I've been spending a lot of time listening to "Modern Times" the new Bob Dylan record and it has been a truly rewarding experience. I am always fascinated when an artist is able to summon the courage - or maybe resolve is a better word for it - to create a piece of work that stands with his incomparable past. Dylan is sixty five years old and this album not only shows that he still matters, it stands comfortably with the best work of his career.
There's a great interview with Dylan in the newest issue of Rolling Stone in which he talks about wanting to be compared with the other music of today instead of always being compared to his own work. I have to say that "Modern Times" rises to this comparison well. While he's not the same as, say The Raconteurs or Audioslave, to name a few artists with amazing recent records, Dylan's newest music is every bit as vital as any of the "modern music" currently being produced and more vital than most of it.
I don't know if it's a bi-product of the baby boom or what but, there is a tendency to compare so called "classic rock" artists of the 60's and 70's to their own best work. The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, The Who, all of these artists have touchstone moments in their careers by which all of their work afterwards is measured. In Dylan's case, it's "Blood on The Tracks". It seems that every album he makes is referred to by at least a few critics as "Dylan's best work since Blood On The Tracks." Every time I read this, I am struck by just how ridiculous it is. It not only discounts the excellent body of music that Bob Dylan has created SINCE 1975 (the year "Blood on the Tracks" was originally released), it also discounts the place his music holds in the current music scene.
Often we think of older artists as being "past their peak". We are forever looking back and saying things like "I LOVED their early records" or "this new album is good but it's NOT as good as their early work". Sometimes, these statements are actually true but often I think they are colored by nostalgia. I think that nostalgia will always play a role in how we experience music because, after all, it is the soundtrack to many of the big moments in our lives. However, when we become too bogged down in looking back we run the risk of missing what is right in front of us which, in this case, is the depth and beauty of this stunning record.
"Modern Times" is easily one of the best albums of the year and, surprisingly, it looks like it will also be one of the most successful. I was shocked last week when I looked at the Billboard charts and saw that it had ENTERED the charts at number 1! This week it had only dropped two places to 3. Way to go Bob!
If you haven't heard this album yet, stop reading this and go get it now. Better yet, just open your iTunes and buy it from there so you can hear it right away. Albums of this magnitude don't come along every day and when one does, we owe it to ourselves to experience it.
5 years ago