Bob Dylan’s latest album “Tempest” may not be Shakespeare, but it’s still a work of art.
Dylan’s 35th studio album, released Sept. 11, poetically cements what listeners knew all along: Dylan’s ability to tell a story. His raspy, grizzled voice – though by no means not melodious – complements the album nicely and leaves listeners with an eerie sense that they’re crowded around a campfire, sharing old stories.
Lyrically, it’s one of Dylan’s darkest albums. In just 10 songs, Dylan sings about a murder-suicide, John Lennon’s assassination and the sinking of the Titanic.
“Listen to that Duquesne whistle blowing/ Blowing like it’s gonna kill me dead,” he sings.
The album opens with the jaunty “Duquesne Whistle.” Its upbeat rhythm juxtaposes with Dylan’s gloomy lyrics, leaving listeners oddly satisfied and excited for the rest of the album.
With each track Dylan’s voice gets raspier and the songs get darker. Songs like “Pay In Blood” where Dylan declares “I paid in blood/ But not my own,” are sure to become iconic Dylan songs, joining the likes of “Tangled Up In Blue” and “Ballad of a Thin Man.”
Dylan, known for criticizing the elite, stays true to that reputation in “Early Roman Kings.”
“They’re peddlers and they’re meddlers/They buy and they sell/They destroyed your city/They’ll destroy you as well,” Dylan croons.
Although the whole album is outstanding, the two best songs, “Tempest” and “Roll on, John,” are Dylan’s darkest. With 43 verses and no chorus, “Tempest” is more of a story than a song. His 14-minute epic about the sinking of Titanic captures listeners’ attention in a way only Dylan can.
In “Roll on, John”, Dylan’s haunting lyrics describe the shooting of John Lennon, his close friend. With its incorporation of Beatles lyrics, the song is beautiful, poignant and sure to be an instant classic.
With a quality album like “Tempest,” the only tragedy more sad than Dylan’s lyrics is missing out on this masterpiece.