Bob Dylan's thirty-first studio album, and his first disc in five years, is a fine collection of songs from the man who is rock music's benchmark name in songwriting. Using timeless song structures from blues and vintage pop, Dylan sets a strong tone throughout the album's 10 songs and demonstrates that he is still a creative force to be reckoned with in popular music.
The album kicks off with "Thunder on the Mountain," a terrific uptempo boogie featuring what has become the new album's most discussed lyric. "I was thinkin' 'bout Alicia Keys, couldn't keep from crying," Dylan sings in the song's second stanza. "When she was born in Hell's Kitchen, I was living down the line." Although some observers have wondered what Dylan's interest in the young R&B singer might be, it seems as though he's using the 25-year old singer as a reference point for his own age.
This meditation on aging is continued on the next song, "Spirit in the Night," a slower lament for lost love, in which Dylan's narrator croons to the object of his passion, "You think I'm over the hill, you think I'm past my prime/Let me see what you got, we can have a whoppin' good time."
Other highlights on Modern Times include the uptempo blues of "Rollin' and Tumblin'," the cinematic "Workingman's Blues #2," and the rootsy waltz "When the Deal Goes Down."
Backed by his touring band, which Dylan has described as his best backing band ever, and produced by himself under the pseudonym Jack Frost, the musicianship and sound of the album is largely impeccable. Though the disc drags a bit in it's second half--too many similar tempos and styles in a row--it's a respectable entry to take its place among the pantheon of other albums in Dylan's catalogue.