The upbeat “Duquesne Whistle” opens Bob Dylan’s 35th studio album. “Soon After Midnight” requires less from Bob vocally (thank God). It’s a sweet waltzy tune featuring Donnie Herron’s pedal steel and a subtle lyric that is certainly deeper than the jaunty music lets on. Things get kind of Rolling Stones country/rockin’ on “Narrow Way.” I really like George C. Receli’s drums here and the lyrics, “If I can’t work up to you you’ll surely have to work down to me someday,” which are bound to make one smile.
“Long and Wasted Years” is next. This is the kind of tune of which Dylan is a master. With a better technical (or even pleasant) singer, this would just be a terribly sad song, but with Dylan’s almost talking- singing it is as biting as it is poignant…and it’s a pretty darn great!
We get Herron’s pretty steel again and some really well-written music on “Pay in Blood,” but I’m afraid Dylan’s scratchy throat is just too distracting here. Herron’s banjo works wonders (as does Bob’s piano) on “Scarlet Town.” “Tin Angel” is perfect Dylan with all dangerous coiling happenings and simple backing with, an especially good Tony Garnier fretless bass. The title track, with its 45 verses and no chorus, is a little long, but the Irish melody under a lyric about the horrors of the Titanic’s wreck is uniquely Dylan. “Roll on John,” one of the best here and maybe one of the best tributes to John Lennon overall, ends Tempest.