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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Bob Dylan tangled up in Ol’ Blue Eyes

    Courtesy+of%26%23160%3BCapitol+Studios

    Courtesy of Capitol Studios

    Bob Dylan is primarily a songwriter. Frank Sinatra, America’s swing sweetheart, was an entertainer; he didn’t often bother with songwriting, only contributing here and there. Taking on songs written by professional lyricists for no one in particular, Sinatra made them his own. Today, these songs are closely associated with him, despite having been sung by so many before and after.

    On his 36th studio album, Shadows in the Night, Dylan takes on these songs in what could be described a Sinatra tribute album. Funnily enough, despite having written so many songs over the years, Dylan has always managed to keep the audience at a distance; his personal, rugged and increasingly slack vocals didn’t do much except create the illusion that they were witnessing something intimate. The opposite could be said for Sinatra, a master of expressing feelings through lyrics so genuine they never left a doubt about authenticity.

    Putting aside the obvious differences in the nature and style of these musicians, it is not that big of a surprise that Dylan now decided to pay tribute to Sinatra, especially since he’s been covering some of Sinatra’s songs live here and there. On his 10-track, 35-minute LP, Dylan doesn’t perform the usual suspects. Instead, he dug deeper into Sinatra’s discography, perhaps choosing the ones closest to his heart to reveal something about himself, albeit in the words of 1940s songwriters like Johnny Mercer and Irving Berlin. Being a singer-songwriter, Dylan once helped make these professionals obsolete.

    On the record, Dylan maintains a constant, stripped-down style.
    “It was all done live,” Dylan writes on his website. “Maybe one or two takes. No overdubbing. No vocal booths. No headphones. No separate tracking, and, for the most part, mixed as it was recorded.” Instead of covering these songs, like so many have done before, his goal was to breathe new life into them.

    Shadows in the Night was produced by Dylan himself, though credited as Jack Frost, a pseudonym he sporadically uses. It was recorded in the Capital Studios’ big echo chambers without modern equipment in exactly the same order the songs would later end up on the record.

    The result of the steady orchestra-style combined with Dylan’s signature rasp will be enjoyable to fans, and the incredibly well-written songs can teach the lyricists among us a thing or two about kitschy expression of feelings.
    Not bothering to target younger generations, 73-year-old Dylan gave a long and rare interview to the American Association for Retired Persons, even randomly giving away the record for free. Asked what Sinatra would say about the tribute, Dylan told AARP’s reporter that he would probably congratulate him on having pulled off the songs with a five-piece band.

    “He’d be proud in a certain way,” Dylan said.

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    Follow Caren Badtke on Twitter.

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