Bob Dylan: Shadows in the Night | Album Review - a sonic masterclass in vulnerability and revelation

Fri, Jan 30, 2015, 17:17


Shadows in the Night

Bob Dylan


American Songbook

There is a telling, if poor quality, clip on of Bob Dylan serenading Frank Sinatra with Restless Farewell at his 80th birthday bash – Old Blue Eyes would have been 100 this December had he lived. There were other stellar tributes but it can be fairly surmised that Bobby Z was there because he wanted to be rather than had to be – Dylan is nothing if not his own man. And cussedly so as audiences have discovered over the years when he played fast and loose with their memories and expectations.

The Dylan who in recent years has deconstructed, often brutally, his own greatest hits in an attempt to restate his ownership of them is not the Dylan of Shadows in the Night. Here he is tender, respectful and mindful of what he has taken on – a Sinatra sample of the Great American Songbook. As he has said: “I don’t see myself as covering these songs in any way. They’ve been covered enough. Buried, as a matter of fact. What me and my band are basically doing is uncovering them. Lifting them out of the grave and bringing them into the light of day.”

In this new dispensation, his voice assumes yet another identity – that of a weathered, kindly, insightful navigator rediscovering wisdom in these familiar lines. Rarely has he sounded so vulnerable, so revealing. Those who complain that Dylan can’t sing are treated to a masterclass in timing, phrasing, nuance and interpretation. Even the cracks in his voice leave a poignant trail.


There are 10 tracks from the opening after-midnight ballad of I’m A Fool To Want You to the grizzled valedictory That Lucky Old Sun. Along the way he takes on classics such as Autumn Leaves and, believe it or not, Some Enchanted Evening, and manages to reinstate dignity and meaning to these hackneyed songs. The band are understated and empathic in that 1950s small combo style, the steel guitar heading the soft, muted arrangements. The result is the kind of surprise that leaves you with a smile on your face.