It’s a cool, breezy summer evening in a quaint little East Coast town. It’s probably raining and you have the fireplace going, so what else is there to do but pop open a bottle of that really fine red that you’ve been saving? But, wait — you need smooth, moody classic music to complete the vibe. What do you decide to put on? Bob Dylan’s latest album, Fallen Angels.
Fit for a Woody Allen movie trailer, Fallen Angels is a sweet 12-track album that yanks listeners out of the 21st century and plops them into the 1950s. Without context, most people would mistakenly think Dylan’s style has aged as much as he has, but in actuality the album is solely covers of twelve classic American tunes chosen by Dylan. 11 of the 12 songs were once performed by Sinatra, which is probably why I felt like I was listening to the soundtrack of a Diane Keaton romance movie.
Overall, I think Dylan did a great job covering each song. Covers are really difficult to do right because, more often than not, the musician covering the song will fail miserably to do the original rendition justice. However, if you’ve never heard any of the songs on Fallen Angels as they were performed originally, it would be easy to assume Dylan wrote and crafted these songs himself. He arranged and performed every song beautifully and with respect to how they were originally orchestrated.
My only criticism is every song sounds the same. The album begins with “Young at Heart,” a smooth classic that highlights unique guitar chords reminiscent of days spent on a tropical Hawaiian island. The album then moves into a series of songs that are indistinguishable from each other; the three most stylistically distinct songs come at the end of the album. “Melancholy Mood,” “That Old Black Magic” and “Come Rain or Shine” each feature different guitar chords and rhythms that help set them apart from the rest of the album.
“Melancholy Mood” could be in the opening credits of a Woody Allen movie set in Andalusia, with it’s Spanish-esque guitar chords. Additionally, the song is faster than the others, with a great swing rhythm to the chorus. Immediately following “Melancholy Mood,” “That Old Black Magic” is even faster paced than its predecessor and features some Western components to it which differentiate it ten-fold from the other 11-tracks on Fallen Angels. The last song on the album and another highlight would be “Come Rain or Shine.” Though it’s slow-paced like much of the other songs on the album, “Come Rain or Shine” features some dramatic instrumentals that add flare to the song.
Overall, there’s not much wrong with Fallen Angels. It’s a great album to listen to if you’re stuck inside during a rainy day and just want to reminisce — but it’s nothing you would listen to more than a handful of times a year. It’s just a bunch of covers. They’re done beautifully, but they’re covers nonetheless. I think it’s great that Bob Dylan is exploring American classics and spicing them up with his own style, but Dylan is an American classic himself. His discography is timeless and distinct on its own, and if he’s going to be releasing new music, one would probably want it to be similar to the rest of his work in its authenticity and originality. Mr. Dylan — your covers are greatly appreciated, but your originality is appreciated a great deal more.