Bob Dylan is known for surprising his fans with his albums. If he is boxed into one genre of music, he will release another track with an entirely different sound. With his rough and gravely voice, it would seem unfitting for him to produce a Christmas album, but that did not stop Dylan. There is no doubt Bob Dylan has been influential in rock culture, having been prominent in producing music for over five decades and is established in song-writing.
On May 20, Dylan released Fallen Angels, his 37th studio album, which is a continuation of last year’s album release Shadows in the Night. The album features songs written by classic songwriters such as Harold Arlen (“Over The Rainbow”) and Johnny Mercer and Sammy Cahn who wrote for Broadway. Frank Sinatra recorded eleven of the featured songs and the album was released just a few days before Dylan’s 75th birthday.
“Melancholy Mood” has a blues-y feel to it, which is beautifully complimented by the scratchy sound of Dylan’s vocals. The feeling in the song cannot be missed, “Tears are all I have to show… All I see is grief and gloom”, as Dylan reflects on his depressive state and the general misery surrounding him.
The echo of the guitar riffs paints the picture of Dylan standing in the moonlight, swaying with his guitar or on stage at a dive bar with unkempt male customers looking on whilst sipping scotch whiskey. This track was released as a single, which speaks of Dylan’s personal appreciation of the track that he believes it can stand alone and he is right. It is sure to appear in movie soundtracks and as the backing music for Strictly Come Dancing.
Sampling already established songs is always a dangerous move, as the original recordings or writings have been imagined a certain way, and if done incorrectly, it can destroy the meaning and understanding of the tracks. Dylan manages to capture the intended emotion, especially with the song, “All Or Nothing At All”.
The album as a whole has a melancholic element, as if there is overwhelming sadness that needs to be expressed and vocalized and this is true of the Sinatra reimagining. It is a plea to a woman; he wants all of her love or none of it, “Half a love never appealed to me” and there is a real sense of desperation when Dylan sings that this is his last chance to seal his love. “Don’t you smile or I’ll be lost beyond recall” reveals the passion and Dylan yet again accomplishes the understanding between audience and artist with his raspy vocals.
The opening to “Come Rain Or Come Shine” is enough to give shivers and chills. Melody wise, this track is a little bit more contemporary as there is an electric bass line that is almost orchestral, yet it is still slow and fractured in keeping with the rest of the album.
There is common theme thread running through Fallen Angels, the songs are full of angst about love, and “Come Rain Or Come Shine” develops a message that there is no doubt of Dylan’s love and it will not die not matter what the circumstances, just like Dylan’s musical abilities.
Many talented artists, such as Ray Charles and Billie Holiday, have remade this song and there is no doubt that Bob Dylan’s uncovering has made into the musical hall of greats. The vocals are powerful, with Dylan’s vibrato seemingly wooing and hypnotising the subject of his desires but there is no forgetting Dylan’s uncanny rusty tones.
All of the included tracks are typically and untypically Dylan, his spirit and soul are undoubtedly present but there are still Sinatra vibes that seep through. Bob Dylan has yet again produced a successful album, his talents are still admired after fifty years of creating music and there is no question that this album is going to be remembered just as his many other works. A true musician, Bob Dylan is bound to continue making music for as long as he can.
Bob Dylan’s Fallen Angels is out now, purchase it on iTunes here.
Words by Libby Beacham