Reviewed by A T Bradford
Bob Dylan told Rolling Stone that he wanted to make a record of "intentionally, specifically religious songs", only he "didn't have enough". But he did have some. . . 'Tempest' was honed over endless days on the road by Dylan's accomplished touring band, and there is a tight feel to the sound with a range of genre to choose from. "Duquesne Whistle" is a Western swing steam-train song, but with an unexpected passenger. "I can hear a sweet voice gently calling, must be the mother of Our Lord. . ." The ear is soothed in the love-song "Soon After Midnight", sweet-nothings crooned to a lover he has sung of before, while the driving beat of "Narrow Way" encompasses the Incarnation, the crucifixion and the resurrection with Scripture-inspired lyrics and a heady blues riff. Human regrets surface in "Long And Wasted Years", a spoken eulogy brimming with sorrow over the past, before Dylan's gnarled voice perfectly complements the grisly message of "Pay In Blood" - but whose blood? "Scarlet Town" maintains the sombre mood, a folk-tune with banjo and violin about a place "under the hill" where life's futility is played-out in strife. It's back to an up-tempo beat with "Early Roman Kings", an accordion-accompanied litany of wrong-doings and warnings, preceding the folk-ballad "Tin Angel". A lover's triangle of lust, revenge and murder; told by Dylan over 31 verses (no chorus) featuring a solid acoustic bass line. Ballads without choruses continue in the 14-minute long title track. Human life in all its grimness and glory is portrayed in 54 verses about the doomed Titanic. Accordion and fiddle accompany a waltz, Leo DiCaprio gets name-checked and the sinking liner's Captain reads from the Book of Revelation. 'Tempest' concludes with "Roll On John"; part lament, part tribute to murdered Beatle John Lennon. Compassionate, sad yet honest - Dylan's summation of a genius who "burned so bright" but who could have been so much more. 'Tempest' re-introduces us to the somewhat unconventional Jewish-Christian who is Bob Dylan.
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