BOB DYLAN: FALLEN ANGELS (2016)
1) Young At Heart; 2) Maybe You'll Be There; 3) Polka Dots And Moonbeams; 4) All The Way; 5) Skylark; 6) Nevertheless; 7) All Or Nothing At All; 8) On A Little Street In Singapore; 9) It Had To Be You; 10) Melancholy Mood; 11) That Old Black Magic; 12) Come Rain Or Come Shine.
Bob is well known for doing the same thing twice or thrice if he got a good kick out of it first time around: so, just as Good As I've Been To You was quickly followed up by World Gone Wrong (because there's nothing like a satisfactory refill of the good stuff), one album of Sinatra covers was quickly followed by another — and no, from what I can tell, it's not as if all the material was recorded during the same session. There is even a slight stylistic difference: Fallen Angels features a smaller band, with no brass support whatsoever, so that the «wee small hours» atmosphere is generated to near-perfection.
That said, I am not even going to try to comment on any of the actual songs — it is totally and utterly irrelevant whether Bob «does justice» to the old versions, and I cannot take seriously any review of Fallen Angels that tries to make meaningful comparisons between Sinatra and Dylan. It seems as clear as daylight that the main, if not only, goal of Fallen Angels is to strengthen and solidify the statement of Shadows In The Night — namely, that you can never pigeonhole Robert Zimmerman, because Robert Zimmerman refuses to wear the yellow star of the pigeon. You gambled on the man putting out another Tempest in 2015? You lost, sucker. You gambled that, okay, he had this weird diversion, but next year he'd put out another Tempest? You lost again. See, the man's been collecting from you for over fifty years now, and so far, he's shown no signs of stopping.
Of course, it's a pretty wise gamble: with time mercilessly rolling by, as each new record's chances of becoming his last increase significantly, these quiet, introspective, melancholy-filled tributes to Sinatra all work like ideal swansongs. But it's also obvious (well, not obvious, really: nothing is ever truly obvious with Dylan) that he is not going to stop, and that his next move could be anything — from yet a third album of Sinatra covers (and why not? he had three Christian albums out, didn't he?) to a bunch of acid house rearrangements of Dolly Parton. That's what we love him for, and that's what he is going to keep on doing. As for Fallen Angels, well... I did listen to it twice, and I'll probably never listen to it again. Don't try to make the mistake of taking it too seriously — although if you somehow happen to love the results, there's nothing criminal about that, either (I do love Self-Portrait, after all; but then Self-Portrait was far more diverse, inventive, and unpredictable than these albums, where all the songs follow the same formula — take Sinatra's orchestrated songbook and adapt it for small lite-jazz combo). Just remember that, behind all the seriousness and «depth» of these renditions, he is still putting you on, and you'll never know the truth, because, as Keith Moon once eloquently put it, «you couldn't afford me!»