Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Bob Dylan 61: Fallen Angels

Having had something of a success with Shadows In The Night, Bob did something he’s rarely done: put out a sequel. By all accounts Fallen Angels is the balance of the tracks from the same sessions, played the same subdued style by his excellent touring band. Lest anyone say it’s another Sinatra tribute, the joke’s on them, because Frank never recorded “Skylark”, so there.
Most of these songs are more upbeat and less torchy than the last one, and comparisons are inevitable. It proves, somewhat in reverse, that he still knows how to put an album together, since Shadows certainly used the best songs from the batch. These are all good, but we’ve been spoiled.
“Young At Heart” is a great place to start, even if he does miss a few notes here and there. He has some trouble on the lonesome “Maybe You’ll Be There” and “All The Way”, too. “Polka Dots And Moonbeams” begins with a lengthy instrumental intro, giving us a chance to enjoy the band before the key changes and Bob wheezes in. There is a good balance of low-tempo and uptempo here, such as the switch from “Nevertheless” to the almost jaunty “All Or Nothing At All”; of course, those who bought it on vinyl will have to change side one to side two.
“On A Little Street In Singapore” is fairly obscure, with another long intro that sets up the exotic setting. Meanwhile, most casual music listeners would be familiar with “It Had To Be You”; Bob, historian that he is, sings the entire prelude section usually lopped off most other recordings of it. “Melancholy Mood” is another that plays before he begins singing, deftly navigating the pendulum from minor to major and back. You can almost hear him chuckling all the way through “That Old Black Magic”, the first-ever samba in his catalog. “Come Rain Or Come Shine” doesn’t provide a grand ending to compare to “That Lucky Old Sun”—or, for that matter, any of his other legendary closing tracks—but it does, seemingly, close this chapter of Bob’s music, ending on a minor chord.
If there’s a theme to Fallen Angels, it’s not as obvious as the last one. Nor is it obvious why the album has its title, or what the cover art has to do with any of it. Maybe these are simply the rest of the songs from those sessions. Maybe the novelty’s worn off, and these songs might have sounded better if they had been on the other album. But at a time when many of his contemporaries are leaving the planet, we’re lucky to still have Bob.

Bob Dylan Fallen Angels (2016)—3


  1. I haven't gotten this one yet, but given that people are saying this one is the batch of lightweight standards covers as opposed to torch songs like the previous, and given both have short lengths, I think a short double album mixing the two styles would work best. I say the same thing with Sinatra's albums, actually: too many of them separate the torch stuff with the swing, making it easier for listeners to dismiss tracks in a row for sounding too samey.

    1. I'm more inclined to throw on Shadows than this one. Then again, I'm also the guy who likes Ballad In Plain D.