Fallen Angels – Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan’s 37th studio album is his second volume of songs that he has recorded that have been mostly sung by Frank Sinatra. In fact, of the twelve songs here that were personally picked by Dylan, only “Skylark” was not recorded by Sinatra.
The album was primarily recorded at the same time and with the same core band as 2015’s acclaimed Shadows in the Night, which reached the top ten in seventeen countries and debuted at number one in the U.K. So Shadows could have been a double album. Should we consider Fallen Angels an album of songs not good enough to be included on Shadows and only released because of the success of the initial release? Are these the leftovers? No, this album is a triumph, a masterpiece, from an artist that never fails to surprise. Dylan, who will turn 75 four days after this album is released, has done something like this before with two albums of folk covers, 1992’s Good As I Been to You and 1993’s World Gone Wrong.
The low-key arrangements of the songs, with Dylan being backed by his excellent touring band, with great work by Donny Herron on pedal steel guitar, acoustic guitar and light drum, puts Dylan’s weathered but effective voice up front and center. It was self-produced by Dylan using his Jack Frost pseudonym. As with Shadows, his voice sounds the best it has in years. If you enjoyed Shadows you’ll enjoy this excellent new album.
Here are a few thoughts about each of the twelve songs:
Young at Heart – Written by Johnny Richards and Carolyn Leigh, it was recorded by Sinatra in 1953. Features guitar, some light bass and a particularly expressive vocal by Dylan.
Maybe You’ll Be There – Written by Rube Bloom and Sammy Gallop in 1947 and recorded by Sinatra in 1957. The band is supplemented by strings and some light horns.
Polka Dots and Moonbeans – Written by Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Burke it was Sinatra’s first hit with the Tommy Dorsey band in 1940. The song begins with an extended acoustic guitar and pedal steel opening as it leads to a light breezy beat.
All the Way – Written by Jimmy Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn and recorded by Sinatra in 1957. This was the second single released from the album and features an excellent vocal from Dylan over the pedal steel guitar of Donny Herron and a relaxed beat.
Skylark – Written by Hoagy Carmichael and Johnny Mercer and recorded by a number of artists including Bing Crosby. This is the one song on the collection that was not recorded by Sinatra. It opens with an acoustic guitar and strings moving to a light breezy beat that really shows off the band.
Nevertheless – Written by Harry Ruby and Bert Kalmar and recorded by Sinatra in 1950. It features light percussion, pedal steel guitar, and a nice guitar solo near the end of the song.
All or Nothing at All – Written by Arthur Altman and Jack Lawrence, and recorded by Sinatra in 1939. Was included as part of Dylan’s set list during his recent Japan tour dates. A bit of a faster pace than most songs on the album, featuring a nice guitar solo near the end of the song.
On a Little Street in Singapore – Written by Peter DeRose and Billy Hill and recorded by Sinatra with Harry James and His Orchestra in 1944. It opens with a guitar solo and Dylan shows some vocal flexibility here.
It Had to Be You – Written by Isham Jones and Gus Kahn and recorded by Sinatra in 1980. Features a particularly good Dylan vocal here over a subdued backing, featuring some light, muted horns. A nice acoustic guitar solo comes in the middle of the song.
Melancholy Mood – Written by Walter Schumann and Vick R. Knight, Sr. and recorded by Sinatra in 1939. Was the first single from the album and was included in Dylan’s set list during his recent Japan tour dates. It opens and closes with a nice extended guitar solo over a light drum. Some of Dylan’s best vocal work on the album as he sounds very comfortable here.
That Old Black Magic – Written by Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer and recorded by Sinatra in 1961. Was included as a part of Dylan’s set list during his recent Japan tour dates. A faster pace than most songs as the light percussion is more pronounced here as they drive the pace of the song. Definitely a standout. Dylan delivers a great vocal performance.
Come Rain or Come Shine – Also written by Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer and recorded by Sinatra in 1961. Features a relaxed pace and some tasty guitar.
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All the Way by Bob Dylan
This week’s song of the week is “All the Way” from Bob Dylan’s new album Fallen Angels, his second album of standards previously popularized by Frank Sinatra. Rolling Stone writes that “Dylan transforms the Jimmy Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn song into a tender, lonesome country waltz.” The song won an Academy Award for Best Original Song after appearing in the 1957 Sinatra-starring musical The Joker Is Wild. Listen to the song here. Listen to Frank Sinatra’s version here.
When somebody loves you
It’s no good unless he loves you all the way
Happy to be near you
When you need someone to cheer you all the way
Taller than the tallest tree is
That’s how it’s got to feel
Deeper than the deep blue sea is
That’s how deep it goes if it’s real
When somebody needs you
It’s no good unless he needs you all the way
Through the good or lean years
And for all the in-between years come what may
Who knows where the road will lead us
Only a fool would say
But if you’ll let me love you
It’s for sure I’m gonna love you all the way all the way
So, if you’ll let me love you
It’s for sure I’m gonna love you all the way all the way