Sound — 6
When you're a well respected singer-songwriter who's been active for nearly six decades and have a total of three dozen studio albums under your belt, certain privileges are bestowed as far as what boundaries are in place in regards to your stylistic approach on new material. Essentially, there are no boundaries, at least in the case of Bob Dylan, who throughout his career has already dabbled in folk, blues, rock, country and gospel, and it's this same variety which has allowed Dylan's music to appeal to a broadened audience of listeners which span across multiple generations. This being established, what would be the problem if the vocalist decided to move into another direction altogether?
The newly released "Shadows in the Night" shows Bob Dylan trying his hand at traditional pop music in the vein of the 1940s and 1950s, specifically referring to the same brand of symphonic, soothingly melodic arrangements which such artists as Nat King Cole and Engelbert Humperdinck were well recognized for generating. Granted, this likely wasn't the first direction that longtime listeners would anticipate the veteran artist to move into with his third dozenth studio effort, however there are still some interesting moments to be found here.
Dylan's sorrowful lyrical execution compliments the album's quiet and oftentimes melancholic atmosphere which the delicate orchestration provides, and the vocalist moves through such material as the 1951 jazz ballad "I'm a Fool to Want You" and the 1945 French song "Autumn Leaves." If you're an advocate for traditional pop music, "Shadows in the Night" will come as a welcome surprise, however don't come into this album expecting some radical new rendition on these songs. It's not difficult to admire the articulate and soothing instrumentation and Dylan's distinctive singing style throughout the effort, with the pace rarely moving above the speed of a child's lullaby. That being said, this is one of those albums for when you're home from a gruesome day at work, and find yourself with the need to sit down with a novel and let the stress of hours past gradually melt away, and certainly not one to pack alongside "Highway 61 Revisited" and "Self Portrait" for a fourteen hour road trip.
Lyrics — 7
The emotional approach which Bob Dylan has developed and delivered for the past 56 years has remained in admirable form despite his longevity, as demonstrated on "Shadows in the Night." While his latest stylistic achievement may not be for all longtime fans, there's no ignoring the consistently formidable performance which Dylan lays out throughout the album's ten compositions. "If you leave this time I feel that you'll be gone for good, so/ And I hold on like leaves and fall to what is left," he broods on the previously mentioned "Autumn Leaves." Perhaps it was a wise decision to provide new takes on such seasoned numbers on his new album, because seldom does an artist breath so much life into classic material without abandoning the original intent behind the original piece as Bob Dylan does here.
Overall Impression — 6
"Shadows in the Night" may not be able to make as large an impact as his earlier efforts, however Bob Dylan's latest release reveals a more intimate side to the respected vocalist as he provides new takes on traditional pop hits - some of which were originally recorded 70 years ago.