‘Fallen Angels’ by Bob Dylan Album Review: Minimal But Dynamic Covers
Bob Dylan‘s 37th album Fallen Angels follows up on last year’s tribute to Frank Sinatra titled Shadows in the Night. Returning with another set of classic Sinatra standards dating mostly from the 40s and 50s, Dylan shows a more subdued and easy-going side to his interpretations of The Great American Songbook.
“Fallen Angels” by Bob Dylan Album Review
The comparisons between Dylan’s two Sinatra albums are inevitable, especially since the songs for both records were recorded during the same sessions. What made Shadows in the Night unique as a tribute album was its thematic focus on melancholy and stillness rather than a broader coverage of Sinatra’s works. Emerging from the downcast tunes of that album, Fallen Angels offers a much lighter tone, while preserving largely the same stylistic and technical qualities. Dylan’s vocals are still, for the most part, a mournful crooning; the instrumental arrangements are stripped down but preserve the traditional instrumentation.
“Young At Heart” opens the record and immediately sets it apart from its predecessor by glorifying youth and showcasing a lighter mood and tonality. Originally written by Johnny Mercer, the lyrics follow a somewhat predictable close rhyme scheme, but Dylan’s delivery is varied enough to provide balance. Another Mercer classic “Skylark” is one of the highlights on Fallen Angels. It is also the only song that Dylan covers, which was never recorded by Sinatra. Its folk swing sound renders it closer to some of Dylan’s original work but it is still interpreted in the slowest tempo the song will naturally permit.
Dylan’s nasal phrasing is what gives the tracks their unique character, though at times his vocal appearance seems almost deliberately scarce on some tracks, leaving more room to the gently strumming guitar and minimal orchestration. “Melancholy Mood,” one of the less famous Sinatra tracks that Dylan has picked out, is a great standout with its moody guitar intro and outro framing the vocals.
Dylan’s ability to cover the old standards is impeccable, though it is closer to a mere delivery rather than a unique interpretation. His sound is effortless and the pronounced melodic clarity of his covers is the essence of what makes this record truly Dylan’s. Fallen Angels keeps surprising us with each next track showing stylistic variation that keeps the album’s momentum in a constant dynamic state.
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