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Bob Dylan - Modern Times

2009-04-28 14:09
Bob Dylan's Modern Times album cover
Modern Times will not make those who "don't like" Dylan start "liking" Dylan.

Dylan is not someone you "like". Either you adore him, or you have a myriad range of other reactions. There's "some songs / albums are great but the others are irritating" to "He's a total jerk" (both of which may be valid). Then, there are always a few people who say "he can't sing" which is about as stupid as saying Picasso "couldn't draw". Those people will now be known as those who "can't think".

It's hard to review an album as good as Modern Times. You want to say to people, just go away, go away and listen to this album - take a long, long drive and keep it playing loud. Like the smell of sudden heavy raindrops slapping down into hot earth while you're driving through the Karoo, it's better sensed than described or judged. As with the best of Bob Dylan's work - and there's been a lot of that on his most recent three albums - it's full of wit, imagery and puzzling thoughts that stay with you. Unlike a lot of his work, it's soothing and rich with bluesy flourishes.

Is this original music that takes the genre forward? Well yes, and no, of course not! The instrumentation and themes are familiar (you'll hear them in the later albums of Leonard Cohen, Bruce Springsteen, and other Dylan contemporaries), but the pace is the pace of today's pop more than of the 60s .The sound is tightly crafted, and the songs move.

Take just the first track "Thunder on the Mountain", which opens with a slick but somehow familiar blues lick. Only Dylan could mix lyrics about his soul expanding, longing for Alicia Keys, and wanting "some real good woman to do just what I say"; and his vocals have never been more skilled. And there's the way he laughs at his own lyric as he sings it, and the way the words "picking up speed" fly as he skips to the upper harmonic. There's the way he leans into each thing he says to drive it forward and forward...

Even a song like "Spirit on the Water" is deceptively simple. Wisdom, and Dylan's honed virtuosity, make it unforgettable and addictive. "The Levee's Gonna Break" is that marker of time, with a bit more of Dylan's old sixties nasal urgency, though less like the grinding of an axe. And "Ain't Talking" is full of the devil's perfectly-paced blues.

As usual, you could write an essay about any song, so let's stop there, and just say that Modern Times has been enough to send a Dylan sceptic back to the record shops to furtively buy the essentials of his back catalogue.

At 65, Dylan is that much-older friend everyone needs. You know - that person who gets invited to parties with people thirty years younger than he is, who often seems more youthful than his young acolytes, as they hang on every word. Why do they worship him this way? Well, because he lets them see the world with fresh eyes again.

Dylan quotes: wisdom and humour

Some people say they "don't like Dylan". But this mythical, masterful new album from an artist who just won't go away will convert even the most stubborn anti-fan. It draws together all the romance, wisdom, humour and heart of american folk and blues. Yet it comes unmistakeably from Dylan's own soul.

What to read next: Kalahari

Mike Fischer 2006-09-22 07:30 AM
New Dylam Album The new Dylan album is easily his best in a generation and that is saying something considering his last three albums. His best since "Infidels". The songs flow smoothly into your consciousness. Dylan should be appreciated like good wine. Slowly. He is still the best. Age only makes him better.
jo van deijzen 2006-09-22 07:51 AM
Dylan Best,Great,SUPER better number one welldone great music and lyrics.
chris 2006-09-22 09:00 AM
fantastic review you've got it spot on. a dylan album demands thought, rather than just a gut reaction. but you have to start with the gut reaction.
Lila 2006-09-22 11:33 AM
Brilliant review Having lost track of Dylan decades ago (his lifetime not mine) you have rekindled my interest like no one has! - and being a traveller your last line was the final hook! Well done ;-) I am buying the album now
Jaco 2006-09-22 07:26 PM
Like a good, mature whisky! Having been a Dylan disciple ever since I first heard him at school, I can only say thank heavens he's still around, still churning out modern day classics that will never get 'old'. This is a supreme album to be regarded as yet another benchmark in his brilliant career..
john 2006-09-23 12:13 AM
get ur facts straight listen nobody can beat mariah careys come back and evryone knows that! im not very into music stars but i know that mariah made such an unbelievable come back after her nervous break down wit the emancipation of mimi! dont post false headlines! thank you

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