Album review: Bob Dylan, Tempest

Dylan's 35th studio recording is not the best work of his 50-year career, despite what critics are saying. Tempest is not Blood on the Tracks or even Time Out of Mind. There's nothing life-altering or canon-defining here. But the album is far from bad. From the first listen on, Tempest is comfortable and comforting, like a favorite fuzzy blanket or my mother's lasagna. Dylan's voice is surprisingly warm and intelligible, even with its shredded-leather quality. On songs like "Long and Wasted Years" and "Scarlet Town," he positively purrs, and I'm reminded of a more youthful Dylan, the one who has made me swoon for half of my life. The music is the same swingy, jazzy blues he and his band have visited on his previous three albums, with a few folkier ballads — like the 14-minute, 45-verse title track about the sinking of the Titanic — thrown in for good measure and a tender, piano-driven requiem to John Lennon, "Roll On John," closing out the record. Overall, Tempest is a respectable addition to Dylan's prodigious body of work, but likely it'll be enjoyed most by those of us who already consider ourselves zealots. (Columbia)

Critics' Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars