Bob Dylan’s ‘Tempest’ features tribute to John Lennon

A  selected group of music critics recently had the chance to hear “Tempest” the new Bob Dylan album set for release Sept. 11, and the few notes and brief descriptions that have emerged  suggest this album will only further solidify Dylan’s place  within the canon of essential American music.

Fret not if you didn’t get that exclusive invite to the Columbia Records office for a first listen and can’t wait a whole month for some new Dylan.  “Early Roman Kings”, one of the tracks on the upcoming album and new theme song to Cinemax’s show “Strike Force” was made available to hold the rest of us over.

The song rides on a familiar blues groove, much like Muddy Water’s classic “Mannish Boy”, but with a folk refrain, branding the song as distinctively Dylan’s.

Those who got a sneak listen say this album is totally different than his past albums, such as the 1997’s Grammy-winning  “Time Out of Mind” or the 2001’s “Love and Theft,” 2006’s “Modern Times” and 2009’s “Together Through Life,” and his Christmas album in 2009.

Dylan recently told Rolling Stone that the 10-song album as one where “anything goes and you just gotta believe it will make sense”, and it appears that Dylan really took that mentality to heart.  The album is set to feature what hopefully will add to the legend’s catalog.  Among the most anticipated is Dylan’s tribute to John Lennon on “Roll On, John”, where Dylan borrows lines from some of Lennon’s most memorable songs.

Dylan had supported Lennon when the Nixon administration ordered the deportation of the famous Beatle. He also appeared in a short film  with a cameo from Lennon in “Eat the Document.” The 1966 scene was shot in the back of a limo ride they shared.

Bob Dylan’s  1972 letter to the INS defending John Lennon.

Even more talked about however, is the fourteen-minute title track, which chronicles the story of the Titanic.  The song is a 45 verse epic without a chorus, featuring a wide range of characters, including an appearance by Leonardo DiCaprio.

And if an explosive Cinemax trailer and details about the album are still not enough to whet your Bob Dylan appetite, there is still more.  After hearing about the swelling Titanic ballad, comedian Tim Heidecker did what only can be described as a very Bob Dylan-like thing to do; he wrote and recorded his own ode to the mighty ship.

Needless to say, with a few weeks still separating the world and Dylan’s new album, “Tempest” is generating  attention and anticipation.  The album is Dylan’s 35th studio release, and again finds Dylan again teaming up with longtime producer himself, aka Jack Frost, a pseudonym Dylan uses for his records. He recorded the album in Los Angeles and is supported byhis touring band and Los Lobos’s David Hidalgo.

Will this be Dylan’s last album? Some critics say it is, which  fittingly draws parallels with Shakespeare’s last play “The Tempest.”