Bob Dylan said recently that he wanted “Tempest” (Columbia) to be filled with more religious songs, but it didn’t turn out that way.
If the dawn is still somewhere on the horizon, “Tempest” is Dylan at his darkest. After all, its title track is a sprawling, 14-minute meditation on the Titanic that, despite its wink to the Leonardo DiCaprio movie, is as bleak as it gets, explaining the tragedy, outlined in 40-plus verses and no chorus, with “They tried to understand, but there is no understanding on the judgment of God’s hand.”
Dylan’s 35th studio album fits in well with his recent renaissance; the 71-year-old has hit a new stride since 1997’s “Time Out of Mind” that has stretched through the new millennium and his past four albums.
“Tempest” is filled with folk-rock, masterfully tinged with blues and jazzy touches.
However, the real draw here is Dylan’s lyrics. He weaves a murderous tale in “Tin Angel.” His indictment of leaders in “Early Roman Kings” turns the traditional bluesy stomp into something much more. “Pay in Blood” features Dylan’s vocals at their harshest, sneering, “I pay in blood, but not my own,” as he tosses out one threat after another, including, “I got dogs that’ll tear you limb from limb.”
Dylan does leave us with a glimmer of hope, though. “Roll On, John,” his heartfelt tribute to the late John Lennon, is a reminder that people carry on after a loved one’s death, and after a turbulent “Tempest.”