It was with a bit of trepidation that I first listened to this new album, Shadows in the Night. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK) I’m a huge Dylan fan, but Bob’s last “non-standard” release, his Christmas album, just didn’t work for me. I was afraid that Bob would do something similar on this record.
But, no, he’s created something of a masterpiece here. In ten songs, at just 35 minutes, Dylan recreates an ambience, a mood, a feeling. These stripped down arrangements – compared to the way the songs were performed back in the day – allow Dylan to do some of his finest singing in years. Even Bob said that he felt his voice was at its best during these recordings.
There are a few spots where he’s a touch off-key, and since each of the songs was recorded in just one or two takes, live (it’s not clear whether there are any overdubs), it’s more like a live recording than a carefully-crafted studio album.
The sound is also exemplary. With minimal miking, this record gives you the feeling that you’re up close to the band. Listen to this album on headphones; there’s plenty of detail, and it’s a warm, emotional sound.
You could fault Bob for the tempi of some of these songs; they are all slow and languid, giving the whole album a tinge of blue (which may be why the cover is that color). But he’s on to something here; he’s created a mood and a sound that is very different from what he has recorded in recent years.
My only regret is that the album is just 35 minutes long; I’d love to hear more of these songs in Dylan’s style. I hope Bob tours playing some of this music; it would be great to hear how he performs these songs live.