Tempest was the album by Dylan I first streamed on Spotify. It felt like a betrayal to physical medium. I had already moved to an iPod and spent the best part of a year ripping CD’s and downloading album after album to hard drives and flash drives. I had a connector for the iPod on my stereo in the green 4-Runner. Everything in our lives was becoming digital and less fun it seems on reflection.
I struggled with Tempest in 2012, it seemed almost like Neil Young in the 90’s Dylan could pee on a snare drum and the critics would fall in line to praise. I was looking for new sounds in my listening and in reality finding more of the same. I was also heading towards fifty and struggling with that so did I really want another album being frank about age, mortality and the world at large.
It also has possibly the worst album cover ever, some badly photoshopped picture of a statue, I know this was all supposed to be dreadfully symbolic and meaningful. To me though it looked like some bad art project one of my children may have done at school.
Eight years later the album doesn’t sound so bad. Yes the title track is the weakest because it is dealing with a real life event and not really that well. The voice is beat, phlegmy and raspy and evil sounding at times. David Hidalgo is there with the accordion to underpin the melody and keep time. The songs are mean and brooding and heading for the underworld of life, violence, decay and righteous anger at the state of the world. The music occupies the some territory as earlier albums, rootsy and based in every Americana style available.
This was to be Dylans last original work for a long time, he was about to dive into Sinatra world in the same way as 20 years earlier he had jumped headlong into the Blues and Folk music of previous decades. Dylan it seems needed to replenish the creative juices by wallowing in the music of his childhood/youth, who knows really. In twenty years he’ll probably dive into disco or hip hop to get his shit together
Really I am overthinking this now.