Bob Dylan, “Triplicate” (Columbia)
With the release of his first-ever three-disc collection, the greatest songwriter of the rock era reinforces his love of standards, the songs of a previous era. As if his two previous volumes of standards, 2015’s “Shadows in the Night” and 2016’s “Fallen Angels,” didn’t make the point.
On this 30-song project, Dylan, with apologies to Joni Mitchell, looks at love from all sides now. At 75, he has the experience to analyze romance in song with three themes — “ ’Til the Sun Goes Down,” “Devil Dolls” and “Comin’ Home Late,” as the discs are titled.
Dylan’s understanding of these mostly pre-World War II songs is undebatable, his phrasing impeccable, his passion palpable. Some listeners may quarrel with his voice, as he strains for high notes, sometimes strays into a foghorn timbre and occasionally allows his rasp to turn into gravel. Still, the aggressiveness of his vocal approach underscores how much this project matters to Dylan.
The arrangements are consistently attractive, with Donnie Herron’s pedal steel guitar being the crucial and versatile weapon as it was on the first two standards collections. Horns are employed more often here than before.
Although he’s not trying to dethrone Tony Bennett, Dylan impresses consistently whenever he swings, notably on “The Best Is Yet to Come,” and he connects on some dreamy ballads, including “You Go to My Head.”
Cynics might dismiss this project as Dylan desiring to keep up with Rod Stewart, who also did five albums interpreting the Great American Songbook. But “Triplicate” will appeal to Dylan completists and anyone seeking an in-depth introduction to the Minnesota bard tackling the classics that informed his musical knowledge.
JON BREAM, Star Tribune
Drake, “More Life” (Young Money)
According to Drake, his 2015 projects, “If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late” and “What a Time to Be Alive (with Future)” were “mixtapes.” Last year’s “Views” was an “album.” “More Life” is a “playlist.”
It has to do with expectations and ambition. “Views” was a massive commercial success, but it disappointed artistically, weighed down by a sense of seriousness and a dearth of guests. “More Life” is much looser, more freewheeling. It has standout guest raps from Young Thug and 2 Chainz and a gorgeous ballad snippet from Brit piano man Sampha.
Drake seems largely over the beef with Meek Mill. That’s underscored on “Can’t Have Everything,” which ends with a voice mail from Drake’s mother, Sandi Graham, quoting Michelle Obama and admonishing her son about “the confrontation I’m hearing in your tone these days.” On “More Life,” Drake lightens up and takes Mom’s advice, and fun times are had by all.
DAN DELUCA, Philadelphia Inquirer
• Nelly Furtado, “The Ride”
• The Mavericks, “Brand New Day”
• Aimee Mann, “Mental Illness”
• Mastodon, “Emperor of Sand”
• Wire, “Silver/Lead”
• Goldfrapp, “Silver Eye”