[lit-ideas] Re: Implicatural Analysis of Dylan's "Tempest"

  • From: Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sat, 30 Nov 2013 22:02:56 -0500 (EST)

In a message dated 11/30/2013 5:19:24 P.M.  Eastern Standard Time, 
donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx writes:
Thanks for quoting  from the song. I meant the album.  

Well, actually, I noted there is a Wikipedia entry for the album, not the  
The review -- of the album -- below -- I found of interest.
The tracks for "Tempest" being:
1. "Duquesne Whistle" (Dylan, Robert Hunter)  
2. "Soon after  Midnight"   
3. "Narrow Way"    
4. "Long and  Wasted Years"   
5. "Pay in Blood"    
6.  "Scarlet Town"    
7. "Early Roman Kings"   
8. "Tin Angel"    
9. "Tempest"    
10.  "Roll on John"   
--- Excerpted from Wikipedia:

Dylan's "Tempest" album was very well received by contemporary music  
At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from 
 mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 83, which 
indicates  "universal acclaim", based on 31 reviews.
In his review in Rolling Stone magazine, Will Hermes gave the album five  
out of five stars, calling it "musically varied and full of curveballs" and 
"the  single darkest record in Dylan's catalog."
According to Hermes, the album draws upon elements common throughout  
Dylan's career—especially the last three albums—with music that is "built from  
traditional forms and drawing on eternal themes: love, struggle, death."
Hermes continues:
"Lyrically, Dylan is at the top of his game, joking around, dropping  
wordplay and allegories that evade pat readings and quoting other folks' words  
like a freestyle rapper on fire. "Narrow Way" is one of Dylan's most potent  
rockers in years, and it borrows a chorus from the Mississippi Sheiks' 1934  
blues "You'll Work Down to Me Someday". "
------- KEYWORD: Mississippi Sheiks
----"Scarlet Town" draws on verses by 19th-century Quaker poet and  
abolitionist John Greenleaf Whittier; and allusions to Louis Armstrong and the  
Isley Brothers pop up elsewhere.
The title track, about the sinking of the RMS Titanic, is a 14-minute epic  
consisting of 45 verses and no chorus, with an Irish melody supported by  
accordion and fiddle. 
The song depicts a series of horrifying scenes—of passengers falling into  
the icy waters, dead bodies "already floating", men turning against other 
men in  murderous acts—presented against acts of bravery, such as one man 
"offering his  lifeboat seat to a crippled child." 
The closing track, according to Hermes, is a "prayer from one great artist  
to another", and stands as a reminder that "Dylan now stands virtually 
alone  among his 1960s peers. His own final act, meanwhile, rolls on. It's a 
thing to  behold."
In his review for American Songwriter, Jim Beviglia gave the album four and 
 a half out of five stars, calling it "the kind of meaty offering that his 
most  ardent fans desire most."
he deceptively gentle instrumental passage at the start of "Duquesne  
Whistle", Beviglia observes, is a perfect opening to an album of "sudden  
juxtapositions and mood shifts that occur not just within songs but sometimes  
within verses."
Through the easy tempo of "Soon After Midnight", the grinding blues of  
"Narrow Way", the soulful guitar lines of "Long and Wasted Years", and the  
remorseless biting lyrics of "Pay In Blood", Dylan captures "humanity, in all 
of  its flawed glory, at every turn."
The musical antecedents of some of these songs are transparent: "Duquesne  
Whistle" from "Thunder on the Mountain", "Scarlet Town" from "Ain't 
Talkin'",  "Tin Angel" from "Man in the Long Black Coat" and "Black Jack 
"Early  Roman Kings" from the blues classic "Mannish Boy", and "Pay In Blood" 
from  "Idiot Wind" or "Like a Rolling Stone".
Dylan's singing is strong on the album, especially on songs like "Long and  
Wasted Years", where he toys with the phrasing of each line, teasing out 
"every  bit of hurt in this tale of love gone wrong." "His voice may be 
shredded,"  Breviglia observes, "but he can still interpret a song like no 
Beviglia notes that the ambitious three-song run concluding the album  
"should silence any doubts, if they exist, that Dylan is still at the top of 
"Tin Angel" tells a story of a lovers' triangle that turns into a  
"Shakespearean body pile, providing plenty of fodder for Dylanologists looking  
symbols and hidden meanings." The title track, according to Breviglia, may  
be a metaphor for how mankind is "headed unknowingly toward an unfortunate 
fate"  with Dylan examining how people react—"some nobly, some horribly, when 
put to  the ultimate test." The closing track, "Roll On John", veers 
between  biographical elements and Lennon song lyrics, presenting what Beviglia 
calls the  "oft-overlooked soft side of Dylan" that is truly touching.
Beviglia concludes:

Unlike the Titanic watchman fast asleep at his post, Bob Dylan's eyes  are 
as wide open as ever, even when he's looking back. On this album, he depicts 
 all he sees with his typical insight, dexterity, and honesty, yet he still 
has  ways of doing so that upend all expectations. Tempest is fantastic, 
but being  impressed by Dylan is old hat. That he still finds ways to surprise 
us is an  achievement beyond all comprehension.
In his review in the Los Angeles Times, Randall Roberts wrote, "Few  
American writers, save Mark Twain, have spoken so eloquently and consistently 
such a steady, honest clip, and the evidence continues on Tempest."
According to Randall, the album reveals a "master storyteller" at work as  
Dylan "continues to explore the various strands of early American roots 
music  that he internalized as he matured."

At their best, new songs such as "Scarlet Town," "Tin Angel" and "Roll  On, 
John" show an artist swirling in musical repetition and the joy of  
longevity. Each is longer than seven minutes and each deserves to be heard 
the moment it ends. He mixes these longer narratives with a few four-minute,  
expertly crafted gems that float like whittled wooden birds come to  life—
especially "Long and Wasted Years," a bitter song about a dead  marriage.
Randall is less enthusiastic about the longer pieces "Narrow Way" and the  
title track, noting that "even a master craftsman sometimes needs an  
Randall concludes, "Dylan lives in every molecule of our being, has taught  
us about lyrical possibility, has reveled in the joy of words and the power 
and  glory of making things up from scratch."
In his review in The Guardian, Alexis Petridis gave the album four out of  
five stars, but downplayed some of the superlatives offered by other 
reviewers  who have compared Tempest to some of Dylan's finest work.[17] In his 
consumer  guide for MSN Music, Robert Christgau gave the album a "B+", offering 
a similar  complaint about the "autohype machine" and how some of the 
reviews were overly  positive.[15] Christgau was also unimpressed with the 
track, as well as  the two closing numbers, which "aim higher with 
dubious-to-disgraceful  results."[15] In his review in The Sun, Simon Cosyns 
gave the 
album five out of  five stars, calling it "a magnificent beast of an album".
According to Cosyns, the album "continues Dylan's rich vein of late-career  
form" and in some ways surpasses his recent albums based on "sheer lyrical 
and  vocal power while managing to stretch the familiar old timey sonic 
palette in  all sorts of unexpected ways."
In his review in The Daily Telegraph, Neil McCormick called the album  
"among his best ever".[27] According to McCormick, the songs on Tempest reveal 
 Dylan "genuinely fired up by the possibilities of language" and that the 
entire  album "resounds with snappy jokes and dark ruminations, vivid 
sketches and  philosophical asides."
McCormick continued:

Tempest is certainly his strongest and most distinctive album in a  decade. 
The sound is a distillation of the jump blues, railroad boogie, archaic  
country and lush folk that Dylan has been honing since 2001's Love and Theft,  
played with swagger and character by his live ensemble and snappily 
produced by  the man himself. A notoriously impatient recording artist, Dylan 
to have  found a style that suits his working methods. Drawing on the early 
20th-century  Americana that first grabbed his attention as a young man 
(and that he  celebrated in his Theme Time Radio Hour shows) and surrounding 
himself with  slick, intuitive musicians capable of charging these nostalgic 
grooves with  contemporary energy, his late-period albums seem a continuation 
of his tours, as  if he rolls right off the stage and into the studio and 
just keeps  rocking.
In his review for the Chicago Tribune, Greg Kot gave the album three and a  
half out of four stars, calling it "an inspired mix of blood and 
bawdiness."[14]  Kot called Dylan a "masterful storyteller, by turns murderous, 
mischievous and  tender, sometimes all at once."[14] In his review on Uncut, 
Jones gave the  album ten out of ten stars, calling it "the most 
far-reaching, provocative and  transfixing album of Dylan’s later career. 
about it suggests a swansong,  adios or fond adieu."[28] In his review in the 
The Gazette, Bernard Perusse gave  the album five out of five stars, noting 
that it "ranks among Dylan's darker  works, largely because it has the highest 
death toll."[29] In his review in the  Tampa Bay Times, Sean Daly gave the 
album an "A" rating, calling it  "breathtaking but bleak" and a "mesmerizing 
In her review for USA Today, Edna Gundersen gave the album four out of four 
 stars, calling it "brilliant". According to Gundersen, Dylan's "peerless 
powers  as a wordplay wizard and consummate storyteller" have not diminished 
with age,  and that Tempest continues in the vein of his recent albums, 
"steeped in  tradition and bent toward blues."[31] Dylan's voice is ideal for 
these songs,  Gundersen noted, whether he's describing a triple murder-suicide 
in "Tin Angel"  or vilifying modern robber barons in "Early Roman 
Kings".[31] Beneath the humor  and mayhem Dylan layers "sexual and political 
metaphors and bigger truths about  human nature, twisted morals, fate and 
Anne Margaret Daniel, writing in Hot Press, described Tempest as  
"Breathtaking, mythmaking, heartbreaking, the songs and ballads of Bob Dylan's  
Tempest are composed of intricately patterned rhyme and sound. No other  
songwriter can marry words and music as richly as Dylan can, and the 
tracks of this record come straight to us from a bard's ear and a poet's  pen."
Rolling Stone named it the number 4 album of 2012.
They also named the song Pay in Blood the 9th best song of 2012.
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