Review: Dylan Does Dylan, With a Mellower Mindset

Bob Dylan/Shadow Kingdom/Sony Legacy
Four Out of Five Stars 

Videos by American Songwriter

Given Dylan’s recent much-publicized deal to sell his songs to the sprawling Universal Music Group, Shadow Kingdom could be seen as a generous gesture to his catalog’s new caretakers It finds the Bobster offering new reimagined versions of songs from said catalog, mostly recast in stripped-down settings sans the arcane arrangements they were given originally. While a couple of otherwise obscure entries are tossed into the mix, much of the material leans towards the more familiar favorites of a vintage variety. 

That said, the early protest era is omitted entirely, but when he revisits his classics—“The Wicked Messenger,” “Watching the River Flow,” “Tombstone Blues” and “Forever Young” chief among them—he renders them with a bluesy, laidback delivery well in keeping with his most current crop of material. Dylan’s voice still maintains its rugged resilience, revealing a rich, refined tonality that gives added depth to each offering. Certain songs are drastically reimagined, as per ”It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue,” which finds Dylan opting for a mellower mindset that belies its earlier, more severe set-up, and “When I Paint My Masterpiece,” presented as a jolly, jaunty ramble. 

Still, unlike the usual tact he takes in concert, most of the material remains recognizable. That begs the question of why, in fact, the Bobster even bothered to recast these songs in the first place. Given his recent obsession with covering classics and standards of an earlier era, perhaps he felt his own efforts finally fit a vintage category comfortably. Perhaps he has writer’s block and simply needed a breather before launching another endeavor.

Who can blame him? At 82, he still spends most of his time on tour, leaving little time to put pen to paper. Who knows? When you’re an enduring icon like Bob Dylan, a victory lap is always called for. Consider Shadow Kingdom another opportunity to seize on a fabled legacy while reminding the world yet again that certain songs never go out of style. 

Photo by PL Gould/IMAGES/Getty Images

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