With the official release of Tempest by Bob Dylan coming in seven days, the full-length reviews are beginning to appear in the press. People appear to like it a lot. I can’t be sure, but I’m beginning to suspect that this might be the break-out album for Bob Dylan—the one that makes him a household name.
On the other hand, maybe not. If it flops, I guess he’ll have to just go back to writing songs for Adele and Tom Jones.
Joking aside, just as with the “preview” reviews, one can very quickly read too much of the “real” reviews, and so I’ve really only been glancing. Like most mortals, I’m looking forward to hearing the record(s) completely myself, and I suppose I’ll get round to writing something about it here afterwards.
The promotion for it has been quite something. From the “listening locations” where even now one can hear tracks streamed to one’s “device,” to the “pop-up stores” where one will be able to go on the evening before the release to buy it early … and all of this began with those “listening sessions” for select members of the intelligentsia, who were all blown away. In total it amounts to a perfect storm. Put another way, an ideal tempest.
It’s amazing to contemplate. If you’d told someone back in 1970 that forty-two years hence the release of a new Bob Dylan album would be such a huge occasion, they’d have thought you were smoking something rare and potent indeed. After Self Portrait? How much could the guy possibly have left in him? Even New Morning seemed no more than a half-way return-to-form to most people. No one could have conceived that in the year 2012 Bob Dylan would actually be one of the the surest bets in the world of popular music. Because as strange as it sounds, that’s what he is today. But the thing to celebrate is that he’s done it on his own terms. He’s being who he is. People just happen to like it.
I wasn’t listening to Bob Dylan in 1970, being about three-years-old. Shortly, I was to become very enamored of a red-vinyl 78 rpm of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” sung by Burl Ives (if I remember right). But Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid, even Planet Waves: I have to admit they passed me by.
I only became a Bob Dylan fan in the mid-1980s, around the time of Infidels. The first album I awaited with excitement on its release date was Empire Burlesque in 1985. The conventional wisdom then was that Bob Dylan was to be mocked. He was burnt-out and washed-up: a mumbling crank as everyone could see in his performance at Live-Aid that year. But I didn’t see it that way. I saw someone hanging on to a kind of faithfulness, being true to things that the wider, noiser world had no patience to wait upon.
There are those who stay true to such things and die in obscurity. It has not been so for Bob Dylan. The world kinda caught up. Or perhaps it’s more accurate to say that the world became intrigued once again.
Any way that you cut it, it’s a blessing for Bob Dylan, and I do believe it’s a blessing for all those who happen to be listening.