Tuesday, May 31, 2016


"And if you should survive to a hundred and five," croons Dylan, sounding every day that age. Yes, he's just 75, but he sounded 50 when he was 20, so the math adds up. Here we go with part two of his Sinatra phase, another album of Frank-inspired songbook numbers, following last year's Shadows in the Night. The difference here is the mostly leaner arrangements, the sweetening coming from pedal steel or viola. As usual, his crack band is subtle and tight, everybody locked into surprising groove they find for these classics.

The accepted word on croaky old Dylan is that it's his mastery of mood and phrasing, and I'm willing to buy into that. But I'll give you another reason as to why this is fun at least: It's charming. It's not the usual, Rod Stewart-Buble-Natalie Cole take on the standards. Instead, Dylan finds the roots in the music, the legitimacy of the songwriting. He's still a cranky guy, letting us know he thinks this is the real stuff, not that crap all the kids and reviewers are praising these days. And while he might struggle to make that key change in All The Way, by including it he's telling us this is how you arrange a real song,

He's a good curator of the songs, including many more obscure ones. Hearing him sing about Polka Dots and Moonbeams will induce a big smile. The more familiar numbers are sentimental favourites, such as Young At Heart, It Had To Be You and All Or Nothing At All. There are perhaps a few too many in that vein, and some of the best numbers have a little more movement to them, such as That Old Black Magic and Skylark, which liven things up a bit. But he's still committed to these songs, working hard on them, singing several on his recent tour of Japan, part of a big, 21-song show, much longer than he's done for several years. It's always good to see Dylan inspired by a project, and who knows, maybe he has some lyrics of his own ready for the next one.

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