That mustache of his isn’t helping anything, but Tempest, Bob Dylan’s 35th(!) studio album, is worthy of praise, and not just reverent adoration for “what Dylan means in the big picture” kind of praise, as his last handful of albums earned in terms of reviews. This one is lofty and sprawling, building on themes of death and struggle, from John Lennon’s assassination (“Roll On, John”) to a triple murder-suicide (“Tin Angel”).
And then, against an Irish waltz of fiddle and accordion, there’s its titular 14-minute-long pseudo oral history of the sinking of the Titanic. Never one to skimp on details, here Dylan tells us about mothers and daughters “jumping into the icy waters,” staircases made from “brass and punished gold,” and an anecdote about a guy who, if I’m hearing Dylan correctly, never learned to swim so he gives his life vest to a crippled child and now feels better about the situation. He adds extra phlegm-rattling gravitas to any mention of children and never falls out of rhyme. For 14 minutes! He namechecks John Astor, the captain, and Leonardo the Actor. Also Kiel, some guy Leo evidently liked to hang out with on the ship who was maybe edited out of the movie because he wasn’t good-looking enough? Not sure.
In honor of Tempest‘s release today—and also because we really like the image of Bob Dylan bent over a laptop, furiously Googling random facts about the U.S.S. Titanic—we pulled some choice lyrical quotes from the song. To get in the right frame of mind, you might first want to watch this bonus clip from Titanic‘s just-released Blu-ray edition, in which Kate Winslet screen tests with Jeremy Sisto as Jack and confuses your middle school fantasies, then stream the entire album for free on iTunes (the song “Tempest” begins around the 21:20 mark), the latter of which comes highly recommended.