‘All I can do is be me, whoever that is.’
In his 37th studio album, he is mostly Frank Sinatra. Like its predecessor, Fallen Angels is a cover album. Also like its predecessor, this album consists of American Standards from the 1950's. Interestingly all songs in Fallen Angels except for Skylark have at some point been recorded by Frank Sinatra. Frank Sinatra had also at some point recorded all songs in Dylan's previous album.
The American Standards is a set of the most important and influential American popular songs and jazz standards from the early 20th century. The Songbook consists of songs penned by, among others, Johnny Mercer, George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Richard Rodgers, and Harold Arlen.
Once you get used to the overall stripped down vibe of the album, and allow the tasteful maturity of the arrangement and orchestration to shine through any initial reservations about a 2016 Bob Dylan Album, you may well be in for a treat. There may be a point in the album when you even start to appreciate his vocals.
That being said, hearing Bob Dylan croon over twelve songs definitely takes some getting used to. Though he sounds nothing like Josh Groban, one of the industry's leading crooners, his colloquial Sinatra influenced vocals become a focal point in an acoustic guitar-heavy set of songs, arranged masterfully with the help of his touring band.
Bob Dylan has always maintained that he believed his main strength was the fact that he knew how exactly to deliver songs to his audiences, despite his obvious lack of vocal training. As he starts his vocals in Maybe You'll Be There, that is difficult to believe. Seconds into the song, the most impactful moment in the album is revealed, as his delivery cuts through the rest of the mix revealing a vulnerable dynamism in his voice, a sudden melodic change in timbre that sounds nothing short of stunning.
In a four star review for Mojo Magazine, Mat Snow writes: 'What Dylan gives us in these recordings is something of a sentimental memoir...'
In songs like Polka Dots and Moonbeams, it feels like an instrumental memoir, with the song consisting of the longest intro in the album. Two guitars play off each other in the slowest of tempos and the vocals do not begin until one at least considers the possibility of there being no vocals at all. Just like the vocals in All or Nothing At All though, his vocals sound as pristine as in any other song in the album, and the quality of the production really help bring it to the fore.