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Bob Dylan’s ‘Tempest’ blows away expectations

Posted on September 11, 2012 | by Alison Wallach

Today’s musicians should take note of the complicated combination of styles Bob Dylan uses to craft his newest album, “Tempest.” With elements of jazz, blues, country, folk and rock blending seamlessly with Dylan’s persistent lyrical genius, “Tempest” proves to be yet another jewel in his collection of 35 studio albums.

“Tempest” paints a disturbing picture with such tumultuous themes as violence, death, hardship and hard-won romance — messages that reach a crescendo of intensity as Dylan’s raspy voice pairs with haunting instrumentals.

Beginning with bluesy,
old-fashioned rock in “Duquesne Whistle,” Dylan invites the listener in with upbeat instrumentals. When he takes a sentimental look at lost love in the slow-tempo “Soon After Midnight” and “Long and Wasted Years,” the indignant attitude harkens back to the 1965 classic “Highway 61 Revisited,” emphasizing Dylan’s relentless vitality.

The album’s title track creates an eerie evocation of the sinking of the Titanic, as the use of an accordion and fiddle make for an unusually lively song about death and destruction sung in the form of an Irish drinking tune. Although the song lacks a chorus, Dylan captures the listener’s attention for all 13 minutes and 54 seconds in a testament to his exquisite storytelling ability.

Closing with a tribute to John Lennon titled, “Roll on John,” “Tempest” wraps up its chaotic tale with a reflective, sentimental piece that speaks to the reverence Dylan still holds for Lennon. While Lennon “burn[s] so bright,” and his music still does to this day, the hole that Lennon’s loss has created in the music world is conveyed by Dylan’s strained, tearful tribute.

A rumor circulated for a time that “Tempest” would be Dylan’s last album, just as “The Tempest” is recognized as Shakespeare’s final play. Dylan, however, dispelled these rumors — much to the relief of his fans. For Bob Dylan fans and anyone who appreciates meaningful music at a time when vapid pop songs dominate, “Tempest’s” power will roll through you and leave an indelible mark.

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Sept. 11 print edition. Alison Wallach is a contributing writer. Email her at 


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Felipe De La Hoz

Multimedia Editor | Felipe De La Hoz is a Colombian national studying journalism at the College of Arts and Sciences. Having been born in Colombia and raised in the United States, Mexico and Brazil, Felipe is a trilingual travel aficionado and enjoys working in varied and difficult environments. Apart from his photography, Felipe enjoys investigative reporting and interviews, interviewing the likes of Colombian ex-M-19 guerrilla fighters and controversial politician Jimmy McMillan. He has covered everything from governmental conferences to full-blown riots, as well as portraiture shoots and dining photography. Having worked under Brazilian photojournalists for Reuters and AFP, Felipe hopes to one day work on demanding journalistic projects and contribute to the global news cycle.

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News Editor | Ann is a liberal studies sophomore who lived in Florence during her freshman year. She plans on double-majoring in journalism and political science and is always busy. She is constantly making lists and she loves to laugh.


Daniel Yeom

Daniel started at the Features desk of WSN last Spring, writing restaurant reviews whilst indulging on free food and consequently getting fat. Last Fall, he was the dining editor, and he this semester he is senior editor. Daniel is in Gallatin (living the dream) studying Food & Travel Narratives, incorporating aspects of Food Studies, Journalism, and Media, Culture, and Communication. He loves food more than life itself.

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Deputy Multimedia Editor | Hannah Luu is a ridiculously great Deputy Multimedia Editor. She is a sophomore from Northern California. If you think Northern California means San Francisco you might need to closely examine a map. She is passionate about NPR and being half Asian.

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