Not Reviewing Bob Dylan’s “Shadows in the Night”

I am a HUGE Bob Dylan fan. I have all his studio albums, most of his live albums, and all the “Bootleg” collections except the most recent (it’s on my list).

So the arrival of a new Bob Dylan album is met, by this fan, by no small amount of excitement.

But Shadows in the Night, well, um… I don’t know what to make of it.

That not true. I know exactly what I think of it. I don’t think I like it. Does that make it bad?

I really can’t tell if this album is good. Is it? Do you think so? I haven’t the faintest.

I guess part of the issue is what I want from a Bob Dylan album. This certainly isn’t what everybody wants from a Dylan album, that I understand. But for me, I want the sort of timeless Americana of his last few albums.

Or the timeless songwriting of most of his catalog.

I even love the upbeat stuff he didn’t write.

Though it’s a style that’s been remarkably consistent though his career, I’m not saying I don’t want him to branch out in whatever direction he wants. Hey, if he comes out with a hip hop album, I’ll buy it (so would you, don’t lie. It would be fascinating).

Really, across the decades of albums, the fast tracks are often (but not always) the ones I love the best.

So what I certainly wasn’t looking for, is ballads. Ballads he didn’t write, even.

Shadows in the Night is a cover album, of songs made famous by Frank Sinatra. You read that right.

The thing is, it’s not that it doesn’t work. Oddly, it does. Dylan, never much of a crooner, certainly works well with the material.

The production beautiful, with lots of reverb and open space. All the instruments sound great. The album holds together as a cohesive whole.

But is it any good? I don’t know! I just can’t separate out that this is an album of my least favorite parts of an otherwise genius and remarkable catalog. Erlewine himself at AllMusic gave it 4/5 stars. So did Rolling Stone.

But Amazon and iTunes both give it 3.5/5. I normally ignore user reviews, but in this case, I’m so lost I had to look.

So the songs are lovely. The album sounds gorgeous, and is exquisitely performed. It’s just… I don’t know…

I guess what it comes down to is this: It might be great. You might like it. But I don’t.

And that kills me.

Al Griffin's picture
I, too, am confused by the warm critical reception this snooze of a recording is getting. Dylan's delivery is lifeless and flat. An exercise in self-indulgence more than anything else. Total kitsch.