September 7: Tempest by Bob Dylan was released in 2012


Shine your light
Movin’ on
You burned so bright
Roll on, John

Three years have gone since we was offered Tempest from Bob Dylan, it still sounds great.

Tempest is the thirty-fifth studio album by Dylan, released on September 7 to 11 (different countries and continents), 2012 . The album was recorded at Jackson Browne’s Groove Masters Studios in Santa Monica, California. Dylan wrote all of the songs himself with the exception of the track “Duquesne Whistle”, which he co-wrote with Robert Hunter.

Tempest was very well received by contemporary music critics, who praised its traditional music influences and Dylan’s dark lyrics. The album peaked at number three on the Billboard 200.

The album’s title initially spurred rumors that it would be Dylan’s final album, based on its similarity to the title of Shakespeare’s final play.
Dylan later responded:

“Shakespeare’s last play was called The Tempest. It wasn’t called just plain “Tempest”. The name of my record is just plain Tempest. It’s two different titles.”

Some facts from Wikipedia:

Released From September 7 to September 11, 2012
Recorded January–March 2012 at Groove Masters Studios in Santa Monica, California
Genre Rock, folk rock
Length 1:08:31
Label Columbia
Producer Bob Dylan

Here are three tracks from Tempest (with my analysis, sort of…):

Tin Angel 
“For me, after listening to it for two days, the most obvious masterpiece on Bob Dylan’s new album is the murder ballad, Tin Angel. It’s a story-song, the kind Dylan has done so magnificently many times before. Cross the Green Mountain, Tweeter and the Monkey Man and  Brownsville Girl springs to mind. They are extremely cinematic songs and they tell a story over many verses.  Another song that pops up in my head is the wonderful story of Spanish Jack by Willy DeVille, not very like in sound but in tone.”  Read More…

Pay in Blood
“Bob Dylan says the stigma of slavery ruined America and he doubts the country can get rid of the shame because it was “founded on the backs of slaves.”

Bob Dylan told in a recent interview with Rolling Stone Magazine that in America “people are at each other’s throats just because they are of a different color, it will hold any nation back.” He went on to say that black people know that some white people  “didn’t want to give up slavery.””  Read more…

Scarlet Town
“The song feels like a mash of several songs, and that’s actually what it is. He draws inspiration from the old ballad Barbara Allen, but he just uses it as a framework to tell an even more sinister tale. The new parts of the song also feels like a split between two different songs, one set in biblical times and the other addressing the state of USA/The Western world today.”  Read more…

37th AFI Life Achievement Award - Show


The cover art for Tempest incorporates a red tinted photograph of a statue located at the base of the Pallas-Athene Fountain in front of the Austrian Parliament Building in Vienna. The statue is one of four figures on the intermediate platform of the fountain bowl personifying the main rivers of Austria-Hungary: the Danube, the Inn, the Elbe, and the Moldau. The figure shown on the album cover represents the Moldau. The sculpture was created by Carl Kundmann between 1893 and 1902 based on architect Theophil Hansen’s original plans.

Critical reception:

  • In his review in Rolling Stone magazine, Will Hermes gave the album five out of five stars, calling it “musically varied and full of curveballs” and “the single darkest record in Dylan’s catalog.” According to Hermes, the album draws upon elements common throughout Dylan’s career—especially the last three albums—with music that is “built from traditional forms and drawing on eternal themes: love, struggle, death.” Hermes continues:
    “Lyrically, Dylan is at the top of his game, joking around, dropping wordplay and allegories that evade pat readings and quoting other folks’ words like a freestyle rapper on fire. “Narrow Way” is one of Dylan’s most potent rockers in years, and it borrows a chorus from the Mississippi Sheiks’ 1934 blues “You’ll Work Down to Me Someday”. “Scarlet Town” draws on verses by 19th-century Quaker poet and abolitionist John Greenleaf Whittier; and allusions to Louis Armstrong and the Isley Brothers pop up elsewhere.” ~Will Hermes
    According to Hermes, the two most powerful songs on the album are “Tempest” and “Roll On, John”. The title track, about the sinking of the RMS Titanic, is a 14-minute epic consisting of 45 verses and no chorus, with an Irish melody supported by accordion and fiddle. The song depicts a series of horrifying scenes—of passengers falling into the icy waters, dead bodies “already floating”, men turning against other men in murderous acts—presented against acts of bravery, such as one man “offering his lifeboat seat to a crippled child.” The closing track, according to Hermes, is a “prayer from one great artist to another”, and stands as a reminder that “Dylan now stands virtually alone among his 1960s peers. His own final act, meanwhile, rolls on. It’s a thing to behold.”
  • In his review for American Songwriter, Jim Beviglia gave the album four and a half out of five stars, calling it “the kind of meaty offering that his most ardent fans desire most.” The deceptively gentle instrumental passage at the start of “Duquesne Whistle”, Beviglia observes, is a perfect opening to an album of “sudden juxtapositions and mood shifts that occur not just within songs but sometimes within verses.” Through the easy tempo of “Soon After Midnight”, the grinding blues of “Narrow Way”, the soulful guitar lines of “Long and Wasted Years”, and the remorseless biting lyrics of “Pay In Blood”, Dylan captures “humanity, in all of its flawed glory, at every turn.” The musical antecedents of some of these songs are transparent: “Duquesne Whistle” from “Thunder on the Mountain”, “Scarlet Town” from “Ain’t Talkin'”, “Tin Angel” from “Man in the Long Black Coat”, “Early Roman Kings” from the blues classic “Mannish Boy”, and “Pay In Blood” from “Idiot Wind” or “Like a Rolling Stone”.  Dylan’s singing is strong on the album, especially on songs like “Long and Wasted Years”, where he toys with the phrasing of each line, teasing out “every bit of hurt in this tale of love gone wrong.” “His voice may be shredded,” Breviglia observes, “but he can still interpret a song like no other.”
  • In his review in the Los Angeles Times, Randall Roberts wrote, “Few American writers, save Mark Twain, have spoken so eloquently and consistently at such a steady, honest clip, and the evidence continues on Tempest.”  According to Randall, the album reveals a “master storyteller” at work as Dylan “continues to explore the various strands of early American roots music that he internalized as he matured.”
    “At their best, new songs such as “Scarlet Town,” “Tin Angel” and “Roll On, John” show an artist swirling in musical repetition and the joy of longevity. Each is longer than seven minutes and each deserves to be heard again the moment it ends. He mixes these longer narratives with a few four-minute, expertly crafted gems that float like whittled wooden birds come to life—especially “Long and Wasted Years,” a bitter song about a dead marriage.” ~Randall Roberts
  • In his review in The Guardian, Alexis Petridis gave the album four out of five stars, but downplayed some of the superlatives offered by other reviewers who have compared Tempest to some of Dylan’s finest work.
  • In his review in The Sun, Simon Cosyns gave the album five out of five stars, calling it “a magnificent beast of an album”. According to Cosyns, the album “continues Dylan’s rich vein of late-career form” and in some ways surpasses his recent albums based on “sheer lyrical and vocal power while managing to stretch the familiar old timey sonic palette in all sorts of unexpected ways.”
  • In his review in The Telegraph, Neil McCormick called the album “among his best ever”.  According to McCormick, the songs on Tempest reveal a Dylan “genuinely fired up by the possibilities of language” and that the entire album “resounds with snappy jokes and dark ruminations, vivid sketches and philosophical asides.” McCormick continued:“Tempest is certainly his strongest and most distinctive album in a decade. The sound is a distillation of the jump blues, railroad boogie, archaic country and lush folk that Dylan has been honing since 2001’s Love and Theft, played with swagger and character by his live ensemble and snappily produced by the man himself. A notoriously impatient recording artist, Dylan seems to have found a style that suits his working methods. Drawing on the early 20th-century Americana that first grabbed his attention as a young man (and that he celebrated in his Theme Time Radio Hour shows) and surrounding himself with slick, intuitive musicians capable of charging these nostalgic grooves with contemporary energy, his late-period albums.” ~Neil McCormick
  • Allan Jones in Uncut Magazine gives 10/10 & writes:”Bob Dylan’s fantastic new album opens with a train song. Given the wrath to come and the often elemental ire that accompanies it, not to mention all the bloodshed, madness, death, chaos and assorted disasters that will shortly be forthcoming, you may be surprised that what’s clattering along the tracks here isn’t the ominous engine of a slow train coming, a locomotive of doom and retribution, souls wailing in a caboose crowded with the forlorn damned and other people like them. ……the sheer tenderness of the closing “Roll On, John” is as much of a shock as a mere surprise. A belated tribute to John Lennon, the song’s as direct and heartfelt as anything Dylan’s written probably since “Sara”, whose occasional gaucheness it recalls, as Dylan roams over Lennon’s career, “from the Liverpool docks to the red-light Hamburg streets”, quoting from Lennon and Beatles’ songs along the way, including “A Day In The Life”, “The Ballad Of John And Yoko” and “Come Together”. The affection expressed for Lennon in the song is tangible, makes it glow like a force-field, and by the end is totally disarming. “Your bones are weary, you’re about to breathe your last,” Dylan sings to his dead friend. “Lord you know how hard that bit can be,” before moving onto a spine-tingling elegiac chorus: “Shine a light/Move it on/You burned so bright/Roll on, John”.Read more over @ uncut -> Allan Jones – Tempest 

Track Listing:

  1. “Duquesne Whistle” (Dylan, Robert Hunter)
  2. “Soon After Midnight”
  3. “Narrow Way”
  4. “Long and Wasted Years”
  5. “Pay in Blood”
  6. “Scarlet Town”
  7. Early Roman Kings”
  8. “Tin Angel”
  9. “Tempest”
  10. “Roll on John

All the lyrics: -> @

Dusquesne Whistle (official video):

Soon After Midnight – Thessaloniki 22 June 2014:

“Long And Wasted Years” – april 4, 2014 @ Zepp Divercity Tokyo:

Pay In Blood – Hamburg – 19 october 2013:

Scarlet Town – Burg Clam (Austria) – 29.06.2014:


Tempest on Spotify:

– Egil & Hallgeir

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14 thoughts on “September 7: Tempest by Bob Dylan was released in 2012”

  1. I believe Tin Angel is different. The boss is a good noble man. He goes to take back what is his. He leaves his faith and cross handled sword to go search her out. When he finds her she has mingled with the brutish Henry Lee so much he can’t tell them apart. He confronts her, “Bow the heart if not the knee or never again this world you’ll see.” The wife struck to her heart repents and remembers her love and falls to her knees. Henry Lee realizes the thing he has with her is really nothing he rages and pulls out a gun and points it at her husband. She cries out, “Oh let not your heart be cold, this man is dearer to me than gold.” Henry Lee heartlessly tries to slander her good man saying, “oh my dear you must be blind he’s a gutless ape with a worthless mind.” She angrily cries out, “You’ve had your way too long with me now it’s me who’ll determine how things should be.” As she tries to stand with the truth of love. Henry Lee selfishly becomes furious pointing the gun at her says “Try to escape he cussed and cursed you’ll have to get passed me first. Do not let your passion rule you think my heart the heart of a fool.” He now points the gun at the boss her love and says, “And you sir you can not deny you made a fool of me for what and for why…” then Henry Lee pulls the trigger in cold blooded murder, ending any chance of things getting right for the husband and wife to reconcile.

  2. Fantastic album. I could listen to Long and Wasted Years and Soon After Midnight on repeat and never get bored. What’s odd to me is that Scarlet Town is one of my favorites on the album but it’s one of the weaker tracks played live when I’ve seen him for some reason. The title track is pretty incredible too, all-in-all it’s a great album and looking forward to his next album of originals.

  3. It is funny how in my previous comment I did not mention Soon after Midnight, though that song never fails to tickle my fancy. I cannot quite put my finger on it, but it is a devious devil of a crooners anthem. asking to be underrated and then it creeps under your skin… Like so many of Dylan’s so called throw aways, and this one especially, because it starts out innocent and ends pretty cruel, a thriller.

    1. It’ good to see that more than me loves this album. My favourites are Tin Angel, Pay in blood and Scarlet Town. The hardest to like sink into is Tempest, the song is long and even though the lyrics are great, I believe it needs a stronger melody and rhythm. When I read about it I see that not many agree with me on that.

      The album (and especially) Tempest (song) for me is about man’s certainty and belief that society will always be the same, that it cannot fall. Bob Dylan is smart enough to know that it can, I see the album as a warning. Not an angry warning, but a reminder that all can be lost.

      1. Yes I agree with you on Tempest the song, although I like the melody and even the rhythm, but not enough is done with it, Dylan and band could have put some more dramatics in it, by changing the pace where the description of the storm and sinking asked for it, and Charlie or Donnie might have put in some more embellishments, the lyrics warrant a more in your face playing of the musicians. And yes, though the content of the album is grim it is no longer an angry warning, just a realistic one, and even one with much compassion. The overall feeling is warm, intense, not condemning (as on Infidels and even more so on Slow Train Coming). Good you brought it back to attention.

  4. And now, years have passed, and I still listen to this in awe. Are there classics on it, you bet! He proved it in concert. with Pay in Blood and Long and Wasted Years and even on a lesser level with Narrow Way and also Early Roman Kings, that overcomes its limitations of derived blues with great lines. Scarlet Town and Tin Angel still enrapture when listened to on elpee, Scarlet Town a more impersonal, mythical sequel to Ain’t Talkin’, where the duality is even stronger, the resolvement further away, though Ain’t Talkin’ is more emotionally moving. But whe get emotions enough with Roll on John, not his best song lyrically, but so beautiful and disarming, which is needed after such a heavy album. Tempest remains a song that sometimes sucks me in, other times I just decide to stop with Tin Angel, I miss something in the background, an instrumental variation like the guitar on Desolation Row. And in that detail I see the only thing that I can say against this classic album, Dylan’s band, strong though it is, shows not enough guts to oppose him, rattle things up in terms of music (outside of the superb light opener Duquesne Whistle, the riveting Long and Waisted Years and strong Pay in Blood; Scarlet Town and Tin Angel though benefit from their subdued hypnotic approach. To me it stands alongside the masterpiece Love and Theft and even towers it in depth but must step back when musical originality is considered, even if I like the return of Irish tones.

  5. Just watched the Early Roman Kings video.
    Bob sure sounds great. And Charlie too. Love the hat….

  6. Thanks for the post!
    It’s an extremely strong, powerful album. It’s cohesive, distinctive, and tinged in blood and darkness .. leavened by Dylan’s brilliant wordplay, varied singing and his expert, soulful band.

    I am among those who find the title track to be magic through every minute. The image of the “watchman who lay sleeping” .. “who dreamed the Titanic was sinking, and tried to tell someone” .. is such a strong metaphor for the prophets who see our world today burning up in global warming and conflict, as if in the midst of a nightmare, but who are unable to change the course of the ship.

    I managed to make a poor imitation of “Scarlet Town” on my guitar: to sing it is to be awed by the images that pour out of every line of that visionary song. “Duquesne Whistle” is a blast; “Narrow Way” and “Pay in Blood” are, too. And “Long and Wasted Years” is surely devastating for all who have lost love, and watched the integrity of a relationship slip slowly away.

    Then the album ends on its quietest, and most epic, mythical note, with its direct and allusive homages to John Lennon: Bob’s soul-mate in artistic daring and reckless courage. And summons William Blake at the moment of John’s death. Oh my Gosh … what a piece of work is this!

    1. Thank you for your views and insights, interesting!

      It is a remarkable album, and I think it will grow “stronger” as the year passes.
      It’s hard to spot a classic until you get some distance (or years) to it.

      Thanks for the comment.

      – Hallgeir

  7. And don’t overlook the fact that it is probably the best album singing-wise for Dylan! A perfect voice for every single song. Magic!

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