Bob Dylan – Triplicate – 3/5
Download this: September Of My Years; Here’s That Rainy Day; There’s A Flaw In My Flue; When The World Was Young; The Best Is yet To Come
In a recent interview, Bob Dylan described the three discs of Triplicate, his latest batch of Great American Songbook standards, as being thematically interconnected. “One is the sequel to the other, and each one resolves the previous one,” he explained, enigmatically. But it’s hard to spot any such linearity between the individual sets: the treatments are similar throughout – a creamy blend of pedal steel and restrained guitar interplay, augmented occasionally by horn arrangements – and the themes are likewise sustained across the 30 songs.
On many, Dylan is the victim, a fool for love hiding his heartbreak behind a facade of indifference or, as the “boulevardier” of “When The World Was Young”, a mask of nonchalant gaiety. Occasionally, a more jocular standard like “How Deep Is The Ocean” or “These Foolish Things” lightens the mood. But the overall impression is not so much of a narrative progression between the individual discs, as the photocopy suggested by the title, each disc re-stating and reaffirming the same themes.
“I Guess I’ll Have To Change My Plans” opens proceedings with breezy horns accompanying an unusually jaunty confrontation of loss, a quandary echoed later on in the bitter irony of “It’s Funny To Everyone But Me”. But “September Of My Years” sends the mood spinning into darkness, with the lowing of Tony Garnier’s bowed bass, deep and resonant, like a moan from Stygian gloom, barely balanced by flecks of pedal steel and ambient guitar, as Dylan’s voice, enervated by experience, cracks in the face of age.
Which brings one to the elephant in this suite of rooms: there is some properly awful singing on Triplicate, partly due, one supposes, to Dylan’s hefty touring schedule, and partly to the strain of recording with…