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Bob Dylan album review: Rough And Rowdy Ways may be energetically crafted but it lacks originality

Bob Dylan’s first self-written album since 2012, Rough And Rowdy Ways may be energetically crafted and elegantly played but it lacks originality

Bob Dylan                            Rough And Rowdy Ways                               Out now

Rating:

At the grand old age of 79, Bob Dylan is still hungry. The minute lockdown happened, he released the longest song of his never-ending career. A 17-minute epic about JFK, Murder Most Foul became Dylan’s first Billboard No 1 hit, albeit in a chart called ‘rock digital’, which made it feel like winning the grandfathers’ race at sports day.

Now here’s his first self-written album since 2012. Rough And Rowdy Ways is a double LP, with nine tracks on one disc and Murder Most Foul on the other, in splendid isolation. It comes drenched in superlatives: at Metacritic, which quantifies reviews, it scores a perfect 100.

But then Dylan always attracts acclaim. He even managed 62 on Metacritic with Christmas In The Heart, which subjected much-loved carols to murder most baffling. As at many of his gigs, he appeared to be having a laugh at the fans’ expense.

Bob Dylan has released his first self-written album since 2012. Rough And Rowdy Ways comes drenched in superlatives but there is one thing missing: originality

Bob Dylan has released his first self-written album since 2012. Rough And Rowdy Ways comes drenched in superlatives but there is one thing missing: originality

This album, by contrast, is elegantly played and energetically crafted. Dylan’s voice may be weary, but there’s a spring in his pen. His days as a ZZ Top tribute act are gone. Half-speaking his verses over a sparse, warm backing, he exudes battered dignity.

There’s just one thing missing: originality. The only memorable tune is I’ve Made Up My Mind To Give Myself To You, lovely as a lullaby. And the words, while polished, are often secondhand.

Dylan used to write lines that other people quoted; now he writes lines that quote other people. Rough And Rowdy Ways is borrowed from Jimmie Rodgers. I Contain Multitudes, coined by Walt Whitman, rhymes with ‘all the young dudes’, copyright David Bowie. As a magpie himself, Bowie might chuckle at that.

Dylan knows his music history, but he’s not adding to it any more. A colossus who once changed the world with his art has settled for making collages.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk



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