Culture & Criticism From the Far Distant Realms
Even Bob Dylan himself would surely admit that, for all his prodigious and endlessly mythologized talents, he’s not the world’s greatest musical interpreter—even of his own songs. While he’s made a couple of other people’s songs his own over the years, few of his early folk covers are definitive. He’s readily admitted to the superiority of Jimi Hendrix’s “All Along the Watchtower” compared to his own, and, absent of any better ideas, has copped to cribbing live arrangements of his songs from Grateful Dead bootlegs.
Given all that, the ease and deftness with which Dylan has slid into the latest phase of his multitude-containing career—septuagenarian after-hours crooner of the Great American Songbook—is nothing short of remarkable, even shocking. Even after the surprisingly un-terrible Christmas in the Heart, the now tar-voiced Dylan going the Rod Stewart route with Shadows in the Night, Fallen Angels, and now Triplicate seemed misguided at best. But unlike Stewart and others who’ve settled on crooning standards in as schlocky a manner possible, and almost as a means of declaring creative bankruptcy, it’s especially clear from the warm, tasteful, and beautifully sequenced songs here that Dylan’s standards are real artistic statements, premeditated and effective as any of his other recent work.
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Jeremy Winograd is a contributing writer to Slant Magazine. His work has also appeared in Rolling Stone.com, Time Out New York, Detroit’s Metro Times and Baseball Player Magazine.