Bob Dylan is one of the world's most-acclaimed songwriters and performers. Over the past five decades, he's sold close to 100 million records, and has performed thousands of shows all around the world. His new album, "Modern Times" was released recently to rave reviews that show the 65-year-old musician still has a lot to say. But, Bob Dylan sometimes says it in a cryptic fashion.
Modern Times starts off with "Thunder On A Mountain," a 12-verse uptempo track that, melodically, sounds like something Chuck Berry might have recorded. The words, however, are pure Bob Dylan, complete with an acknowledgement of soul singer Alicia Keys.
Throughout his long career, Bob Dylan has delighted in confounding his critics and fans. The best example might be when Dylan, who came onto the scene as a student and disciple of folk legend Woody Guthrie, famously “went electric” at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival. A decade later, the Jewish singer famously converted to Christianity. And just a few years ago, he shocked many by turning up on television, using his music to sell woman’s lingerie in a playful advertisement. It wasn’t quite what anyone expected from the quintessential 1960s’ folksinger, who’d long been mischaracterized as always somber and serious.
While there is a light-hearted, almost sly, humor in some of the lyrics, Dylan doesn’t hesitate to write about difficult issues on this record, including aging, the economy, relationships and regret. Sometimes, in the case of the piano ballad, “Workingman’s Blues #2,” they’re all tackled in the same song.
Bob Dylan's record label is calling Modern Times the final installment in a trilogy that began with 1997's Time Out of Mind, winner of that year's Best Album Grammy Award, and continued with 2001's Love and Theft, a Best Album Grammy nominee.
Modern Times is an album you need to dedicate some time to, not just speed through songs that might not grab you at first listen. Giving up on the wordy love song, "Spirit On The Water", would mean missing some great lines that appear near the end of the song.
Now, at an age when many are looking toward retirement, Bob Dylan is shrugging off his advancing years, and proving to be just as vital as he was 40 years ago. The onetime recluse is now very visible, recently collaborating with film director Martin Scorsese on a documentary film, and playing more than 100 dates a year on what he calls his "neverending tour."
In addition, the 65-year-old hosts a weekly program on American satellite radio and is busily writing a second installment of his biography, Chronicles. And this later this year, famed choreographer Twyla Tharp will set Bob Dylan’s songs to dance for a Broadway show.