After I read Mr. Rosen’s article and Joe Levy’s five star review in Rolling Stone, I ran to the Best Buy next door to where I work to purchase Modern Times. I did so not, mind you, because both lauded Mr. Dylan with praise, but rather because I was desperate to prove them both wrong.
I was an intern at RS and despise its neglectful eye that shies away from a 20-something audience and instead towards its 50-something post-Woodstock-cum-Wall Street base. Slate seemed to be following in RS’ footsteps, even going as far as quoting Mr. Lethem’s interview.
I was, admittedly, disappointed to find that Modern Times is actually quite good and is better than Love and Theft, as well as Time Out of Mind. I also have to give it to Mr. Rosen for highlighting what Dylan does best: he writes (to borrow his term) spectacular lyrics.
What I won’t agree with is Mr. Rosen’s preponderancy for praise bordering on hero worship. Mr. Dylan should be ashamed that he told Mr. Lethem he hasn’t heard a quality recording in 20 years. He must not be listening. And neither is Mr. Rosen. Comparing Mr. Dylan’s voice to the crooners of the 30s is heresy. He is an old man with an old voice that is anything but spectacular. Johnny Cash is most certainly rolling over in and bellowing throughout his grave with his latter-day voice that was worthy of merit.
Modern Times is a very good album, but it’s one that doesn’t even breach Dylan’s top ten and most certainly does not touch dozens of albums made in the last 20 years.