I Can’t Deny It


Everyone else seems to love it.

On Friday, in the Guardian, I read a glowing review of Bob’s new album (Shadows in the Night) . The young man gave it five stars which makes me wonder what he would give to Highway 61, Bringing It All back Home and his other classic albums

Yesterday I read two more complimentary reviews in the Observer and the Sunday Times and then more positive stuff online. So here I am at 7.53 am, listening to it, having bought it (download). There are 10 tracks and number seven has just finished. The example I stuck on the Blog ain’t one of the finest for sure and some of it is OK. Bob’s band, heavily featuring pedal steel, is as fine as ever but I still don’t get it. His voice is smoother than sometimes recently and as JR quoted him, he generally hits the notes but you could make a machine to do that. Oddly, for him, what it lacks is the sense of pathos or melancholy that you get from some of the finest performances of these wonderful songs. “Lucky Old Sun” is an interesting example – compare it to Ray Charles.

Perhaps I’m underwhelmed by it because I listen to many of these songs regularly by early Sinatra, Billie Holiday and the other great songbook guys from way back – most especially Sarah Vaughan. So I never felt the need to listen to Robbie Williams or Rod Stewart and now I don’t feel the need to listen to this again (I’m writing slowly here to make sure I hear the lot – I’ve got there).

I still think Bob Dylan is the single greatest artist of popular music over the past 50 years – but this doesn’t add anything for me.


Author: pompeypop

University lecturer, longtime local musician and recently historian of popular music - especially in and around Portsmouth. My blog is entirely about that topic

8 thoughts on “I Can’t Deny It

  1. Dave, I tend to agree with you. I’m waiting ’til tomorrow to pick up the vinyl (+cd) from Pie and Vinyl. I’ve listened to tracks on YouTube , Amazon etc. and am totally underwhelmed ! Compared to the early Dylan lps (Freewheeling, Another Side Of ((in my opinion the very best of his work)) ), and then the Daniel Llanois produced work, (Time Out Of Mind is a ‘classic’ lp) , the Dylan philosophy of making a statement seems missing. Hopefully when I’ve heard the whole album I might change my mind !

  2. Dylan isn’t a singer, nor is he a songwriter, or even a poet. He is ALL of these things, which can cause confusion. Read the lyrics of some of his songs without any music at all, and they have an amazing depth and beauty. That’s why his voice never mattered in the early years. “Blowing in the wind” has been sung by many others, usually with a vocal performance superior to Dylans – but his rendition is the best (for me) because of his words and interpretation. Always, always it was the (often haunting) poetry of Dylans earlier work, the rhythms and the melodies that made the voice almost irrelevant. Best not to judge this amazing man simply as a singer. Particularly not when he is singing other peoples words/material. He has written some of the most beautiful poetry and turned it some of the loveliest and most meaningful songs of the past 100 or so years. It’s enough.

    • Well I’m only commenting on this particular album. I have over 30 Dylan CDs, still around 10 vinyl albums and over 300 tracks on my Itunes library so I sure as hell love the guy. Generally I love the perfect integration of lyrics, style and performance, even when he’s covering other people’s old blues/roots stuff, and I think that on the whole, he sings his stuff better than anyone else. But I’m judging him as a singer pure and simple on this album because – like Christmas in the Heart – that’s pretty well all he is here. I guess he chose the songs and helped arrange them but they’re not his songs, lyrics or melodies so he is just the singer. As such, I don’t think it’s very good. Not awful, just not very good.

  3. I have listened and loved Bob Dylan’s music for most of my teenage and adult life. However Dave I reckon that he has made some below par albums and “Shadows in the Night is one of them. That Xmas album didn’t do much for me either. The story of the “Kings New Clothes” comes to mind. In my opinion pop stars just can’t cut it with jazz standards. The two you mentioned plus Annie Lennox and Lady Gaga come to mind.They just ain’t got what it takes. Just as an aside I was in HMV Southampton on Saturday and saw that they have a large section on 60s soul music. Must be becoming popular again.

    • Too true Malc regarding pop singers and jazz standards-the Annie Lennox album is truly dreadful,although Lady Gaga in her live show with Tony Bennett certainly has the right feel and attitude.Mind you I think she was TB’s second choice after the death of Amy Winehouse who most certainly could sing Jazz

  4. Dave – Fair enough! When he sings other peoples material, all you can judge him on is his singing. You know this “guilty Pleasures” thing? My guilty pleasure is Bryan Ferry’s “Dylanesque”. Mea culpa!
    An homage no less.

  5. I’m with you guys here – Ferry’s pretty good at many of those standards and other things and Winehouse was out of this world. A great talent.

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