoon’, a period when mainstream critics, still reeling from the revelation – brought about by ‘Time Out of Mind’ – that Dylan had never been the has-been they’d long taken him for, had become swooningly incapable of discerning any gradations of greatness in Dylan’s works.

That Dylan followed his 1997 return from the wilderness with 2001′s exuberant, multifaceted ‘Love & Theft’ – an album whose relative merits, vis-à-vis its predecessor, critics and fans are still debating today – only served to seal his newfound critical sanctification. Thus ‘Modern Times’, an album that contained a few decent tracks but which generally wallowed in bloated, blues-by-numbers monotony, was declared to be a classic. ‘Together Through Life’, released to an unsuspecting world in 2009, doubtless benefited from both this blind critical fervour, and the fact that its lightness and relative brevity were a blessed relief after the turgidity of ‘Modern Times’; nevertheless, that album was an eminently disposable work which really ought to have seen the light in partial form only, its few worthwhile tracks maybe surfacing on a future ‘Bootleg Series’ release. Thus ‘Tempest’, Dylan’s 35th studio album, presents itself as the rightful heir to Dylan’s last truly great set of songs, ‘Love & Theft’.

Again, let’s not pussy-foot around. ‘Tempest’ can’t compete with, or in truth even be seriously compared to, ‘Love & Theft’. At this stage, it seems highly unlikely that Dylan (or anyone else, for that matter) will ever conjure anything nearly so sustainedly brilliant again. That said, the best tracks on ‘Tempest’ could sit unashamedly alongside those from ‘Love & Theft’ or ‘Time Out of Mind’. Indeed, if you were aiming to assemble some sort of ten track ‘best of’ compilation, documenting Dylan’s ‘Critical Renaissance Period’ in chronological release date order, you might – depending on taste – start your list with something along the lines of:

1. Standing in the Doorway

2. Tryin’ to Get to Heaven

3. Not Dark Yet

4. Things Have Changed

5. Mississippi

6. Floater (Too Much to Ask)

7. Po’ Boy

8. Red River Shore


So, having used up 8 out of 10 tracks – mixing three parts ‘Time Out of Mind’, to one part Oscar-winning single, three parts ‘Love & Theft’, no parts ‘Modern Times’, one part ‘Bootleg Series Volume 8 (Tell Tale Signs)’, and no parts ‘Together Through Life’ – this would leave two slots spare for ‘Tempest’. How to fill them?

Selecting the new album’s best tracks means first discarding those which most acutely exemplify the album’s more serious faults. These could best be summarised by lamenting the fact that Dylan has stuck so rigidly to a now wearily familiar musical template. His favoured mode, many have noted, remains a slow, listless shuffle; combine this with a tendency to let songs ramble on for ages, and you have a recipe for irresistibly attracting the listener’s finger to the ‘Skip’ button. Equally vexing is Dylan’s continued reliance on stale, reheated blues riffs; plus his seeming refusal to let his band – fiercely skilled musicians, all – deviate from such a stagnant pool of musical ideas.

Of course, selecting the new album’s best tracks also means making judgements that we know may be precipitant, since almost every Dylan album is a ‘grower’, whose full measure can never be taken at first, second, or even twentieth listen. A Dylan album must be lived with over a period of time, before it eventually settles into its rightful position in the listener’s affections. Perhaps ‘settled’ is not the right word, as over time Dylan’s albums, and the songs they contain, tend to wax and wane in both the critical consensus, and in the individual fan’s affections. First impressions are, therefore, more unreliable than usual, in Dylan’s case.

That said, a number of tracks here are so indelibly scarred by the failings mentioned above, recalling the worst, most redundant excesses of ‘Modern Times’, that they automatically exclude themselves from our putative compilation. ‘Early Roman Kings’, despite playing host to some interesting lyrics, has a central riff so insistently annoying that listening to the song’s full five minutes becomes a purgatorial experience. Other tracks just about manage to survive the imposition of dourly repetitive riffing, their positive qualities tipping the balance away from dreariness, towards lasting value. Even some of these, such as such as ‘Narrow Way’, at seven and a half minutes, could have done with some trimming.

The title track, whether taken as a straightforward re-imagining of the sinking of the Titanic, and/or as the apocalyptic metaphor some are talking it up as, simply goes on for far too long.  A long running time is in itself, of course, not a problem, and Dylan’s back catalogue is crammed with such songs. The difficulty here lies in the feeling that this track is long for long’s sake, as if Dylan thinks the song will acquire gravitas and artistic heft purely by dint of duration. Sadly, in this case, both the material and the delivery are too monotonous to justify the track’s lavishly engorged playing time of just under 14 minutes. Unlike, say, ‘Highlands’, where the pungently humorous lyrics, sardonic worldview and – crucially – Dylan’s endlessly inventive vocal inflections, were more than enough to sustain the track’s length, here the song’s unnecessary length, coupled with its unappealing waltz arrangement, feels like a case of ‘never mind the quality, feel the width’. Its placement in the track listing, being the penultimate song on an album which by this point is beginning to fall apart, adds to the problem. The following track, the album’s much-anticipated tribute to John Lennon, ‘Roll on John’, is a victim of a similar set of problems: the very existence of the song, the fact that Dylan does indeed quote some Lennon-penned Beatles lyrics, is much more interesting than the actual song itself. The two tracks combine to produce a wearily deflatory ending to the album.

‘Duquesne Whistle’, the chirpy single which was widely circulated prior to the album’s release, along with a pleasingly ambivalent and incongruously violent video, is better than almost everything on ‘Together Through Life’, and could stand its ground against much of ‘Modern Times’, but it still doesn’t feel like it’ll have a very long shelf life: its appeal, even at first blush, felt ephemeral. Track six on the album, ‘Scarlet Town’, is pivotal, in the sense that here the album’s appeal begins to fade. The song itself has its charms, and in places is even reminiscent of those on Dylan’s great, often-overlooked 1989 album ‘Oh Mercy’ – the elegantly understated guitar figure that emerges towards the end of the track is so atypical of this album that it almost comes as a shock –  but its interest lies mainly in its lyrics. And, yet again, it’s too long.

After ‘Scarlet Town’, the album offers sharply diminishing returns. We’ve already mentioned ‘Early Roman Kings ‘, and there’s not much more to say; listening to it is a joyless and dispiriting experience. Lugubrious murderer ballad ‘Tin Angel’ is, again, lyrically intriguing – the album as a whole will provide unusually rich pickings for analysts, influence trackers, resonance spotters, and plagiarism detectors, all of whom are already out in force – but musically unremarkable. Then we’re into the title track, which will surely over time become one of the least played of all Dylan’s long-form shaggy dog story songs. After this, ‘Roll on John’, which feels like an outtake mysteriously left in, closes the album on a detumescent downbeat.

So what’s left? Well, everyone will have their own opinion, but it would be a brave man who would argue that ‘Soon After Midnight’, ‘Long and Wasted Years’, and ‘Pay in Blood’ are not among the album’s best offerings. Of these, ‘Pay in Blood’ most forcefully suggests itself as a ‘must’ for our ‘best of late Dylan’ compilation. Dylan’s voice is, let’s face it, totally wrecked now; critics compete for adjectives to describe the roughness of its raspy growl. Let’s just say it’s scabrous, even by late Dylan standards, and leave it at that. Something that’s rarely mentioned in reviews, however, is that this raspiness is by no means an impediment to an enjoyable Dylan vocal performance. ‘Pay in Blood’ could be ‘Exhibit A’ in making such an argument: Dylan’s vocal here perfectly suits the song’s blood-soaked story of hatred and revenge, and melds beautifully with the dense, saturnine tones of the musical framework on which the lyrics are hung.

‘Soon After Midnight’ and ‘Long and Wasted Years’, being (relatively) brief, and coming, respectively, before and after the long stretch of ‘Narrow Way’, feel like twins. It’s hard to choose between them, but ‘Soon After Midnight’ is more musically propulsive, and contains several instances of that magical effect whereby lyric, vocal delivery, and musical accompaniment combine to elegiac yet euphoric effect, calling to mind moments from classics such as ‘Tryin’ to Get to Heaven’ and  ‘Mississippi’.  ‘Long and Wasted Years’, meanwhile, would have made the perfect album closer, Dylan’s declamatory vocal recalling, in a small way, his delivery on ‘Brownsville Girl’.  Forced to choose, and to abandon the pleasures of one track in favour of the other, ‘Soon After Midnight’ just edges it, meaning we round out our ten track compilation as follows:

1. Standing in the Doorway

2. Tryin’ to Get to Heaven

3. Not Dark Yet

4. Things Have Changed

5. Mississippi

6. Floater (Too Much to Ask)

7. Po’ Boy

8. Red River Shore

9. Soon After Midnight

10. Pay in Blood

Ultimately, being able to offer two tracks out of ten, against such strong competition, is actually quite a bold claim to make on behalf of any album. ‘Tempest’ should by no means be considered a failure or a let-down. Indeed, it could have been a classic, if its fat had been trimmed and its dead weight discarded. If our ten track compilation had restricted itself to just Dylan’s post-‘Love & Theft’ output, then we’d have been able to include a handful from this album.

Bob Dylan doesn’t need good reviews these days. Millions of fans will buy any studio album he puts out, and will make their own, educated assessments, based on the album; they won’t decide whether or not to buy an album based on anybody else’s evaluation. Over the course of his long and varied career, Dylan has given the world as much entertainment and enrichment as the rest of popular music put together. To even get a reasonably good Dylan album is cause for celebration. So if you like Dylan, you should get this album. Discount the fact that the cover art – designed by Coco Shinomiya, who was also responsible for a number of recent Dylan packages, including ‘Together Through Life’– is so appallingly bad that it suggests itself as some sort of postmodern practical joke; forget the fact that there are virtually no sleeve notes, or that the ‘deluxe’ package (containing a phenomenally superfluous ‘notebook’) amounts to a slap in the face for cash-strapped consumers. Ignore this review along with all the others. Just buy the album, and rejoice that the world’s greatest living artist – in any field – is still with us, still recording, and still offering us rich and strange soundtracks for our lives.



23 comments to ‘Long and Wasted Years’ – Some First Impressions of Bob Dylan’s ‘Tempest’

  1. Thomas L says:

    In this day and age of most music being unlistenable crap, the worst Dylan is still a welcome relief. To my ears, only Roll On John is a total failure here.

  2. Sams says:

    An interesting review, but I think that reviewers in general are a step behind on the album. Musically, this is Dylan’s most diverse album in a long while, revisiting the recent explorations of pre-rock forms, blues, but also a more 80s (Bob) sound as well as pure folk. And most seem to dismiss the great folk epics Tin Angel and Tempest, and the intentionally minimal accompaniment puts the focus on narrative and Bob’s singing, which is thrilling. If you like folk music, this is the central core of the album (and Bob is at his core a folk musician. Bob gives everyone something to like, but most can’t seem to appreciate it all. And that’s not mentioning the lyrics!

  3. Richard G says:

    I enjoy the whole album. I find only “Tin Angel” to be close to failure. Roll On John seems like a lovely and heartfelt ballad to me, and the notorious title track is nicely hypnotic (when one’s in the mood). Overall, Tempest is streets ahead of Together Through Life and well up there with Modern Times. I’ve no quibble with the reviewer, and I agree that Love and Theft has a good edge on anything in the “late period”. I just find Tempest to be great and varied listening, lyrically powerful, and I’m thankful that Dylan is still around too.

  4. Henry the Hank says:

    Bob’s Top 10 or so post -2000
    1. Things Have Changed
    2. Mississippi
    3. High Water (for Charlie Patton)
    4. Sugar Baby
    5. Cross the Green Mountain
    6. Workingman’s Blues #2
    7. Nettie Moore
    8. Ain’t Talking
    9. Forgetful Heart
    10. Pay in Blood

  5. RLodge says:

    Probably, in life, it is better to spread joy rather than dis-satisfaction. You cannot hear what is good about some of this album. Tough for you. I’d advise sticking to helping us enjoy what you enjoy, rather than scoring points against interesting works and trying to spoil people’s fun. Wisdom is welcome; bitterness you can keep.

  6. John Carvill says:

    Thanks for the comments, folks.

    @Sams: I think we’re always at least one step behind Dylan. I think you’re absolutely right that “intentionally minimal accompaniment puts the focus on narrative and Bob’s singing”; but I don’t find Dylan’s vocal on that track thrilling at all, it’s too monotonous.

    @Henry: Interesting list. ‘Forgetful Heart’ seems to have a strong following, but I’ve never managed to get into it.

    @RLodge: It’s our policy here to publish all comments, whether they contain positive or negative feedback. We don’t publish abuse. Your comment is on the borderline.

  7. Jurgis Rudkus says:

    Appreciate the long and thoughtful post but I do think you are TOO dismissive of Modern Times and Together Through Life while overexalting Time Out of Mind and Love & Theft.

    Time Out of Mind has moments of turgidity and the production is just a little too processed and compromised. Love & Theft lacks atmospherics and is very all over the place, as great as that can often be. On the other hand Modern Times has some great songs and the production is a happy medium of the previous two, and Together Through Life has much to enjoy if one can accept it isn’t trying to be a masterpiece.

    Tempest is an ungainly mix of things, with some weaker tracks, but also has much to enjoy. I would just say to keep an open mind — I’m a big fan and agree with only two or three of your top ten.

  8. Robert Clark says:

    To judge Dylan’s newest album after one week of release is ridiculous. Ten years from now this same critic will write how vastly underrated and misunderstood “Tempest” was. How can you make such an assessment of any of Dylan’s songs or albums after only a couple of listens? The song “Union Sundown” is more pertinent now than when it was released on “Infidels” in 1984, the same year I found Dylan by listening to “Another Side” for the first time, and I have been along for the ride ever since. I am pretty sure that “Another Side” was panned by the critics at the time of its release. A hundred years from now will be the time to put Dylan’s body of work in perspective. Until then, as Dylan said in his latest interview about critics, “you mother fuckers can rot in hell”.

  9. jimbo says:

    Interesting review. And after a dozen listens, I’m still not sure where Tempest will line-out in the Dylan library rankings. Having said that, I think you will find that Tempest (the song) and Roll on John will grow on you a bit. They have begun doing so for me. But the funny thing about Dylan fans is they never agree on any “best of” lists. Example 1 – my top 10 post 1997 Dylan songs differs dramatically from yours:

    1. Cold Irons Bound (TOOM)
    2. Can’t Wait (TOOM)
    3. Lonesome Day Blues (L&T)
    4. Pay in Blood (T)
    5. Girl from the Red River Shore (TTS)
    6. Tell Old Bill (TTS)
    7. This Dream of You (TTL)
    8. Can’t Escape From You (TTS)
    9. Mississippi (L&T)
    10. (tied) Cry Awhile & Shake Shake Mama & Narrow Way

  10. John Carvill says:

    @Robert Clark: “To judge Dylan’s newest album after one week of release is ridiculous”

    Yes, and I make pretty much the same point in my review.

    “I am pretty sure that “Another Side” was panned by the critics at the time of its release”

    I don’t think it was, actually.

    ” A hundred years from now will be the time to put Dylan’s body of work in perspective. ”

    Yes, but if we took that line then no reviews would be written. My article was titled ‘First Impressions’. Wasn’t that clear enough for you?

  11. John Carvill says:

    @Jurgis Rudkus: Good point about the production, and I know a lot of people don’t like the way Daniel Lanois produced TOOM. On the other hand the production never spolied my enjoyment of that album.

    I’d be happy to run your top ten here, if you want to post it.

  12. John Carvill says:

    @Jimbo: “But the funny thing about Dylan fans is they never agree on any “best of” lists. ”

    Absolutely. Your list contains many surprises for me. I guess it’s a measure of Dylan’s diversity.

  13. Michael says:

    in my opinion TEMPEST is the best dylan album since 1976s DESIRE. i know, this is always hard to tell, but i think its the strongest recording of the post-oh mercy-era. tin angel and scarlet town are just fantastic songs. the vocals on long and wasted years are thrilling. just the cover-art is a little strange! i dont think dylan will change his style of music again, he does what he does. with TEMPEST he did it better and stronger than with his last 3 records.

  14. Paul Kirkman says:

    ‘Indeed, it could have been a classic, if its fat had been trimmed and its dead weight discarded.’

    Following your pontifications, that would leave six tracks at most: not enough for an album.

    ‘Over the course of his long and varied career, Dylan has given the world as much entertainment and enrichment as the rest of popular music put together.’

    ‘Dylan’s greatness is such that even his mediocre works tower forbiddingly over the best of the rest of contemporary popular music’

    These are insanely loud claims for just one performer out of the myriad out there, even if your criteria weren’t so stringent; and for me these two extremes contradict each other. Dylan is the best but not much of his supposedly brilliant ‘latter-day work’, as people put it, is that brilliant. Anyway, it’s work mainly by his musicians, not him.

    ‘plagiarism detectors’: After Dylan’s motherfucker outburst one could hope that Dylan’s oh-so-civil fans would censor themselves more in terms of this cavalier bandying around of the plagiarism mantra. It is this very casual use of an inflammatory term as shorthand for something richer and more complex, as Dylan’s ‘latter’ works are simultaneously sloganized as being, that has fed the ‘mainstream’ media a ready-packaged idiot wind to circulate. And it is that very thing, referred to too vaguely by Mikal Gilmore, that then elicited Dylan’s outburst about ‘motherfuckers’, which I note nobody on Expecting Rain’s resident community of drainpipe sniffers is falling over oneself to admit to being.

    Who are the motherfuckers? Nothing but a psychological construct. Then again, when you think about it, they’re real. As real as you and I. Well, maybe not I.

    As for other anomalies, your pieces are too time-consuming, even just to read, but at least they are well written and you even post comments. But then there is always the risk that a comment that took time will not be posted, which is why the one-liner or never-even-read-it-not-so-you-would-notice policy is always the safest.

    But even safer is not to read Expecting Rain very much. That’s what I do. I’m more into just listening; I don’t like analysis very much.

  15. Miike Hansen says:

    Maybe I am alone here, but I can never judge a Dylan album until I hear as many of the tracks possible live. Some tracks on the last 2 albums may tend to fall flat on the studio recordings. However, “Ain’t Talkin’” and “Jolene” are joys to hear live. The next leg of the NET cannot get here fast enough. I particularly hope he plays “Long and Wasted Years” often with the same phrasing as on the album.

  16. RoyCoup says:

    Nice write up. But, I cannot for the life of me understand how people like “Long and Wasted Years”. It just seems so obvious that its a horrific song from the sloppy opening, the terrible and nonsensical lyrics to his horrible phrasing and voice. I just don’t get it. This is as bad if not worse than Together…Anyhow nice post.

  17. Colin Warren says:

    I think the comment from Roy Coup just shows that you can’t please everybody. To me, Long and Wasted Years is easily the best track on the album and one of his best for many years. It has a fantastic heartfelt lyric sung with such conviction you feel Bob must be thinking of one of his own relationships.

  18. George Plemper says:

    Thanks for the insightful and thought provoking view which seems to have disturbed one or two people and this has got me thinking – who dares to criticise these days? Jackson Browne once wrote, “Don’t confront me with my failures, I have not forgotten them” but this is the crux of the matter: we often forget or deny our failures and in doing so fail to grow as human beings. Criticism is essential for the growth and development of all creative activities. It seems to me that lavishing uncritical praise on a work of art or creative act, whether it deserves it or not, only serves to confirm the failure of the art and the artist.
    I have now had the chance to get hold of a copy of Tempest and listen to it in the context of your own detailed and specific review. Where you referenced a specific album (such as Together through life or Tell Tale Signs) I first looked them up on Spotify because I convinced myself that I did not possess the albums you referred to, imagine my shock when I found that, with the exception of “Under the Red Sky,” on the shelf behind me I had all the studio albums referenced in your review as part of Dylan’s Critical Renaissance Period. They had been sitting on my shelf unloved and unlistened to for years. Now I often retrieve and listen to Dylan tracks from my collection that register in my mind as “Dylan greats” and out of Dylan’s critical Renaissance Period I find myself playing only 3 songs – “Trying to get to heaven,” “Not dark yet” and “Mississippi.” I do like “Tempest” and think it is a good collection of songs which will stand comparison with much of the music released this year but this is Dylan we are talking about and I agree with your assessment that it is not a masterpiece. Out of respect for the great man himself we should not over praise him.

  19. Liz Hodge says:

    Well coming a bit late to this but have only recently bought the Tempest CD.
    I knew there was a track about John Lennon and another longer one on the Titanic. On first play I was rather disappointed with the first 3 run of the mill tracks, then came the fourth – long and wasted years. I must say this brought me to tears, it seemed perfectly crafted and I could see right into it, first play I thought this was the John Lennon tribute one and for the most part it could be, I had to go back and replay it over and over. With the knowledge that Suze Rotolo has only recently passed I half expected Bob to give some mention of this somewhere, there it is-even back to that snowy street in NY. Of course this could refer to only one, some, or an amalgamation of all his women past, but no matter, this is the track that does it for me. I also now like Tempest, yes its tune is rather monotonous at first but as you get into the lyrics you forget the waltz as it washes over you (sorry) and engages you. Also like Roll on John with its little tale about Lennons leaving of Liverpool and his sad demise. As for all the rest, to me, they sound like the musings of an old man grumbling and shouting while pottering round his shed type sound and easily forgettable. Funny isnt it how we all hear differently. Like George Plemper I agree with his choice of 3 plus Forgetful heart as the best of the rest. His melodies have to be restricted in range these days as he cant reach most of the notes, so that doesnt help matters. Have been following Bob from the start and marvel at how he is still doing it though, he doesnt have to so am grateful for that as am sure most of us are.

  20. Robert Verderese says:

    This is, hands-down, the best, most incisive review I’ve yet to read on Dylan’s Tempest. My only point of disagreement is w/ regards to Modern Times as being too turgid and a lessor work and the like amongst Dylan’s post Time out of Mind releases. I would stipulate that Workingman’s blues, Someday Baby and Thunder on the Mountain are all bona fide, classic Dylan tracks–comparable to anything he’s done before(yes, even Blood and Blond)and certainly more classic than Things have Changed. My top 15 is as follows: Not Dark Yet, Cold Irons Bound, Highlands, Standing in the Doorway, Trying to get to Heaven, Mississippi, Moonlight, Po Boy, I feel a changed coming on, Working Man’s Blues, Someday Baby, Thunder on the Mountain, Pay in Blood, Long and Wasted Years, Soon after Midnight.

  21. MJM says:

    From first listen I was in love with Long and Wasted Years. It’s 2014 now and I still have days like today when nobody’s home and I listen to it on repeat. It’s not one of the songs where Bob hides behind a riff, mumbling the lyrics. He is front and centre here. I love the lyrics, but even more I love the way he says every single word. The vocal range mentioned in the review is on full display here, sometimes within one word. Turn it up loud and listen to how the one syllable word ‘Aisle’ turns into a deep growl. The song also shows his sense of humour, something that I think some people have trouble seeing in anything he does. To each his own indeed, it’s definitely one of my favorite Dylan songs ever.

  22. John Carvill says:

    I couldn’t agree more. Long and Wasted Years has grown (from an already strong start) for me too. The songs I liked initially on the album, I’ve continued to like, and grown to like more. Some of the ones I didn’t like initially, I do like a little more; but my assessment of the album doesn’t need much updating *for me*. It’s an important album, though, and given how late in the day it came, hugely significant to our conception of ‘late Dylan’.

  23. Mark says:

    Interesting review and comments. I too think that Modern Times contains some great songs. My top 10 would be closer to Robert Verderese’s, but – hell – I need a top 20 not 10.

    I’m mainly prompted to write, though, following Mike Hansen’s comment about judging after live performances. Though I deeply regret that I haven’t seen him on the latest – 2014 – leg of the NET, fortunately there are a lot of postings of live versions on youtube & grooveshark. I think he has been a revelation (though it is true, as one commenter says, that he benefits from having an extremely proficient band).

    There have been some wonderful renditions. Long and Wasted Years stands out, as does High Water (and it’s fascinating to see how it has slowly changed in concert over the last couple of years), and Forgetful Heart has been memorable on occasion, too. The arrangement of Blowin’ in the Wind has also been refreshing while somehow remaining true to the original (not that I care too much about that, unlike those who sem to be stuck with the Dylan of the 1960s and have no time for anything else).

    Apart from the excellence of the band, it seems that Dylan has woken up to the fact that he cannot just go on stage and mumble the words with that dreadful ‘uplift’ style. The phrasing and delivery and range, yes range, in most of the recent live performances I’ve heard belie some of the comments made here. Curiously, in contrast to one poster’s comments, a remark I came across elsewhere suggests he should avoid the lower ranges rather than the higher, and this is more than occasionally borne out in the songs I’ve heard. There are times when his voice is almost as pure as the early seventies.

    I think the ‘relationship’ each of us has with this man is quite intimate because each of us feels a personal resonance with the evocations his works provoke. I cannot say I like all the Dylan songs I hear, but I am never indifferent to them, and he has given me immense pleasure through the years.

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