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The tunes they are a-changing

tempest Bob Dylan (Columbia)

After what seems like an eternity of schlepping around the dancehalls of the world, in and out of recording studios and through the history books, Dylan's got himself a regular band.

They play a convincing blend of rollicking roots blues, country and late-night lounge bar schmaltz.

After 50 years of making albums, having them on hand makes life easier for Bob. No more long taxing sessions with pick-up house musicians.

Now when Bob wakes with a doodle on his mind, before you can say "Muddy Waters" or "Ray Price", the boys roll it out and nail it.

Possibly a trick learned touring with the Grateful Dead. Jam it out. It'll come together.

Who's complaining? Not me. I'd happily live by the Bob conveyor belt and content myself with his broken biscuits.

Those commentators who insist Tempest ranks with Dylan's greatest albums could be right. It's first rate and has a powerful unifying thread of anger, vengeance and remorse.

It could be that casual listeners might let these ten songs slide by without remark.

But, cock an ear, and they'll become beguiled by the mesmeric storytelling of this myriad-minded minstrel boy. This pied piper of our consumer apocalypse. Cunning wordsmith Dylan mashes up styles, stitching bitter prophecy to mysterious folktales and recasting pop references as philosophical tenets while echoing both the early evangelists and Bo Diddley.


You wouldn't want to meet the vengeful character who sings, "I pay in blood, but not my own." As with the rest of Tempest, it paints a scary picture. One we all can relate to. And dread.

Early Roman Kings, a surreal urban blues, is an adaptable metaphor. Think the Irish economic collapse when he sings, "They're peddlers and they're meddlers. They buy and they sell. They destroyed your city. They'll destroy you as well."

Much comment has been passed on the title track, a lengthy naive ballad re-telling of the Titanic's sinking. Dylan's inescapable truth is that we're all on board. We're all going down.

Dylan is 71. Don't underestimate him.