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Music Review: Bob Dylan's 'Shadow Kingdom' reimagines well-known, obscure songs


“Shadow Kingdom,” Bob Dylan (Columbia Records/Legacy Recordings)

Bob Dylan’s “Shadow Kingdom” feels like Dylan covering Dylan.

Or Dylan radically unplugged, nearly 30 years after he did that on MTV.

When Dylan first released “Shadow Kingdom” as a streaming event in July 2021, it disappeared almost as quickly as it emerged out of the smoke-filled sound stage where it was filmed noir-style in black and white.

But now with its official release, fans will be able to hear yet again how Dylan reinterprets some of his earliest songs, with a heavy dose of accordion and no drums, making them sound fresh again.

The majority of the 14 songs on “Shadow Kingdom" were first recorded in the 1960s. Not counting a newly recorded instrumental, the most recent and most obscure song is “What Was It You Wanted,” first released in 1989.

“When I Paint My Masterpiece,” released in 1971, kicks off the set not just with a fresh arrangement, but also some new lyrics. It brings home the point that more than 60 years into his career, Dylan is still reinventing himself and his songs. His sought-after masterpiece remains a work in progress.

“Shadow Kingdom” also stands as a good retort for all the naysayers who have argued, seemingly from day one, that Dylan can’t sing. The subdued arrangements are perfect for Dylan’s well-weathered, unfairly maligned voice.

Even with this official release, plenty of mystery remains about the aptly-titled “Shadow Kingdom.” None of the band members who appear with Dylan are credited and there are no liner notes. It's too bad those details are left in the shadows.


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