Bob Dylan - Fallen Angels (Columbia, 2016)
With none of the arrangements on Fallen Angels being true to the originals, it would be easy to say that this was just Bob Dylan being Bob Dylan, and putting his personal mark on these songs ... though almost to the point where they are unrecognizable. I have to wonder what’s going on with this his second album of covers, and I have my thoughts, having seen and heard this concept done time and time again by other aging artists.
There are some muted jazz arrangements here that should stand with more strength and life, yet Dylan, a huge jazz fan, has chosen to nearly hide what he appreciates most. “That Old Black Magic” has been turned into a rockabilly shuffle, “It Had To Be You” barely holds together, as he seems to be nearly reading these songs rather than singing them. In all honesty, this album sounds like another dreamy look back at his own youth [in much the same manner as Sinatra did] trying to figure out where he fits in during this, the first half of the 21st century, or if it even matters that he does.
Call this gathering of songs whimsical if you will, but please, do not call them great or inspirational, as they come off rather lightweight, shadows of shadows, delivered by a man who may or may not be in the moment as these tracks were recorded. In a strange way though, the songs all do hang together, but mostly in a manner where Dylan is trying to prove that these vintage ballads are still valid, and thus, if they are, then so is Dylan.
Of course there are those who are gonna tell you that it’s all brilliant, but it’s not, and it’s a real shame that for all his greatness, Bob Dylan can’t take his time and present his vision of his later life, or the worlds he’s lived through, rather than stepping back into some long lost comfort zone where he no longer needs to gaze out of his window.
But ... you may find it all touching and romantic, so by all means celebrate with Mr. Dylan, for his times, they certainly have changed.
Review by Jenell Kesler/2016
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