American folk legend Bob Dylan hit a milestone Tuesday with the release of his 35th studio album, Tempest, marking the 50th anniversary of his eponymous debut album in 1962.
With his signature rasp and sociopolitical lyrics, the 71-year-old Dylan has long been one of the most influential people in popular music and culture, and he shows little signs of slowing down on his latest work.
The album has enjoyed a positive reception from music critics with an aggregate score of 82 out of 100 on Metacritic, earning it “universal acclaim” by the review-tracking website’s standards.
In his five-star review for Rolling Stone, Will Hermes called Tempest “the single darkest record in Dylan’s catalog,” noting the several tracks on the album that center themselves on themes of death and destruction.
The nearly 14-minute long title track serves as a modern-day epic, meditating on the sinking of the Titanic in 45 powerful verses. “Roll On, John,” the album’s closing track, is a heartfelt eulogy for John Lennon, with Hermes noting that here Dylan sings with a shade of “survivor’s guilt…a reminder that Dylan now stands virtually alone among his 1960s peers.”
In her review for Pitchfork, Amanda Petrusich writes that “death – mass death, helpless death, inevitable death – is the real story here, and Tempest, for all its detours toward sadness and alienation, is very much a record about The End.”
While the album’s title sparked rumors that it would be Dylan’s last because of its similarity to the title of Shakespeare’s final play, The Tempest, along with the album’s overarching focus on death, Dylan dismissed the suggestion to Rolling Stone: “Shakespeare’s last play was called The Tempest. It wasn’t called just plain Tempest. The name of my record is just plain Tempest. It’s two different titles.”