BOB DYLAN-SHADOWS IN THE NIGHT.
BOB DYLAN-SHADOWS IN THE NIGHT.
There aren’t many recording artists whose career spans fifty-three years. Bob Dylan’s has. There’s a reason for this. Constantly, Bob Dylan has sought to reinvent himself. Having began life as a folk singer, he’s released albums of country, gospel, blues, rock ’n’ roll and rockabilly to jazz and even the Great American Songbook. Bob Dylan it seems, is the original musical chameleon.
That’s why Bob Dylan has enjoyed a career that’s spanned fifty-three years and thirty-eight albums. These thirty-eight albums have sold over a 100 million copies. Then there’s Grammy Awards, Golden Globes, Academy Awards and being inducted into the Rock ’N’ Roll Hall Of Fame. Bob Dylan, it seemed, has done everything. Not quite. There was one thing Bob Dylan had still to do…croon.
That however, seemed unlikely. Not many people saw Bob Dylan as a crooner. However, he did. For his thirty-sixth album, Bob Dylan inspired by the music of Frank Sinatra crooned his way through ten of his favourite jazz and pop standards. This became Shadows In The Night, Bob Dylan’s thirty-sixth album, which was recently released on Columbia. Shadows In The Night however, has divided opinion.
It’s safe to say that ever since the release of Shadows In The Night, it’s an album that’s divided the opinion of even the most loyal Bob Dylan fan. They seem to either love or loath Shadows In The Night. There appears, is no middle ground. Essentially, Shadows In The Night is a Marmite album, which Bob Dylan recorded back in 2014.
For Shadows In The Night, Bob Dylan chose ten tracks made famous by Frank Sinatra. This included I’m A Full To Want You, The Night We Called It A Day, Stay with Me, Autumn Leaves and Why Try to Change Me Now. The other tracks were Some Enchanted Evening, Full Moon and Empty Arms, Where Are You, What’ll Do and Lucky Old Sun. These ten standards were recorded at Capitol Studios, Los Angeles.
At Capitol Studios, Los Angeles, where Frank Sinatra recorded many of classic recordings, work began on Shadows In The Night. Producer Jack Frost and Bob Dylan were joined by a rhythm section of bassist Tony Garnier and guitarists Charlie Sexton and Stu Kimbal. They were joined by percussionist George Receli and Donnie Herron on pedal steel guitar. The horn section featured trumpeter Larry G. Hall, trombonists Alan Kaplan, Andrew Martin and Francisco Torres. Dylan Hart and Joseph Meyer added French horn. Recording and mixing Shadows In The Night was Al Schmitt. Once Shadows In The Night was completed, it was scheduled for release in early February 2015.
Before the release of Shadows In The Night, critics had their say on the latest Bob Dylan album. Mostly, Shadows In The Night received critical acclaim. It seemed the latest reinvention of Bob Dylan had proved successful. The former folk singer, was now a crooner. This however, divided the opinion of fans.
Prior to the release of Shadows In The Night, 50,000 copies of the album were sent to selected readers of AARP The Magazine. Shadows In The Night was also made available for streaming before the release. This allowed opinions to be formed about Shadows In The Night. Opinions, it seemed were divided. Not everyone was won over by the “new” Bob Dylan. This didn’t seem to affect sales.
In Britain, Shadows In The Night reached number one. Over the Atlantic, Shadows In The Night reached number seven in the US Billboard 200 charts. Across the world, Shadows In The Night reached the top ten. From Australia to Austria, through Belgium, Finland, Germany, Holland, Ireland, Italy and New Zealand, through Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland, Shadows In The Night reached the top ten. However, not everyone was a satisfied customer.
Not everyone was happy with Shadows In The Night. Opinions were divided, to say the least. Some people loved Shadows In The Night, other loathed it. Some thought Bob Dylan suited the role of 21st Century crooner. Others weren’t convinced. It seemed there was no consensus. So, is Shadows In The Night the reinvention of Bob Dylan or his latest New Morning, which three months after its release, Bob Dylan apologised for?
Shadows In The Night opens with I’m A Fool To Want You. It was written by Frank Sinatra with Jack Wolf and Joel Herron. Bob’s rueful vocal is tinged with melancholy. Accompanying him is a understated, pared back arrangement. It has a lush sound. Amidst the arrangement, a lone guitar rings out, as Bob delivers a vocal full of regret.
Matt Dennis and Tom Adair penned The Night We Called It a Day, which became a favourite of Frank Sinatra. Fast forward a generation, and Bob Dylan is paying homage to the Chairman of The Board. Against a backdrop of muted horns, lush strings and a ponderous bass and chiming guitar, memories and hurt come flooding back, as Bob remembers The Night We Called It a Day.
Stay with Me was written by Jerome Moross and Carolyn Leigh. A guitar chimes and a pedal steel weeps. They set the scene for Bob’s weary, lived-in vocal. It’s charismatic and able to breath meaning and emotion into the poignant lyrics.
Joseph Kosma and Jacques Prévert joined with Johnny Mercer to pen Autumn Leaves. Little did they realise that Bob Dylan, one day would cover this track. With a weeping pedal steel, wistful strings and guitar for company, Bob delivers a wistful vocal bristling with emotion.
Cy Coleman and Joseph McCarthy’s Why Try to Change Me Now takes on new life in Bob Dylan’s hands. The arrangement is slow, understated and quickly, takes on a late night sound. This suits the lyrics. Bob’s been unlucky in love. With time on his hands, “I sit and daydream, I’ve got daydreams galore.” Hurt is omnipresent, on this heartachingly beautiful cover of an old standard.
When Bob Dylan released his eponymous debut album in 1962, who would’ve believed fifty-three years later, he’d be covering Roger and Hammerstein’s Some Enchanted Evening. That’s the case though. With an understated, moody arrangement for company, Bob delivers a croaky croon. It might be Some Enchanted Evening as you’ve never heard it, but it’s truly enchanting.
Full Moon and Empty Arms was written by Buddy Kaye, Ted Mossman, Sergei Rachmaninoff. Guitars shimmer, setting the scene for Bob’s husky vocal. It’s tinged with sadness and regret, as slowly and thoughtfully, Bob delivers the lyrics. Behind him, a crystalline guitar chimes. Meanwhile, seems to consider the lyrics, as he delivers them with emotion and feeling.
Where Are You was written by Harold Adamson, Jimmy McHugh. It seems almost tailor made for Bob Dylan. His vocal is tinged with melancholia, as a pedal steel weeps. It’s as if its empathising with Bob’s plight during this tale of love lost.
Irving Berlin was without doubt, one of the great American songwriters. What’ll I Do is one of many standards he wrote, that Frank Sinatra covered. Guitars chime gently, while drums are played with brushes. Later, the pedal steel sweeps in. They provide an atmospheric backdrop for Bob, as he delivers a vocal full of despair, doubt and heartbreak.
Closing Shadows In The Night is Haven Gillespie and Beasley Gillespie. That Lucky Old Sun. This is the perfect way to close Bob’s crooning debut, Shadows In The Night. The lyrics veer between wistful to uplifting, as Bob delivers them. He paints pictures with the lyrics, especially as he delivers the lyrics That Lucky Old Sun has nothing to do, but roll around heaven all day.”
Shadows In The Night, Bob Dylan’s crooning debut, has without doubt, divided the opinion of many people. However, that’s been the case since Bob Dylan plugged in 1966. With every change in direction, Bob Dylan has attracted the slings and arrows of music fans. So, why should Shadows In The Night be any different?
However, by constantly changing, Bob Dylan has enjoyed an unrivalled longevity. That’s why Bob Dylan’s recording career spans fifty-three years and thirty-six albums. There’s a reason for this. Constantly, Bob Dylan has sought to reinvent himself. Having began life as a folk singer, he’s released albums of country, gospel, blues, rock ’N’ roll and rockabilly to jazz and even the Great American Songbook. Bob Dylan it seems, is the original musical chameleon. Crooning, is just the latest reinvention of Bob Dylan.
It’s a role that Bob Dylan suits and should embrace. His lived-in, world-weary vocal breathes life, meaning and emotion into the ten tracks on Shadows In The Night. Bob Dylan sounds as he’s lived, loved and survived to tell the tale. Although he might not have the smooth voice of Frank Sinatra, he still has the ability to bring the songs to life. This means they speak to you. It’s as if Bob Dylan’s lived the songs. He’s not so much singing songs, but has lived them. That’s why Bob Dylan suits the role of crooner.
That’s why I hope there’s a followup to Shadows In The Night. There may well be. After all, Bob recorded twenty-three tracks. So, maybe, after the commercial success and critical acclaim of Shadows In The Night, the other thirteen tracks will be released. It would be a shame, given the quality of Shadows In The Night, where Bob Dylan embraces crooning, and does so, with aplomb, as successfully, Bob Dylan reinvents himself yet again.
Shadows In The Night, is the latest reinvention of Bob Dylan. There’s been many before. He’s never reinvented himself as a crooner. Mind you, it’s never been the time. It’s a role you grow into. Only now is the time for Bob Dylan to croon. With Bob Dylan’s lived-in, worldweary vocal and Shadows In The Night late-night, smokey sound, this captivating album, is far removed from New Morning.
BOB DYLAN-SHADOWS IN THE NIGHT.