Thursday, February 12, 2015

Bob Dylan Sings Frank Sinatra

As strange at that seems, it's true. As per the press release:

Bob Dylan has released Shadows in the Night, a studio album featuring interpretations of Frank Sinatra tracks. The collection of 10 songs and standards was released today via Columbia Records, and marks the first new music from Dylan in three years.

Produced by Jack Frost, it will be the 36th studio album from Bob Dylan, and follows the release of the rewired Sinatra hit Full Moon and Empty Arms last spring. “It was a real privilege to make this album,” Dylan said in a statement. “I’ve wanted to do something like this for a long time, but was never brave enough to approach 30-piece complicated arrangements and refine them down for a five-piece band.” 

Yes, I'm sure his interpretations will be unique.  Here is a brief sample:

 STRANGERS IN THE NIGHT

Bob: Sjejekttj liw  e keuhtkt... eheilzhlty uwtyhpaghheeitnyleyghalmehseimlqnusrrnnyhg.

LOVE AND MARRIAGE

Bob: Sjejekttj liw  e keuhtkt... eheilzhlty uwtyhpaghheeitnyleyghalmehseimlqnusrrnnyhg.

ONE FOR MY BABY

Bob: Sjejekttj liw  e keuhtkt... eheilzhlty uwtyhpaghheeitnyleyghalmehseimlqnusrrnnyhg.

and of course, NEW YORK NEW YORK.  Sell it, Bob!

Bob: Sjejekttj liw  e keuhtkt... eheilzhlty uwtyhpaghheeitnyleyghalmehseimlqnusrrnnyhg.

I can't wait for his duet salute to Steve & Eydie with Bjork.

Here is brilliant Drew Friedman's vision of what the album cover should be.

35 comments:

Anonymous said...

Talk about low-hanging fruit...

Xwordz

Oat Willie said...

Still not as weird as Sinatra's version of Mrs Robinson, where "Jesus" is replaced by "Jilly", ring ding ding. Dylan's a god to us now and anytime he belches he wins a Grammy. I haven't been into him since "Desire" lp but I know the Croak of God.

MikeK.Pa. said...

Dylan's career has flourished in his autumn years, while Joan Baez - his former lover who heavily influenced his music and style - less so.

Friday Question: Given the Brian Williams fiasco following on the heels of David Gregory's ouster at MEET THE PRESS and Ann Curry's awkward exit at THE TODAY SHOW, is the perception that it's more to do with bad luck or bad management by Comcast?

Stoney said...

Actually, Dylan has worked some on his diction over the years after what may be his most infamous moment of incoherent babbling. It was 1992 when Dylan appeared on the LATE NIGHT WITH DAVID LETTERMAN 10TH Anniversary show on NBC; launching into a completely vocally haphazard rendition of "Like A Rolling Stone". Paul Schaffer and his assembled all-star backup singers did everything possible to try to salvage this train wreck. I still have the show on tape somewhere.

Steve Rosen of The Huffington Post gave the album a rave.

rockGolf said...

I've heard a track. While every word he's singing actually comes through clearly, it's still a vanity project.
I can hear equally inadequate "singing" visiting my 91-year-old aunt's rest home.

Mike Botula said...

Ken,when the final chapter in the History of the Human Race is written, it shall be noted that "This Was Ken Levine's Finest Blog!" I will be laughing for at least a week!

Mike said...

The Bob Dylan Songbook was a surprise: all the songs really are written on one note.

Hamid said...

I personally don't get the adoration heaped on Sinatra. Granted, I'm not the right generation, but there's so much that's unsavoury about the man. He was close pals with mobsters who threatened anyone who made jokes about him. He and his friends basically used Marilyn Monroe as their personal sex toy, drugging her and passing her around to each other. Oh and ok, he sang a few good songs. He wasn't a songwriter or producer. He was a lounge act.

Now I'm going to be blasted by Sinatra fans telling me he was a genius blah blah blah. I don't care.

I love Dylan but I'm not a completist, so won't be buying this.

VP81955 said...

I bought the CD last Friday and love it, and while Ken's entry is humorous, it in no way represents what the album is all about. (I'm pretty certain most of us here realize that, but for those few who don't...)

The 10 songs all are ballads and for the most part are fairly obscure; a few are truly standards ("Some Enchanted Evening," "What'll I Do") but not necessarily associated with Sinatra. (Four of them -- a re-recording of 1951's "I'm A Fool To Want You," "The Night We Called It A Day," "Autumn Leaves" and "Where Are You?" -- come from Frank's 1957 "Where Are You?" album, his first work in stereo and his initial collaboration with Gordon Jenkins.)

For those who haven't heard any of the tracks, rest assured that Dylan doesn't try to sing like Sinatra but interprets, with unobtrusive backing from his small band. Not every track completely succeeds, but for the most part, "Shadows In The Night" is a triumph. I could not imagine Rod Stewart or Linda Ronstadt approaching these songs in that manner. (Which reminds me -- is that hilariously devastating Julia Louis-Dreyfus "SNL" parody of Ronstadt circa "What's New?" available on YouTube, or has Lorne Michaels suppressed it?)

I think some of the confusion over this album has come from the title -- and I think even Dylan would consider the very idea of him doing "Strangers in the Night" rather cringeworthy.

VP81955 said...

Two tracks from the album were released in advance for YouTube promotion: "Full Moon and Empty Arms," an adaptation of a Rachmaninoff melody which Frank recorded for Columbia in the late 1940s (http://youtu.be/6S7nTLeMdAk) and "Stay With Me" -- obviously not the Sam Smith song but from the soundtrack of the 1963 film "The Cardinal"; it's obscure even by Sinatra standards (http://youtu.be/tt1BBubMHzM). I encourage those who are on the fence regarding this album to at least give them a listen.

Why did Dylan record these songs, and what does he find appealing in Sinatra? Well, from Bob's earliest days, he's been a storyteller...and so was Frank, though he was more an interpreter-as-storyteller. Perhaps Fred Astaire (an underrated vocalist, BTW) introduced more standards (including "One For My Baby," a song few associate with him), but Sinatra made those standards his own. Listen to Frank's best albums -- including "In The Wee Small Hours," arguably the greatest pop album ever made -- and you'll get his genius.

And perhaps it's me, but it seems that people who criticize Sinatra and other acts for not being a songwriter or producer are largely congruent with those who prefer single-camera sitcoms to multi-cams.

Mike Schryver said...

The problem I have with Sinatra is the sense he conveys that I'm supposed to feel privileged to listen to him. By the time the '60s came, when I was a child, he was just a sleazy lounge act. After I grew up I was able to go and listen to his early stuff, which is better, but I can't shake the image of him I acquired when I was young. I hear no sincerity in his voice at all.

Watch him do "Old Man River" in TILL THE CLOUDS ROLL BY. That man wouldn't know the river if he fell in it.

And I've never been a big Dylan fan, for what that's worth. Probably a few years too young.

Kelly said...

Bob Dylan should just retire already. He's gotten to be embarrassing. Why is it so hard for people in show biz to know when to quit?

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Like some others here I never cared for Sinatra, though I didn't realize about his less savory connections until much later.

I was never a huge fan of Bob Dylan's, either, but I have always seen him as an interesting artist and interpreter, and I'm not surprised at the positive reviews.

As for Joan Baez, she may not be commercially the level of success she was, but her voice still sounds great and she may be an example of someone who sacrificed some career success for her principles: I believe she is as active as ever in the causes she believes in.

wg

Richard Rothrock said...

When I was growing up, I kept hearing how brilliant Bob Dylan's lyrics were. And yet when he sang, I could never understand a thing he was saying. It was only when other artists started recording his stuff that I said, 'Wow, those are good." Ironically, I had the same reaction to Kurt Cobain's music.

As for Sinatra, I think you had to be there. When he died in 1998, the USA Today started his obituary with the words, "The 20th century ended yesterday….." and I thought. "Really?" His persona always overshadowed the music for me. If I had to pick a crooner, I would prefer Tony Bennett.

Will said...

I like Sinatra's earlier stuff. Through his 50s records I'm good with him. On his later stuff, his style had petrified too much. And like a lot of singers of his generation, his attempts to cover then-contemporary material in the late 1960s and '70s were just kind of embarrassing. (Though nothing as singularly, breathtakingly awful as Johnny Mathis singing "Light My Fire.") But some of his '50s albums are, for me, as good as it gets.

Dylan was great in his prime, and by this point I guess he's earned the right to sing whatever the hell he wants, but geez, he's had moments that have really made me wish he'd just hang it up.

blinky said...

I want to hear Boomhauer from King of the Hill do a duet with Dylan.

Anonymous said...

Never was a fan of his singing. I am a big fan of his songwriting.

He is the coverboy for the AARP magazine that I just got yesterday. The interview was interesting and they have an extended version online.

http://www.aarp.org/entertainment/style-trends/info-2015/bob-dylan-aarp-magazine.html?intcmp=ATMBB2

Pam, St. Louis

sanford said...

I have not heard the record yet. But Penn Jillette was talking about it last week on his podcast. He or a friend was able to get a copy before it came out and thought it was very good.

Hamid said...

VP81955:
"And perhaps it's me, but it seems that people who criticize Sinatra and other acts for not being a songwriter or producer are largely congruent with those who prefer single-camera sitcoms to multi-cams."

And you reached that conclusion how? What has one got to do with the other? The fact that I post on Ken's blog should be a hint that I like multi-cam sitcoms like Cheers and Frasier.

I wasn't criticizing Sinatra for not being a songwriter or producer. I was criticizing him for being a grubby sleazebag asshole. But in the context of him being regarded as the greatest singer ever etc etc, I pointed out he wasn't the consummate artist and that, in my opinion, makes him unworthy of such an accolade. Same with Elvis. A legend, no doubt. A great performer, no doubt. But he didn't know the first thing about writing or production. He was fortunate to get amazing songs written for him.

Jim said...

For anyone else who enjoys Johnny Mathis' version of Light My Fire, here's a wonderful cover of Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit by Icelandic lounge singer Ragnar Bjarnason. It's one of the all time greats.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JjBV12gKofE

Matt Tauber said...

Ken, you've guessed it wrong. This is Dylan's clearest singing since "Nashville Skyline". The problem is that he plays it too straight.

My issue with the album is not that Dylan's not a great crooner (something you know going in), but that the album is dull. It's practically one tempo through all ten songs. When he was with Capitol, Sinatra would alternate between fun swing albums and melancholy ballad albums. Dylan chose everything from the melancholy category. I like a couple of songs on it, but I'm not seeing what the critics see (and most of them really like it).

Clarence Odbody said...

The Autumn Leaves.....

...and it's not coming back.

Tom said...

Funny, but kinda easy....I'm a Dylan fan and I like the new album. You can understand every word he sings, for the (pardon the expression) record. And the AARP interview is very interesting.

VP81955 said...

Same with Elvis. A legend, no doubt. A great performer, no doubt. But he didn't know the first thing about writing or production. He was fortunate to get amazing songs written for him.

Most of Presley's epochal Sun sides were not written for him, but instead were drastic reworkings of songs composed (and sung) by other acts -- the bluesy "That's All Right Mama' from Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup turned country, bluegrass legend Bill Monroe's "Blue Moon of Kentucky" given a R&B touch, and so on. The Elvis Sun sound of 1954-55 was unlike anything people had heard at the time; it wasn't until moving to RCA in 1956 that he moved towards more of a conventional pop sound (he also was a fan of Dean Martin).

Anonymous said...

Adore Ronstadt and Riddle. Cause Linda's voice was warm, wet and gorgeously wrapped in Nelson's arrangements. At the time it was radical and strange. She was a pop/rock/country superstar at the time and still a dreamboat - so not an aging yet well meaning but limited vocal chops rocker like Rod Stewart - plus Rod arrangements are boring and dreadfully repetitive. Riddle and Ronstadt were interesting always lush and a few of rendtions are heartbreakingly sad and her southwestern latin influenced voice is evident. Dylan, btw, can try and do whatever he likes at this point. I found the record very interesting and w0he is digging the songs. But I won't be playing it much cause it is not touching my heart.

VP81955 said...

The Ronstadt-Riddle albums are listenable, very much so -- and I'll take them over the Stewart songbook albums any day -- but there is a sense of the obvious about them just the same. (Supposedly, Linda got the idea after being in a relationship with Pete Hamill and listening to his Sinatra albums. I'm guessing the relationship ended over their respective views on Walter O'Malley.) And that was the point of the J L-D "SNL" parody...it was a "career move."

Buttermilk Sky said...

"Some Enchanted Evening" was written for an actual opera singer, Ezio Pinza. I can't wait to hear Dylan's version.

Over at Movies Til Dawn, Raymond DeFelitta is doing a series of posts about actors who insisted on having their singing recorded, including Jerry Lewis and Robert Mitchum. Check it out:

moviestildawn.blogspot.com

Albert Giesbrecht said...

He was close pals with mobsters who threatened anyone who made jokes about him. He and his friends basically used Marilyn Monroe as their personal sex toy, drugging her and passing her around to each other.


That's why the people wanted to be him! How many people have you heard pine for the old days of Vegas?

Artie in Sin City said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Artie in Sin City said...

You are one sick puppy...but also a damn FUNNY one...

What an amazing concept album...Have to check it out on my Rhapsody account...
Or you can always find music on My Space...

Wonder what Frank is thinking up there about this Dylan work as he hangs with his Rat Pack buds...I wonder...

peabody nobis said...

I feel pity for the people who claim not to enjoy, or even respect, artists such as Dylan, Sinatra, and Presley. You may as well say you don't like music at all.

Anonymous said...

I guess Brando, Streep, Olivier couldn't be considered consummate artists since they didn't write or direct any of the scripts they performed.

Well, Brando and Olivier directed themselves at least once. Does that count?

seattlemartini said...

Makes about as much sense as SInatra covering the works of Rod McKuen.

Just sayin'

Pat Reeder said...

Hamid, for your own reputation, please, please stop making comments about Frank Sinatra. To claim that he knew nothing about production and simply sang songs written for him is embarrassing. If you'd ever read anything about him or listened to outtakes of his sessions, you would know how deeply involved he was in the song selection, arrangements and production; how much he knew about music; how sharp his ears and precise his tastes were; and how exacting and demanding of perfection from his musicians and arrangers. He even released albums on which he didn't sing but conducted the orchestra. He didn't just wave a baton; the man knew what he was doing.

And if you dismiss art because of the artist's less-than-admirable personal life, then you must be missing out on a staggering amount of great art.

Hamid said...

Pat, did you read my comments? I said Elvis didn't know anything about writing or production. I said Sinatra wasn't a songwriter and producer.