Modern Times (2006)

1. Thunder on the Mountain 2. Spirit on the Water 3. Rollin' and Tumblin' 4. When the Deal Goes Down 5. Someday Baby 6. Workingman's Blues #2 7. Beyond the Horizon 8. Nettie More 9. The Levee's Gonna Break 10.Ain't Talkin'


Somehow, some way, Dylan manages to again top himself on this latter day release. Following in the footsteps of the enormously successful Love and Theft, which, consequently, followed another latter day masterpiece Time Out of Mind, he keeps finding new ways to enthrall his fans, the critics and maybe even newer audiences not quite familiar with his work. After all, it seemed a bit ironic, yet justified, when the first track Thunder on the Mountain was used by Apple as an Ipod commercial. The further irony is there isn't anything "modern" at all about this record. Viewing the CD cover, this looks like a snap from an album cover circa early 1960's or so, and whereas the music doesn't sound like early Dylan, it does sound like he's copying the big band influences that were popular at the time.

And that's what this mainly is - a big bandish, very loose jazz album. The music is impeccable, the singing is definitely Dylan, and the style is immediately embraceable. With its rollicking big jazz band sound, some naysayers may argue that this just isn't their style of music, yet since the quality is so overwhelmingly good, it's hard to imagine how anyone couldn't immediately fall in love with this record. The mood is joyous, the feel so happy and the sound was just made for dancing - the kind of dancing your grandparents would enjoy. It's almost as if you could go back to the early day's of Dylan in the sixties and try to guess what he and his music would sound like had you known he would still be pushing on some forty odd years later. Again, though, he's not really going back to his roots, he's just letting loose in a brand new, yet very user-friendly way.

Lyrically, this album is a hoot as well. Long gone are the harsh political messages, in their place is just a regular old guy close to the age where he's able to collect social security - and he's singing about the everyman - at least the everyman who plays music for a living. Not the multi mega rich star, you understand, but the beaten down guy that sounds as though he may be homeless, yet finds paradise every time he picks up an acoustic guitar. This is the persona here. He does change things up quite a bit on each song. You always feel as though you're listening to something fresh, something exuberant, and you never tire of the spontaneity of the album - even with some of the tracks running over six minutes in length.

There have been several Dylan albums throughout his career (most of them actually) that probably will always be just for his select, yet large, fan base. Every now and then, though, Dylan manages to put out a release that would be immediately accessible to anyone who happened to give it a listen. This is definitely such an album. And more people were listening, too. After all, it went all the way to the top of the charts.

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