Shadows in the Night is a collection of standards that were covered by Frank Sinatra.
I’ve heard all these songs many times over the course of my lifetime, but I don’t think I’ve ever been as inspired and moved by the way Bob Dylan puts them across.
Now how can that be? Bob Dylan?
His intimate rendering of the material, using only two guitars and a stand-up bass accompanied by a French horn, a trumpet and a trombone playing in harmony, with the percussionist relegated to occasionally tapping a hi-hat, makes for emotionally-charged interpretations. Surprisingly, his vocals work perfectly with the stripped-down arrangements. According to a statement on Dylan’s website, he’s not covering these songs, but “uncovering” them: “Lifting them out of the grave and bringing them into the light of day.”
“Autumn Leaves”—a song that I’ve heard many times—is especially heartbreaking with Dylan’s voice and Donny Herron’s weeping pedal steel guitar. In an AARP interview, Dylan says of “Autumn Leaves” “…you have to know something about love and loss and feel it just as much, or there’s no point in doing it. It’s too deep a song.”
Other songs, such as Irving Berlin’s “What’ll I Do” and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Some Enchanted Evening,” are surprisingly smooth. Even with Dylan’s frayed vocals, his delivery is perfect.
Along with Dylan’s restraint and respectful arrangements, it’s his voice that turns out to be what is especially compelling. His inflections and intonations really give these songs the emotional weight that allows them to be revealed in new and highly-affecting versions.
Shadows in the Night has 10 songs and only lasts about 36 minutes, but it’s one of Dylan’s most honestly enjoyable albums.