The new Dylan album, Shadows in the Night, has received a lot of press.
It’s a unique album for Dylan, in that there are no original songs. Instead, these are songs from the 1940’s through the 1960’s, all sung by Frank Sinatra. With the exception of a few, these are obscure songs by Sinatra and certainly not his most popular. A new endeavor for Mr. Dylan, the album has received overwhelmingly positive reviews for its sparse musical arrangements and Dylan’s resigned singing.
My own take is that this is part two of Dylan’s major comeback of 1997, an album titled Time Out of Mind. Though Time Out of Mind consisted of all new Dylan material, its resigned singing and thematic similarities are what bind the two albums together. Both sing of relationship losses and the hurt and specter of mortality, all sung with an evocative, wistful voice.
The final songs of both albums end on the inevitability of the end of life. On Time Out of Mind, the song “Highlands” has Dylan reaching for the afterlife, distancing himself from the meaninglessness of contemporary existence. Eerily similar, the last song on Shadows in the Night is the standard called “That Lucky Old Sun”, with the haunting lyric “lift me to Paradise.” Dylan longingly sings these words as if they’re his own.
Shadows In the Night is an awesome album, displaying the humanity that we all share through singing these standards.