Bob Dylan’s cover albums are starting to run together. With winery residencies populating his tour schedule (gigs which will presumably sell out), it’s a sensible route to take. His grand political statements, controversial instrumentation changes, and kooky Christmas albums are behind him, and he’s playing traveling bard to the audience that’s grown old with him. There’s no better way to go about that than with classic standards. So how does this batch compare with last year’s?
For one, his voice fits the work better here. Shadows in the Night felt like Dylan bit off more than he could chew with his overly-wavering vibrato. On Fallen Angels, his voice has more of an aged-cheese effect because he hits almost all his pitches. In that aforementioned winery feel, nearly the entire album’s percussion is performed through brushes on the snare — even the exceptions are incredibly light sticks or hands. The electric guitar strums jazz chords softly on the beat, there’s an upright bass. It’s essentially Dylan’s cocktail jazz combo, and they cover Frank Sinatra almost exclusively.
It could suit a local strawberry festival, serve as evening music for someone who has worked to the bone all day, or just be the background noise for the corporate-climbers party in an overstuffed, mid-skyscraper convention room (or whatever is the Silicon Valley equivalent of that these days). As such, the selections cover the usual romantic notions of growing old monogamously.
The specific variations include being a lover spurned by the end of an affair (“Skylark”, “Maybe You’ll Be There”), going into love ‘all-in’ (“All or Nothing at All”, “All the Way”), the beginnings of puppy-love courtship (“Polka Dots and Moonbeams”) and much more.
Still, the resonating theme for Dylan, beyond simple intimate desire, will always be staying “Young at Heart.” He achieves it through yearly albums and a tour that supposedly hasn’t stopped since 1988. If that’s what works for him, more power to him; the album’s opening track (penned by lyricist Carolyn Leigh) explains just how essential it is to maintain a youthful disposition at any age: