Tulip Frenzy’s Best Album of The Year: Bob Dylan’s “Tell Tale Signs”

Back in October when Tell Tale Signs came out, Tulip Frenzy likened it to Peter Matthiessen’s great novel Shadow Country, released earlier this year, and tying together, while wholly recreating, three of Matthiessen’s novels written in the 1990s.  We wondered then if the house rules allowed for Tell Tale Signs to be considered for Tulip Frenzy’s Album Of The Year, an august designation, but one usually accorded to, well, new music.  But then Shadow Country won the National Book Award, which would tend to indicate that a reworked masterpiece is still a masterpiece, no matter when portions were recorded. Besides, it was new to us.  Unreleased songs from Dylan’s late innings hitting streak, some wholly new, some reworked, this was a revelation. And objectively, it was the …best… album…of…the…year.  We’re grateful he put it out, for not to have had this released would have been like getting only the version of Ulysses that was sent to the printers, without the 1/3rd of the novel that the blind and aging Joyce added in the galley margins.  Dylan has famously rebelled against static reworking of his material:  “Why play a song the same you played it on whatever day you recorded it?” Turned this way and that, these songs reveal an important truth: that not only has Dylan’s work since 1989 been every bit as strong as anything he did in the 1960s, it’s been stronger than anything anyone else has done since then, too.

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