Dylan looks back to tradition for modern Times

by Beacon Staff • September 13, 2006

Modern Times is not Highway 61 Revisited, nor is it Blonde on Blonde.

Modern Times, is for lack of a better phrase, modern Dylan.

Dylan himself has been busy lately with his autobiography, a Martin Scorsese documentary( No Direction Home), a satellite radio show and more legs of the aptly titled " Never ending Tour" ( now in its 18th year)- but Modern Times is his first studio album since 2001's Love and Theft.,First thing's first: This isn't your father Bob Dylan.

Modern Times is not Highway 61 Revisited, nor is it Blonde on Blonde.

Modern Times, is for lack of a better phrase, modern Dylan.

Dylan himself has been busy lately with his autobiography, a Martin Scorsese documentary( No Direction Home), a satellite radio show and more legs of the aptly titled " Never ending Tour" ( now in its 18th year)- but Modern Times is his first studio album since 2001's Love and Theft.

Modern Times, self produced under the pseudonym Jack Frost, is a collection of songs ranging from country twang, rhythm and blues shuffle to affectionate, longing ballads.

Not the lack of the word " rock" in the aforementioned description, In a time when Dylan is celebrating his past with many different projects, casual fans- and admittedly, the most recent Dylan album in my collection is 1975's Blood on the Tracks- may be disappointed to pick up an album that caters more to a relaxing summer afternoon than a Vietnam protest rally.

On the first track, "Thunder on the Mountain," Dylan name checks Alicia Keys, then sings, " I been looking for her even clear through Tennessee influence throughout the album.

In "Nettie Moore," he sings, "I'm a cowboy band," and that band, which Dylan recently told Rolling Stone is his best ever, looks like rough riders and features steel guitar, cello, and a mandolin.

"Rollin' and Tumblin,"" the appropriately titled third track, is the closest thing to rock on the album, with a chuck Berry-like swing to it and slide guitar that gets stuck in your head.

She's of Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World" can be heard all over: When the Deal Goes Down: before it hits a guitar fill borrowed from the Eagles' " Desperado."

" Someday Baby," the song Dylan can be seen playing in new Ipod adds, is the standout track of Modern Times. Good ole blues guitar licks and a steady, jazz-like drum beat accompany Dylan, who sounds like a traditional blues singer from the southern Delta. The trademark young, nasally voiced Dylan has given way to the mature bluesman of today.

" Workingman's Blue #2," a soft ballad with piano by Dylan himself, features a bit of his classic politics and a chorus of " You can hang back or fight your best on the frontline/ Sing a bit of these workingman's blues."

The band swings through the breezy "Beyond the Horizon" like a lounge band; "The Leeve's Gonna Break" is more blues shuffle, while " Ain't Talkin" is close to nine minutes of slow burning country scorn.

The track Lengths of the album may seem a little long, with only one song clocking in at less than five minutes, but who are we to tell Dylan when to stop?

Highway 61's "Desolation Row," regarded as a Dylan masterpiece, clocks in at over 11 minutes.

There is plenty here for the Dylan diehard to spend time deciphering ( is he really a big fan of Alicia Keys?0, but if you are expecting another " Like a Rolling Stone" or " Subterranean Homesick Blues," stick with '60s Dylan.

If you want a rollicking country and blues album with some breezy ballads thrown in to listen to on your back porch while you drink PBR in a lawn chair, pick.