Modern Times Columbia
Music •••• Sound ••••
"The records I used to listen to and still love, you can't make a record that sounds that way," Bob Dylan recently told Rolling Stone. "You listen to these modern records, they're atrocious." It is certainly interesting to hear Dylan, who throughout his career has been thought of primarily as a songwriter rather than a record-maker, suddenly "sounding off" about studio techniques. But he has a point: Qualities like texture and warmth have noticeably fallen by the mixing board. A neatly ironic touch, then, that Dylan calls his latest Modern Times. Producing himself (as "Jack Frost"), he makes instruments rise and fall like ingredients in a dark, thick stew, and the retro sonics adroitly match the songs. Oh, yes, the songs. Their reflective, mule-and-pitchfork-alluding lyrics and old-school blues and jazz melodies could only have sprung from the ever-inscrutable, still-intriguing musical mind out of time that is Bob Dylan.

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