Sound — 7
Thirty seven albums into his career as a rock icon (without even counting his numerous collaborations throughout the years), Bob Dylan continues to strive forward with "Fallen Angels," an album which pays respect to the classic American music of the early 1950s - in this case, primarily the music of Frank Sinatra. This isn't something of a new endeavor for Dylan, considering he followed an identical path with the preceding 2015 album "Shadows in the Night." Simply put, those admirers of Dylan who also enjoy the music of Sinatra and were quick to pick up "Shadows" upon its release will find themselves similarly glad with the end result found here with "Fallen Angels." Those same listeners who did not quite "get" the identity behind Dylan's last album shouldn't expect to find something different this time around, either; the performance is much of the same suit, more refined if anything. Even if you've never delved into the Sinatra catalog, it's grasp on pop culture has been monumental especially over the past few years, which will have even the most unfamiliar of rock listener humming along to the opener "Young at Heart" or tapping their foot along to the mellow beats of "All the Way." The atmosphere is painted much like the originals, with romanticized big band accompaniment paving the way for Dylan's vocals.
Granted, there are a lot of differences between Bob Dylan and Frank Sinatra in the vocal department; Sinatra was able to articulate such broad emotion through his sighs and nuances, as well as his bold vocal range. Dylan has always had a more gravelly sound to his range and has developed his own signature approach to the main microphone over the years that's iconic, and hasn't (and shouldn't) switch that up anytime soon. But the idea of Dylan trying to sing these songs just doesn't sound all too appealing at first glance; understandably so, and yet Dylan managed to take those same aforementioned subtle nuances and add more of a reflective, blues-based attitude to the lyrics throughout, almost as though he wrote them himself. By and large, what we find on "Fallen Angels" is a more lighthearted affair compared to the brooding, dark attitude of "Shadows in the Night." Whereas the preceding album delved deeper into the Great American Songbook, "Fallen Angels" pays homage to the more recognizable tracks ala "Come Rain or Come Shine" and "It Had to Be You." That being said, "Fallen Angels" still has its fair share of memorable highlights, such as the danceable affair found on "That Old Black Magic" and "Melancholy Mood" possessing a kind of bar blues feel. It's a unique presentation, with some songs taking on a new life of their own while others straying close to the indigenous tracks.
Lyrics — 7
Shying further away from the higher register that originally graced classics like "The Times They Are A-Changin'" and "Like a Rolling Stone," Bob Dylan instead strays close to a low to mid-range register throughout "Fallen Angels." Again, this is more of the same to fans of the "Shadows in the Night" record, and yet it helps provide what gentle elements of personality that Dylan can add to seasoned Sinatra classics without being overbearing. Instead Dylan has a clear respect for the original recordings by not straying too far away, while still incorporating choice amounts of blues and his signature gravelly snarl.
Overall Impression — 7
Now this may not have been what longtime rock advocates would have anticipated from a new Bob Dylan album at this stage in his career, yet there's no denying that he still does it well with "Fallen Angels," an album that pays homage to a collection of Sinatra staples. What remains is an understated yet standout performance of songs from the Great American Songbook, breathing new life into a compilation of 20th century classics.