No one would have thought that Bob Dylan would make an album full of Frank Sinatra covers. Yet here we are, faced with Shadows in the Night, the latest Dylan project of exclusively Sinatra covers. And the tracks are made anew by the enduring sound that the “Voice of Protest” always brings.
Shadows in the Night represents a deep-seated appreciation of Sinatra that Dylan has had within himself since his youth. He’s most certainly not trying to emulate the silky croon of Ol’ Blue Eyes, or even take a walk down memory lane. Instead he takes a new spin on each of the tracks, maintaining the idea that this indeed is a Bob Dylan record, not a haphazardly-thrown-together mixtape.
Dylan has managed to make songs written in the 1940s and earlier become much more accessible to his new audiences. It has an appeal that comes from both an ever-present feeling of nostalgia, yet there is a sense of newness that only a weathered singer-songwriter can bring to the table. There is a deep sense of agelessness that is captured within the renditions of the melodies that Dylan uses.
This ageless quality doesn’t cause Dylan to remain stagnant in the changing of his style. The songs have been restored in an odd fashion; they are stripped down from the massive orchestral originals, instead taking a slowed-down minimalist sound.
The tracks themselves have been well chosen, serving up recurring themes such as love, loss, loneliness and desperation. They’re the eternal songs of dichotomy of relationships between lovers. They’re strung together skillfully, allowing for the album to tell a story.
The gentle horns on “The Night We Called It a Day” remain inconspicuous and are included not for dramatic effect but for a slick atmosphere. Dylan’s voice is the main attraction, the backing instruments only highlighting the lyrics and his soulful singing. The lead instrument is the pedal steel, making an appearance in every song, starting it off with “I’m a Fool to WantYou,” giving the entirety of Shadows in the Night a set ambiance.
These songs reveal a new facet of romanticism for the difficult shell that is Bob Dylan, and they comprise a deeply fascinating and abstract sense of longing that will be overly dissected by diehards, while probably being ignored by everyone else.
And despite the fact that this album may seem like a detour on the highway of Bob Dylan’s masterful journey through music, it manages to become another one of the timeless records that the master of timelessness can add to his repertoire.