If there’s been one consistent thread in Bob Dylan’s long career, it’s that when you want him to do one thing, he’ll be most inclined to do precisely the opposite. Newly lauded with a Nobel Prize in Literature — an honor never before accorded to a popular songwriter — Dylan has announced his 38th studio album. Is it a collection of new, groundbreaking originals that speak to his country’s tumultuous present situation? Nope, it’s 30 (count ’em, 30) more covers of standards from the Great American Songbook.
Dylan has just released a studio recording of “I Could Have Told You,” a song written by Carl Sigman and Van Heusen that was recorded by Frank Sinatra in 1953 but not released until 1959. (Dylan’s previously performed the song in concert.) A YouTube stream of the song notes that the track appears on Dylan’s album Triplicate. “Bob Dylan’s first three-disc album Triplicate, which features 30 brand new recordings of classic American songs, will be available March 31.”
A track list on Amazon indicates three discs of ten tracks each (see below) — including classics like “Stormy Weather,” “Sentimental Journey,” “As Time Goes By,” “Stardust,” and “You Go To My Head.” The name may be a joke on people who say these Dylan standards albums are starting to all sound alike. Amazon now has it available for preorder on digital ($19.99), triple vinyl ($50.98), deluxe vinyl ($66.98), and CD ($22.98 for a triple set, although the music would fit on two discs). It’s also available for preorder on other digital platforms like iTunes.
Update: Information about this set has now been posted on Dylan’s website. “With each disc individually titled and presented in a thematically-arranged 10-song sequence, Triplicate showcases Dylan’s unique and much-lauded talents as a vocalist, arranger and bandleader on 30 compositions by some of music’s most lauded and influential songwriters.” The album is credited as being produced by “Jack Frost,” a Dylan pseudonym.
“For Triplicate,” the press release continues, “Dylan assembled his touring band in Hollywood’s Capitol studios to record hand-chosen songs from an array of American songwriters including Charles Strouse and Lee Adams (‘Once Upon A Time’), Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler (‘Stormy Weather’), Harold Hupfield (‘As Time Goes By’) and Cy Coleman and Carolyn Leigh (‘The Best Is Yet To Come’). The titles of the individual discs are ‘Til The Sun Goes Down, Devil Dolls and Comin’ Home Late.”
The album will follow two consecutive albums of old-school covers: Shadows in the Night (2015) and Fallen Angels (2016). Clearly this has become a fascination for Dylan, and with good reason. The timing of the release — as America grapples with an unprecedented political crisis — may be a complete coincidence, but as my colleague Andrea Swensson noted, “It certainly feels timely…lyrically.”
Dylan, still on the “Neverending Tour” that began in the 1980s, has a series of European tour dates booked, starting with an April stop in Sweden — when presumably he’ll deliver the lecture that’s required of him if he’s to collect the $870,000 cash prize accompanying his Nobel.