Legend takes on legend

Bob Dylan returns with a surprising collection of Sinatra covers.



Tyler Davis, Writer

Critics and fans have had a difficult time understanding Bob Dylan ever since he famously went electric in 1965. In that time, he was seen as a traitor to the self-righteous purity of the folk movement. He aligned himself with the commercial-centric world of rock and roll a-la The Rolling Stones, yet the journalists who interviewed him met with nothing but fierce resistance. He refused to be their proverbial dancing monkey. His career after the 60’s was generally inconsistent, complete with an ill-advised trek into gospel territory. If we learned one thing about Dylan, it is that he will always defy any and all expectations.

This all brings us to Dylan’s new record, “Shadows In The Night,” a collection of covers of old Sinatra standards. You heard that right, the gravelly-voiced, ex-chain-smoking 73 year old is taking on The Sultan of Swoon. And the result, as you might expect, is surprising.

First of all, Dylan’s voice has majorly improved over the past couple of years. His utterly shredded vocals tainted his last release, "Tempest," and made the album nearly unlistenable. Somehow though, Dylan’s voice has smoothed out. The rasp is still present, but it is much more palatable.

In many ways, Dylan and Sinatra could not be more opposite. The former has always represented the everyman, the voice of the people, while the latter has always clearly stood on a higher echelon. The uniqueness and charm of this album lies here. While Sinatra sings a track with confidence and strength, Dylan turns it into a country-folk ballad sung by a world-weary traveler. This juxtaposition makes these reinterpretations special.

The opening track “I’m A Fool To Want You” perfectly encapsulates the spirit of the album. These are American hymns sung by an old man reflecting on being young. This album does become a bit monotonous as the songs melt together and you might find yourself asking “Is this a new song?” This record may very well put you to sleep, but it will be the best sleep you have had all year.

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