Bob Dylan; Modern Times (Sony/BMG) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2006

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Bob Dylan : Beyond the Horizon
Bob Dylan; Modern Times (Sony/BMG) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2006

Bob Dylan's 31st studio album in the 44 years since his self-titled folkie debut -- confirms his status as one of the great songwriters whose powers are undergoing a late-career reinvigoration.

Lyrically this is a dense album -- a beautiful song like When the Deal Goes Down edges its way between the spiritual and the secular -- yet Dylan has seldom sounded so relaxed as he is on the easy listening ballad Beyond the Horizon, a gorgeous love song that Bing Crosby would have delighted in.

But alongside these songs are rollicking r'n'b country rockers such as the six minute Rollin' and Tumblin' (which borrows from the old blues song but heads out on its own rockabilly route) and Thunder on the Mountain which playfully makes reference to Alicia Keys.

There are many standouts: the eight minute Ain't Talkin' is particularly moving as Dylan recounts in a moody spiritual manner a tale which might be a vision of Christ in the Garden; and Workingman's Blues #2 is like Dylan of old: a spirited but slightly dispiriting view of these Modern Times where the factories close and people are laid off.

Dylan is in fine, creaking and character-filled voice, and he keeps the music from his road-tested band sharp and focused. It might be hard to believe but Dylan here sounds as important as ever.

A truly engrossing and vital album.

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