ROUGH AND ROWDY WAYS - BOB DYLAN
Updated: Sep 12
Dylan's first album of originals since 2012's Tempest shows no signs of settling down...
My dear, talk about ageing with honour. The 79-year old Bob Dylan sounds better vocally than ever before and unlike other artists still recording albums by their harvest years - I’m thinking especially about Leonard Cohen and David Bowie here - Dylan sings and writes as if he would be immortal as if Mr Death will never catch him. He even makes us believe in him. And he is even right. Bob Dylan is immortal. Just like the hordes of historically important figures mentioned in his songs – from Anne Frank to Walt Whitman, from Julius Caesar to John F. Kennedy, from Ludwig van Beethoven to Mick Jagger – (especially in “I Contain Multitudes” and the epic “Murder Most Foul”, both absolutely on-par with his masterpiece “Desolation Row” from 1965), his name will forever be instituted in the history books as the most influential singular voice in 20th century’s culture. And he knows that; he knew that all the while.
But Rough and Rowdy Ways is not only a lexicon of literary references. Dylan proves that he can still compose delightful love ballads (“I’ve Made Up My Mind to Give Myself to You”) as well as perform blues-rockers that would fit perfectly fine on his most rock n roll-inspired record, 1966's Blonde on Blonde (“False Prophet” and “Goodbye Jimmy Reed”). A few songs are a bit too tired, but they are still beautifully performed, and can we really blame a 79-year old for slowing it down a bit…? At least half of the songs here are first-rate Dylan-quality, anyway. And though Mr Jones and the superhuman crew is still critical towards the decision to reward Dylan with the Nobel Prize back in 2016, I know for sure that even after 60 years since we first heard his unmistakable voice on a record, no songwriter in the world comes even close to his inexpugnable sense of combining the best of both music and literature while simultaneously making it sound so terrific.
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