EVERYONE remembers their first album. In my case, it was early 1964 when I handed over my 17/6 (90p for you youngsters) in a wee, long-gone record store in Aberdeen. That album, Bob Dylan’s The Times They Are A – Changin’, sparked off a life-long obsession and lies on my desk as I write. It was the high watermark of his so-called protest years, but also gave us Boots of Spanish Leather and Restless Farewell, two of the finest songs of parting ever written.

For we baby boomers, Dylan has been the soundtrack to our lives. As we have aged and re-invented ourselves, so has he; from folk, to protest, tumultuous electric rock, the Great American Song Book and even the Christmas album. You will have your little joke, Bob. The path hasn’t always been smooth. He stumbled in the 1970s and the 80s found him mired in born again evangelism, fuelling fears that the rumoured writers' block was permanent. But Dylan’s ego won’t let him go quietly. His 1990s renaissance produced a succession of stunning albums. Time Out of Mind is his masterpiece. No matter how many times I listen to Not Dark Yet, the lyrics and voice can move me to tears.

Like his output, Dylan’s live performances can be hit or miss. Those claiming to have been at the legendary 2004 Barrowlands’ concert would have filled the old place 20 times over. The last time I was in Dylan’s company, albeit with 60,000 others, was a year ago in Hyde Park. It was a glorious evening and the beers were going down well, but there was no real spark. On the night, Neil Young proved an impossible act to follow and heightened fears Dylan was finally past it.

What did we know? His latest album, Rough and Rowdy Ways is superbly creative. It might even win over some doubters, although a friend likens some lyrics to McGonagall. Professional critics and Dylanologists will judge and decipher, but what matters to us is Dylan’s enduring presence.

He has aged with us and we have gone together through life. His anger over George Floyd and other injustices shows he still holds the moral high ground. There are some good jokes in Rough and Rowdy Ways, but it’s undeniably dark in places. In some ways, it’s a throwback, drawing on barroom blues and the reflective emotion of his 1990s’ work. Dylan claims he never spoke for anyone but himself. Perhaps that’s true, but he certainly spoke to us. At 80, his creative genius still reflects our experiences and uncertainties. it’s certainly not dark yet and on this evidence, he won’t be knockin’ on heaven’s door anytime soon.

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