Friday, June 25, 2010

Bob Dylan 41: Time Out Of Mind

Seven whole years had passed since the last real Dylan album. In contemporary interviews, he said that for the longest time he just didn’t feel like writing songs, then was suddenly able to come up with a batch while being snowed in. Then he was hesitant to play them on tour for fear of having them bootlegged, and wanted to do them justice in the studio as well. So he spent two weeks in Miami recording with his then-current touring band, a few session hotshots and Daniel Lanois, who produced Oh Mercy, and the album was in the can.
Naturally, there was a certain amount of anticipation and absolute fear upon the announcement that something new was finally on the way. We needn’t have worried. Of the eleven phenomenal tracks that make up Time Out Of Mind, half are based around the 12-bar blues form. Most deal with some unnamed woman (or women) who broke Bob’s heart in a big way, and boy, is he miffed about it. The production is pretty swampy, slapping a lot of echo over his voice, which was pretty shot anyway; he doesn’t try to hit any high notes, which in the past resulted in a lot of yelling on his part.
A quiet martial stomp and a bleating Vox organ opens “Love Sick”, taken very slow and sounding like he’s transmitting from Mars. “Dirt Road Blues” effectively emulates an old 78. The album’s first masterpiece is the heartbreaking “Standing In The Doorway”, another slow, slow song with wonderful imagery. “Million Miles” continues the blues theme, his voice is a perfect match for the words. “Tryin’ To Get To Heaven” provides a nice break in the form of a major key and a memorable melody, but “‘Til I Fell In Love With You” doesn’t take hold as easily.
“Not Dark Yet” could be taken as another rumination on his own mortality, played in a style that links well to the better songs on Oh Mercy. The trip to hell continues on the downright scary “Cold Irons Bound”—that’s meant as praise, by the way—calmed by the extra-gentle “Make You Feel My Love”. With Bob up front on piano, it was beaten to the charts in versions by both Billy Joel and Garth Brooks. “Can’t Wait” is another blues taken at a funereal pace, but it’s a mere setup for the 17-minute “Highlands”, which closes the disc and is a fascinating journey in itself.
We knew he could do it again, and we’re glad he did. Basically, he waited until he had something to say, then said it. Even staunch Dylan haters were overheard saying it’s not that bad an album. Time Out Of Mind heralded a new era for a man who insisted he hadn’t gone away in the slightest. Even after an actual near-death experience, he was still out there—just a simple song and dance man.

Bob Dylan Time Out Of Mind (1997)—5

2 comments:

  1. Time out of Mind, is definitly one of the great Dylan albums. It ranks with Highway 61 Revisited and Blond on Blond. Everyone thought Dylan was washed up, and it was a good thing he took his time rather than just put out an other mediocre album. I wish he would do the same again now, he has put out 2 mediocre albums recently Together through life and the Christmas album. He should retreat and then come back with an other Time out of mind

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  2. adele is singing to make you feel my love as a tribute to amy winehouse these days. i knew the song as garth brooks. i thought it a simple love song.
    then i found out it's a dylan song. so i listened to his version. totally different song. it's not about love. it's about his relationship as a troubador to us all. and it's so simple. a major key, simple percussive piano.
    but when he sings, it just makes so much more sense then when mere singers sing the song.
    and the only reason i know this is because i know you. so, thank you again, ward, for cracking my head open.

    Richard

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