Bob Dylan, the poet, singer, seer, Christian zealot, all round strange ‘un has got his 37th album out. Fallen Angels follows Shadows of the Night from early last year where he covers songs from the ‘Great American Songbook’, a loose canon (pun unintended) of old American classics.
The singer, who turns 75 on May 24, has given performances so relentlessly over the years that his gigs have popularly been dubbed the never ending tour. The cover above of Melancholy Mood retains the same musical arrangement, and Dylan keeps his vocals, grown raspy with age, restrained. He sounds almost like that other ancient poet, Leonard Cohen.
There are a total of 12 tracks on the album, of which only two are available on Youtube. Below is Dylan’s cover of All the Way.
The songs on this album, just like the last one, are all recorded live with no post-production mixing or enhancements, Dylan said in an interview to American Association of Retired Persons (AARP).
“The way people listen to music has changed, and I hope they get a chance to hear all the songs in one way or another. But! I did record those songs, believe it or not, in that same order that you hear them. We would usually get one song done in three hours. There’s no mixing. That’s just the way it sounded. No dials, nothing enhanced, nothing – that’s it. It’s been done wrong too many other times. I wanted to do it rightly.”
He leads an ensemble of five musicians, where the horns are gone, replaced with “session guitar legend Dean Parks (Steely Dan, Dolly Parton, Marvin Gaye)”, Rolling Stone reported. The rest of the ensemble features an upright bass, occasional percussion, and acoustic, electric, and pedal-steel guitars.
I’d like to believe this is the irreverent Dylan, baring his love for singing, which for a fan is heartening and reassuring. Like the Dylan whom Syd Barret captured in his tongue-in-cheek tribute, "Got the Bob Dylan blues / And the Bob Dylan shoes / And my clothes and my hair's in a mess / But you know I just couldn't care less”.
Dylan does what he wants, and this album feels like a sentimental memoir to life and love. The songs chosen here are mostly wistful melancholic ballads, allowing him to sing in his slow conversational style.
This album, like the last one, covers songs made popular by another American singing legend, Frank Sinatra. While the last album was a tribute to Sinatra, the publicity for this current one doesn’t feature him at all. Instead, here Dylan is paying a tribute to songwriting. It seems almost obvious for Dylan – whose songs have a timeless appeal for their poetic brilliance – to tribute to writers of these other timeless classics.
Still, Dylan the wild-eyed rebel poet singing doozy romantic songs? He who sang of the ephemerality of love and told us “that it is not he or she or them or it that you belong to”?
But Dylan is nothing if not unpredictable. Explaining his choice of Sinatra, Dylan had said, “I myself never bought any Frank Sinatra records back then. But you’d hear him anyway – in a car or a jukebox. Certainly nobody worshipped Sinatra in the ’60s like they did in the ’40s. But he never went away – all those other things that we thought were here to stay, they did go away. But he never did.”