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'Tempest' is Bob Dylan's best album in a long time

By DUANE RODRIGUEZ
On September 25, 2012

Bob Dylan is one of the most influential singer/songwriters of this or arguably any generation. His songs were the footprint of where this country has been and where it's going. Who can question the works of a man who gave us "Blowin' in the Wind", "A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall" or "Masters of War"?

Tempest (Columbia) is the 35th album of his career and while this is a good one, in the past we've been suckered into a great many bad ones. I can't imagine what it could possibly be like to have your current efforts compared against your all-time best efforts.

How do you succeed in competing against yourself?

So as we all know Dylan's vocals are not what they once were; his average-at-best singing is now a growl, caked with countless years of touring and recording. That being said Dylan now not only surrounds himself with top notch musicians, he gives them some swinging arrangements to work with.

The result is, for me, his best album in a long time. It's fun, scary and educational all at the same time. Dealing with tragedy, murder and love, it's one for the ages. 

Standouts include "Narrow Way", "Tin Angel", "Duquesne Whistle" and "Roll on John."

   

This has been a pretty busy year for Dave Stewart. Last August he released The Blackbird Diaries, his first solo record of new material since 1998's Sly-Fi, then became a member of Superheavy, the supergroup which includes Mick Jagger, Joss Stone and Damian Marley.

So here comes his latest The Ringmaster General (Surf Dog). For the guy that seemed to be nothing more than Annie Lennox' window dressing as a member of The Eurythmics, Stewart's solo stuff is quite motivated and energetic.

Here's Stewart's unique approach toward making his solo records. He enlists Mike Bradford as co-producer, then corrals a group of top notch Nashville studio session players to write, arrange and knock out as many songs as they can in a five-day period. Pretty impressive, huh?

It only is, if it works. For the second time it surprisingly does. Stewart, not the greatest vocalist, can play guitar, he can write hits (Bon Jovi), produce records (Tom Petty) and pretty much do it all. In this all-or-nothing collaborative process it seems he gets the best out of the best musicians on the sessions.

Even though it's recorded in Nashville, this is not a country record. Depending on the material, the album touches on rhythm and blues, rock, country, gospel and psychedelia.  Standouts include "Slow Motion Addict No. 2", "I Got Love", "A Different Man Now", "Just Another Fall" and "Girl In A Catsuit"-my favorite on the album, which features a stunning guitar solo by Orianthi.

You know it was pretty easy getting through life without Matchbox Twenty. The Orlando band had a really good streak going with three pretty successful albums fueled by Rob Thomas' wonderfully addicting sugary pop melodies. The band used their heads, taking an extended break so the public wouldn't get sick of them, as well as to work on solo projects after the release of their Exile on Mainstream compilation in 2008.

They're back with North (Atlantic) and it's pretty much the same as their previous stuff in that it's got those hooks,-once they get in your head they are impossible to get rid of. That being said, as much as they have grown as a band, they would be still be playing bowling alleys if not for frontman Rob Thomas.

While guitarist Kyle Cook and drummer Paul Doucette are very good writers, Thomas is better. Hey, everyone can't be the best, so now every band member contributes to making Matchbox Twenty a better band. Are they better now than when they were riding the success of the multi-platinum Yourself or Someone Like You? You decide.

Standouts include first single "She's So Mean", as well as "The Way", "Parade", with "Sleeping at the Wheel" the album's, best.

Dave Matthews Band has an album of new material, their first since 2009's Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King. Away From The World (RCA) is pretty much what you'd expect from the band and, depending on your point of view, that warrants either an enthusiastic very cool or a dreary not again. 

In this case they'd both be right. Teamed once again with producer Steve Lillywhite, who oversaw their breakthrough first three studio albums, DMB hasn't changed much, but here they sound more passionate in getting their musical point of view across. Which is why the band has 18 live albums and 8 studio releases. They rake live!

Even on the quieter stuff here, like the gorgeous "Sweet", the band seems to have some kick to it. On the funky things like "Belly Belly Nice", their crisp, clean almost sanitary sound is still there but has a bit of urgency to it.

Other standouts include the album's opening track "Broken Things" As well as "Rooftop", "Gaucho" and "The Riff" So there you have it, nothing really new, yet another Dave Matthews Band studio record-though this time recorded with a little more life to it.


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