Dylan’s Releasing Another New Album Of Standards. Stop Complaining About It.

Like a ghost train delivering the mail from long-forgotten whistle stops down an abandoned rail line, Bob Dylan is coming around the bend one more time with an album of songbook standards from the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. Triplicate, which is set for release in multiple formats on March 31, follows 2016’s Fallen Angels and 2015’s Shadows In The Night, both of which featured Brother Bob covering old Sinatra-era tunes.

Why yet another album of Sinatra covers? The answer seems to be that Dylan recorded an awful lot of them. Triplicate will be Dylan’s first-ever triple album, three discs totalling 30 songs including “Stormy Weather”, “As Time Goes By”, and the track released below as a teaser for the album, “I Could Have Told You”. The three discs are thematically titled and arranged by Bobby himself, indicating I suppose just how important these songs really are to him.

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The guessing is that this album clears the vault of this phase of material, and that his next album, which would be his 39th studio album, would see him go back to recording originals. At least we hope so. He’s definitely established a pattern over the years of three-album cycles, like his three-album Christian phase in the early 1980s. But of course there’s no guarantees in life, and no guarantees that there is any new material coming after this one, so let’s just keep our fingers crossed.

Although there’s now way too much of it, I really love his Sinatra stuff. I love how Bobby’s much-maligned voice conforms to the mellow cool of the songs, as tuneful and soft and un-croaky as he has ever sounded. The old standards were sometimes written in old-fashioned ways and words, but most of them are still expertly crafted and reflect a universality that I think Bob was getting at. 60, 70, 80 years later, people are still singing about the power of love and love lost, the inexorable passage of time, and the celebration of escape and abandon. We just do it a little differently now.

Those who complain about the greatest songwriter in the history of Rock covering the material of others are forgetting that’s always been a part of who he is. As a folksinger in the early 1960s, interpretation was considered to be more important than original composition. After Dylan changed the world in the 1960s, he turned to old folk covers on his 1970 album Self Portrait, and was greeted with widespread bitching and moaning. His 1992 album Good As I Been To You also consisted of dusty old chestnuts.

Look, Bob Dylan has done more for Rock music and contemporary culture than any other human being who ever lived. He has earned the right to do whatever the hell he wants, and he has earned the benefit of the doubt in any circumstance, so let’s please give him that, people.

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