By Jonathon S. Platt
In 1963, director Otto Preminger independently brought “The Cardinal” to theaters.
Antheming the production was Frank Sinatra’s iconic voice to the tune of “Stay With Me,” a song written specifically for the film.
Half a century later, these lyrics slyly slipped off the lips of legendary artist Bob Dylan and onto the most dynamic record of his career.
Always a game changer, Dylan recorded this latest record “Shadows in the Night” (Capital Records) in a sophisticated style that mimics Sinatra in all the right ways. After living, seeing and shaping so many decades, Dylan, at the age of 73, proved that he can still do what few artists can at much younger ages: reinvent himself.
Zimmy’s signature nasally tone and singer-songwriter rhythm is rarely found in any of the album “Shadows” 10 tracks. (“Full Moon And Empty Arms,” “Some Enchanted Evening” and “Where Are You?” do incorporate traditional Dylan, though.) Instead, jazzy, slow dance tunes make up most of the album. And while Dylan’s Sinatra-esque vocals are the heart of the album, the wide-ranging crescendos of Donny Herron’s pedal steel guitar are the soul.
While first time through it does seem like a tribute to the late Sinatra, examining the moan of horns, such as in “I’m A Fool To Want You,” proves the record is instead an extension of Dylan’s adventures into the blues – a corner of the industry he rarely overtly touches.
It makes sense that The Bard would produce such a deep and dynamic album in the latter part of his career. Dylan has done everything and helped to build the gigantic music house that so many of today’s popular artists live in. His influence reaches into every section. Who hasn’t heard of Bob Dylan?
But, like always, Dylan doesn’t like to stay in the predictable.
It also makes sense that Zimmy chose to cover “Stay With Me.”
Like Stephen Fermoyle, Tom Tyron’s Catholic priest character in “The Cardinal,” Dylan rose from lower levels of society to the prestigious princehood in almost ordained manner.
In the beginning, Fermoyle, a Boston priest, has little more than a small parish to look forward to, but ends up being made a cardinal on the eve of World War II. In the same way, Dylan likely never anticipated the breaks he would receive to be the become a defining voice of multiple generations.
Concluding the album is Dylan’s rendition of the iconic ballad “Lucky Old Sun,” by Beasley Smith and Haven Gillespie, originally recorded by Frankie Laine in 1949. Since its release, this instant classic has been covered by huge recording names from Aretha Franklin to Willie Nelson, whose duet with Kenny Chesney is my personal favorite.
While originally a majorly acoustic and echoey tune, Dylan’s cover incorporates a darker and fuller accompaniment of horns, strings and kettle drums.
“Shadows In The Night” has something for everyone. From the classic Dylan, to Sinatra, to hints of Blind Willie, to the Dylan of the ’90s, the deeply resonating, soundly calming and progressively reflective tone crosses generational and cultural boundaries seamlessly.
One thing is absolute: This era of The Bard will be interesting.