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Dylan still at the top of his
game in these modern times

Bob Dylan - Modern Times
(Columbia Records)
4 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Sept. 12, 2006
Bob Dylan

Review by Tony Bonyata

Bob Dylan's recently released Modern Times is not only his first full-length album of new material in five years but, more surprisingly, is the first of his records to hit the top of the Billboard charts in thirty years (his Desire album was number one back in '76). Not that his previous two brilliant efforts (1997's Time Out of Mind and 2001's Love And Theft) didn't deserve similar chart positioning. In fact, Modern Times, with its collection of Tin Pan Alley compositions, rousing juke-joint blues, modern American standards and cattle-rustling swing numbers, is the third in a trilogy of similar styled albums that hold up to his two earlier groundbreaking trilogies of masterworks (the acoustic folk of The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, The Times They Are-A Changin' and Another Side of Bob Dylan, as well as, perhaps the most compelling and beloved of all his work, Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde On Blonde).

Musically speaking Modern Times is anything but modern. But like the best of Dylan's expansive canon it's brimming with challenging and intelligent compositions that assimilate the best of American music throughout the entire twentieth century. From the stinging guitar and chicken-pecking rhythm that shuffles through the plugged-in Delta blues of "Rollin' And Tumblin'" to the jazzed-up rock of "Someday Baby" and "Spirit On The Water," a number which sounds as if it was ripped straight from the Great American Songbook where Dylan's smoky vocal rasp soft-shoes over a handsome vaudevillian arrangement, these are songs that sound as if they've been around for decades. In response to last year's disaster in New Orleans, Dylan also digs deep into the subject matter from Memphis Minnie's 1929 original "When The Levee Breaks" for his own bluesy swing of "The Levee's Gonna Break."

Songs such as the proud majesty of "Workingman's Blues #2," the harrowing "Nettie Moore" along with the dark closing track "Ain't Talking" are all modern masterpieces, while "Thunder On The Mountain" finds the 65 year-old troubadour interjecting timely subject matter into this timeless rocker when he caws, "I was thinking about Alicia Keys, couldn't keep from crying. When she was born in Hell's Kitchen, I was living down the line. I'm wondering where in the world Alicia Keys could be. I been looking for her even clean through Tennessee."

Forget the myths surrounding this enigmatic artist, because the modern recordings Dylan has been creating over the last decade proves this is a man still at the top of his game - with his own mortality as the only thing about to slow him down.

Bob Dylan will be performing with Kings of Leon October 27 & 28 at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates, IL and with Foo Fighters on October 31 at the Kohl Center in Madison, WI.

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