Sunday, April 4, 2021

Triplicate: Songs For the Everyday Person

Release Date: March 31, 2017

Produced by Jack Frost

Disc One - Til' The Sun Goes Down

1) I Guess I'll Have to Change My Plans 2) September of My Years 3) I Could Have Told You 4) Once Upon A Time 5) Stormy Weather 6) This Nearly Was Mine 7) That Old Feeling 8) It Gets Lonely Early 9) My One and Only Love 10) Trade Winds

Disc Two - Devil Dolls

1) Braggin' 2) As Time Goes By 3) Imagination 4) How Deep is the Ocean 5) P.S. I Love You 6) The Best Is Yet To Come 7) But Beautiful 8) Here's That Rainy Day 9) Where is the One 10) There's a Flaw in My Flue

Disc Three - Comin' Home Late

1) Day in, Day Out 2) I Couldn't Sleep a Wink Last Night 3) Sentimental Journey 4) Somewhere Along the Way 5) When the World Was Young 6) These Foolish Things 7) You Go To My Head 8) Stardust 9) It's Funny to Everyone But Me 10) Why Was I Born

After two previous albums of tracks from the American Songbook, Dylan finished this cycle of albums with an unprecedented three-disc release entitled Triplicate.

"I Guess I'll Have To Change My Plans" opens the first disc with Dylan supported by a horn section. "September of My Years" was the title track of a 1965 Frank Sinatra album about a man dealing with turning 50 and reflecting on the time he's got left. The theme connects with ones that have consumed Dylan since Time Out of Mind. In a moody arrangement "I Could Have Told You" appears to be a third person reflection on heartbreak only to realize halfway through the narrator is speaking to himself. "Once Upon A Time" reflects on lost youth and romance, Dylan's vocal is wistful. The torch song "Stormy Weather" keeps the melancholy mood going. From South Pacific, "This Nearly Was Mine" offers another reflection on lost love. "That Old Feeling" features some nice guitar work from Charlie Sexton in a song about an encountering an old flame. "It Gets Lonely Early" could be called the empty nesters blues, the sentiment in the song embraces the realities of aging rather than running from it. The romantic "My One and Only You" and "Trade Winds" bring the first disc to an end.

The middle disc opens with the jaunty "Braggin." Dylan's version of the ever popular "As Time Goes By" immortalized in Casablanca (a movie I'm sure he's watched a lot) feels distant but still gets to the heart of the song. "Imagination" revels in innocence, contrasting with the more reflective songs of the first disc. "How Deep is the Ocean" and "P.S. I Love You" express longing. The mood picks up with "The Best is Yet to Come" with a more adventurous arrangement. "But Beautiful" is a tender ballad on the prospect of love, "Here's That Rainy Day" muses on loneliness in the city. "Where is the One" is vulnerable and hopeful, while "There's a Flaw in my Flue" borders on Gothic with its quasi-mystical imagery, with the narrator hallucinating as he gazes into a fireplace. 

The third disc opens with the upbeat "Day In, Day Out" from the swing era. "I Couldn't Sleep a Wink Last Night" reflects on the regret after a quarrel. A favorite of veterans returning home from the Second World War, "Sentimental Journey" muses on returning home "to renew old memories." "Somewhere Along the Way" searches for a past that may never return, "When the World Was Young" also muses on lost youth. "These Foolish Things" looks at every day and how the most random of things can be reminders. "You Go To My Head" is about being in love. Hoagy Carmichael's "Stardust" uses grand imagery of stars and to recall all that was lost. "It's Funny to Everyone But Me" is another torch song with self-deprecating humor in the lyrics. "Why Was I Born" ends the record with an existential message, seemingly encapsulating all the other tracks on Triplicate.

Dylan gave an extensive interview on Triplicate for his website explaining why he recorded these albums, "These songs are cold and clear sighted, there is direct realism in them, faith in ordinary life, just like early rock and roll." The music of the generation preceding Dylan now generally considered archaic helped shape the pop culture of Mid-20th Century. Clearly, these songs mean a great deal to Dylan since he devoted three albums to them. One could cynically argue he recorded these records of the Great American Songbook (many of his peers have done so the preceding decade) as an appeal to his boomer fan base but these songs pre dated the boomers.

Dylan is performing a sort of creative excavation with these albums, rediscovering them and searching for their power and essence. He's done it many times in the past from his debut record Bob Dylan with Columbia recorded way back in 1961 to his 1970 double album Self Portrait. During the 1990s during a fallow period in his songwriting he recorded two well received folk records Good As I've Been To You and World Gone Wrong. His 2009 holiday release Christmas in the Heart (a holiday staple for me) was a precursor to the Sinatra records with their immersion in Mid-Century culture.

Dylan fans and critics generally take a respectacle, but cool, attitude toward his Sinatra cycle of records, probably preferring he continued making albums in the vein of Rough and Rowdy Ways released last year. But he defiantly followed his own muse. At Dylan concerts I attended from 2015-16 crowds would scatter to the concessions and restrooms whenever he began a Sinatra track, but he seemed to revel in performing those songs, taking on a more theatrical pose than usual on stage. Regardless of anyone's opinion, Dylan and his band created an exquisite mood on these albums. Triplicate offers its own fantastical world for anyone willing to enter. 

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