Bob Dylan releases first original album in 8 years

The US folk and rock legend and Nobel winner Bob Dylan released his first album of original songs in eight years on Friday, AFP reported. "Rough and Rowdy Ways" is Dylan’s first collection of new material since "Tempest" in 2012, although he has released a number of cover albums in the interim.

His 39th studio album, which comes 58 years after his first, features a 17-minute ballad about the assassination of John F Kennedy, as well as a tribute to American electric bluesman Jimmy Reed. In the album's opening song "I Contain Multitudes," the 79-year-old grapples with mortality. "I sleep with life and death in the same bed," the song says. Dylan was asked about the lyrics in a recent interview with The New York Times, his first since he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2016. "I think about the death of the human race. The long strange trip of the naked ape," he replied. "Not to be light on it, but everybody's life is so transient. Every human being, no matter how strong or mighty, is frail when it comes to death. I think about it in general terms, not in a personal way."

In "I Contain Multitudes," Dylan cites Indiana Jones, Anne Frank and the Rolling Stones in the same verse."Murder Most Foul," first revealed in March, retells the shooting of President Kennedy in Dallas, Texas while describing the evolution of 1960s counterculture.The song, which rose to the top of the Billboard chart, is packed with artist name-drops including the Eagles, Charlie Parker, Stevie Nicks, Woodstock and The Beatles.

 Dylan, some of whose most-loved songs from the 1960s and 70s addressed police brutality and racism, such as "Hurricane", also mentions the Tulsa race massacre of 1921. The "Birdman of Alcatraz," a convicted murderer who became a respected ornithologist raising birds in prison, gets a mention, too. In "False Prophet," the album's six-minute second track, Dylan sounds cocky and unapologetic as he addresses his own mythology. "I ain't no false prophet / I just said what I said / I'm just here to bring vengeance on somebody's head," he sings over a slow blues riff.

British music magazine NME called the album "arguably his grandest poetic statement yet." Rolling Stone magazine hailed it an "absolute classic," calling it one of Dylan's "most timely albums ever."

The coronavirus crisis forced Dylan to cancel a string of dates in Japan and North America this spring and summer, but he has promised to be back on the road as soon as it's safe to do so.

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