— -- intro: This week Bob Dylan releases an unusual tribute to Frank Sinatra, Diana Krall puts her jazzy spin on some pop classics, Butch Walker shifts gears into soft, singer-songwriter fare, long-running Australian band the Church release their latest, garage-rock/punk revivalist Ty Segall delivers a blistering live album and Guided By Voices leader Robert Pollard unveils his new band Ricked Wicky. If you are in a mellow mood or like to rock out there is plenty for you to enjoy in this week’s batch of releases.
quicklist: 1title: Bob Dylan’s “Shadows In The Night” ***1/2text: The idea of Bob Dylan doing a Sinatra tribute actually sounds cartoonishly bad on paper. The results, however, don’t disappoint. This album isn’t earth-shaking or a Dylan classic, but it does provide a more enjoyable listen than his last record, “Tempest.”
The sticking point that has always caused issues is Dylan’s voice. Considering Frank Sinatra was known for his pitch-perfect delivery, one imagines this album would find Dylan croaking his way through these standards. This isn’t the case. It sounds like he actually made sure he was in the best vocal shape he could be for this record, adopting a tone similar to the one he used on classics like “Lay Lady Lay” and “Knocking On Heaven’s Door.” His vocal tone sounds infinitely better than it did on the main single from “Tempest,” “Duquesne Whistle,” where he seemed lost in his own rasp. Throughout “Shadows In The Night,” he’s able to maneuver some of the most challenging melodies he has approached in years.
If you are looking for Dylan’s version of “I’ve Got The World On A String” or “Come Fly With Me,” you won’t find it. He makes sure to attack songs from Sinatra’s catalog that maintain a darker tone. Considering this record is coated in gothic darkness, Dylan is able to give some of these songs new context. The idea of Dylan singing “Some Enchanted Evening,” seems at first comical, but after one listen, it totally makes sense.
Would Frank Sinatra dig this record? It is hard to tell. Dylan’s readings are often vastly different from Frank’s. While this isn’t a bizarre kitsch-fest like his 2009 holiday offering “Christmas In The Heart,” it’s still quite a strange offering. But it has enough of that dark energy that fueled “Love Sick,” from “Time Out Of Mind” to carry it beyond novelty status. If this kind of retro-revisionism catches on, I can’t wait to hear Tom Waits deliver a collection of songs made famous by Perry Como.
“Autumn Leaves” Rarely has this song about the Fall season and approaching Winter sounded quite so sad and downtrodden. Dylan’s reading sounds like something recorded in the back room of a saloon at 2 AM.
“What’ll I Do” Again Dylan gravitates towards the darker, slower bluesier numbers from Sinatra’s catalog and this particularly sad reading is punctuated by some gentle country touches. This sounds like last call where the audience is three-sheets-to-the-wind.
“The Night We Called It A Day” Somehow Dylan’s reading of this really drives home the semi-paradoxical pun in the title, while a horn section quietly plays, adding depth to the track’s arrangement.