I apologize for the delay, everyone. Due to circumstances beyond my control, I was unable to post anything for the past three weeks, but now I’m back with that Bob Dylan review I promised. And just in time for Dylan’s birthday, too!
Mr. Dylan’s career spans nearly fifty years, and if his latest release, Together Through Life, is any indication, he’s far from becoming a has-been. Though perhaps not quite as good as 1997’s Time Out of Mind or 2001’s “Love and Theft”, his latest album exceeds 2006’s Modern Times, if only slightly, and that album was by no means a subpar effort. The album starts off with the Latin-flavored “Beyond Here Lies Nothing”, followed by “Life is Hard”, which, in spite of its title, has an extremely laid-back sound reminiscent of “When the Deal Goes Down” and “Beyond the Horizon” from Modern Times. The third track, “My Wife’s Hometown”, tells of a wife from Hell — literally — and closes with some sinister cackles from Dylan. “If You Ever Go to Houston” is pretty, and told from the point of view of someone who lived a century or two ago, or at least that’s what I’m assuming from its reference to the Mexican War. “Forgetful Heart” is, alas, the most forgettable track on the album, though still enjoyable. “Jolene” is one of the standout tracks and, contrary to what I initially assumed, has nothing to do with the Dolly Parton classic of the same name. One of the things that makes “Jolene” so great is a catchy, upbeat guitar riff delivered by none other than Mike Campbell (of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers), who provides the entire album with his excellent guitar playing, as well as lovely Mediterranean-inspired mandolin work on “This Dream of You”. “Shake Shake Mama” is a raunchy blues number that will likely get you out of your seat and dancing. “I Feel a Change Coming On”, is, quite possibly, the best song Dylan has released in over a decade, and sounds like it would have fit perfectly on one of Dylan’s late-sixties or early-seventies albums, like Nashville Skyline, New Morning, or possibly even Planet Waves. Likewise, the final track, “It’s All Good”, a harsh satire on blind optimism, sounds almost like it could be an outtake from 1988’s Oh Mercy.
My only complaint with Together Through Life is this: this is a ten-track album, with none of the tracks being exorbitantly long (which is actually pretty unusual for Bob Dylan, who has released at least four songs that exceed eleven minutes), so I cannot fathom why the vinyl version of the album is a double disc set, with only two or three songs on each side. They could have easily fit all ten tracks on one disc, but noooooo, they had to go and waste plastic like that in these trying times, and make me get off my butt twice as many times to flip the record over. But since that’s my biggest complaint regarding Together Through Life, I’ll let these mild annoyances slide and just enjoy the album.
Together Through Life was released last month and is Bob Dylan’s 33rd studio album.