Bob Dylan
Rough and Rowdy Ways


4.0
excellent

Review

by ColeT USER (2 Reviews)
June 22nd, 2020 | 125 replies


Release Date: 06/19/2020 | Tracklist

Review Summary: By mixing slow ballads with bluesy rock songs, and dry wit with honest reflection, Bob Dylan proves he really does contain multitudes.

Each song on Rough and Rowdy Ways is deceptively complex. At its core, it’s simply another blues rock album, not entirely different from the numerous such albums Dylan’s put out in the past 20 years. But repeated listens reveal an attention to detail that propels it above the rest, and it becomes apparent that Dylan is still implementing the subtle flourishes in his songs that make them so captivating. Despite this, Rough and Rowdy Ways sounds like it was almost effortless to make. The songs slowly unfurl in a very organic way, but the added details show that it’s not actually a lack of effort Dylan puts forth here. He’s just been developing his songwriting ability for so long that he’s capable of releasing an impactful and well structured album just one year shy of turning 80 years old.

These details manifest in the subtleties of the album’s instrumentation, as well as Dylan’s witty but poignant lyricism. Each track is built on a fairly simple foundation, but there are always added little melodies or guitar licks to embellish them and make them more interesting. Unfortunately, the album features a flaw that many of Dylan’s later albums suffer from, which is that many of the songs are simply too long. The added details I mentioned are sometimes not enough to make a six and a half minute song compelling from start to finish. Because of this, the album can drag at times, which is a shame. But since the songs are so well composed and Dylan’s lyrics and delivery are so on point, it remains interesting overall.

Of course Dylan has been known for his lyrics throughout his whole career, but on Rough and Rowdy Ways he strikes a near perfect balance between humour and honest reflection. On the opening track I Contain Multitudes he sings “I paint landscapes and I paint nudes, I contain multitudes.” I can’t speak for everyone, but I find it hilarious listening to a 79 year old Bob Dylan describe the multifaceted nature of his personality by describing the things he likes to paint. And the way he drags out the word “multitudes” lets you know he’s in on the joke, having just as much fun singing it as I do listening to it. But elsewhere on the album, he gets real about his own mortality and acceptance of death, singing “I’ve already outlived my life by far” on Mother of Muses. And on “My Own Version of You,” one of the stranger Dylan songs I can remember, he details his search for body parts (“limbs and livers and brains and hearts”) in order to reconstruct and bring back to life someone he lost. On one hand it’s funny and playful, but also dark given how real the concept of loved ones and friends dying must be to a man of his age. This variety found within the lyrics keeps the album interesting and keeps the listener guessing. On top of that, Dylan’s vocal performances are somehow better than on previous albums like Tempest. By taking a slightly more subdued approach, his voice actually sounds stronger, and really helps to facilitate the ideas he conveys with his lyrics.

Overall, Rough and Rowdy Ways is another excellent bluesy rock album from one of the world’s most prolific songwriters. It drags at times, but the quality of the album’s arrangements, as well as some truly fascinating lyrics make it stand out as his best album in a long time. I don't think anyone really knows how many more albums Dylan has left in him, but if this is his last it's a strong note to go out on.



user ratings (82)
3.9
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
Sunnyvale
June 22nd 2020


1520 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Nice review! Album's great, so much to digest with it. The closer is really starting to hit the spot with me.

zakalwe
June 22nd 2020


31165 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Album is absolute class. The best of the year for me.

SowingSeason
Moderator
June 22nd 2020


34910 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I listened to this once and liked it quite a bit, but wasn't blown away. Need to revisit it. Nice to see you 2/2 in writing great and much needed reviews.

Digging: Bob Dylan - Rough and Rowdy Ways

ColeT
June 22nd 2020


645 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

I appreciate that, glad you like my reviews. And yeah I initially wasn't blown away either, but then something about it just clicked and now I'm loving it. Listened to part of Blonde on Blonde this morning and then played this right after and it made me appreciate it even more.

Minushuman24
June 22nd 2020


3131 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

There's something I really liked about this album that clicked fast. That being said, my rating feels preemptive, and I have no idea if it will grow on me more or grow off. Just one of those albums that is really hard for me to rate.

Digging: Fear - The Record

Scoot
June 22nd 2020


19930 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

how the fuck is this dude STILL making quality music



i haven’t liked anything since tempest and that was 8 years ago, but he’s almost 80 now and somehow this is his best in two decades



he was releasing classic albums when our dads were in diapers

Digging: Nuvolascura - As We Suffer From Memory and Imagination

ColeT
June 22nd 2020


645 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

It’s honestly pretty mind blowing. I used to work at a retirement home and we had some people around Dylan’s age. Most of them just watched tv all day. None of them dropped albums as far as I know.

JohnnyOnTheSpot
Emeritus
June 22nd 2020


6901 Comments


is this better than Time Out of Mind?

ColeT
June 22nd 2020


645 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

I wouldn’t say so, no. Nothing as good as Not Dark Yet.

zakalwe
June 22nd 2020


31165 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

It’s because he is the real deal scoot.

Probably one of about 7 people who truly are icons of musical history the past 60yrs.

theBoneyKing
June 22nd 2020


18967 Comments


“Key West” is incredible

Digging: Sunny Day Real Estate - How It Feels To Be Something On

zakalwe
June 22nd 2020


31165 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Yes Bone!

Jasdevi087
June 22nd 2020


6173 Comments


ramble off the whole 7 chief

Digging: Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds - No More Shall We Part

JohnnyOnTheSpot
Emeritus
June 22nd 2020


6901 Comments


lemme guess: ozzie, mccartney, neil young, waters, gilmour, keith richards, jagger

zakalwe
June 22nd 2020


31165 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Elvis, Lennon, Bob, Hendrix, Bowie, Rotten, Cobain

JohnnyOnTheSpot
Emeritus
June 22nd 2020


6901 Comments


thought you meant living icons, nvm

DoofDoof
June 22nd 2020


8369 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

All the above I can picture the bedroom poster on someone’s wall



Lou Reed, Bob Marley, Iggy Pop and Jagger are close



Waters and Gilmour - not so much

Digging: The Tiger Lillies - COVID?-?19 vol?.?II

zakalwe
June 22nd 2020


31165 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Living.

You’ve got to have Richards and Ozzy in there haven’t you.



There’s others dead (wacko Jacko, James Brown, Janis Joplin, Ian Curtis, Lemmy Miles Davis)



But in terms of devastating impact that changed everything I stand by that 7.

zakalwe
June 22nd 2020


31165 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

On another note I’m absolutely loving this. Top 10 bob for me, which is saying something I can tell ya.

DoofDoof
June 22nd 2020


8369 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

The 7 you chose are emblematic of whole musical scenes pretty much.



Some whole musical decades near enough.



Johnny Cash, Thom Yorke also close



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