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Time Out of Mind is one of Dylan's best albums. It was his first collection of original material for seven years, since 1990's largely embarrasing "Under the Red Sky," and, containing some of the best songs of his later years, set the blueprint for his following three albums.
The album, as with all later Dylan albums, is steeped in the blues, but as ever Dylan plays around with the form, and so his version of the blues isn't of the heard-it-all-before kind that you can get with somebody like, say, Clapton. The album opens with "Love Sick," a brilliant anti-love song that sounds a bit like Leonard Cohen, and continues with "Dirt Road Blues," a murky-sounding recording of a rollicking, ramshackle blues on which Dylan's voice sounds haggard, creaky, and wonderful. Their then follows one of the four real masterpieces on the album - "Standing in the Doorway," which contains some brilliantly heartfelt vocals and some spinetinglingly (if that's a word) guitar-work.
The other three stone-cold masterpieces are "Tryin' to Get to Heaven," "Not Dark Yet," and the 16-minute-long "Highlands." The first two are similiar in ways to "Not Dark Yet," but the last one is like nothing else in Dylan's canon or in rock n roll. It is dark, absolutely hilarious, and, at 16 minutes, captivating - possibly the shortest-seeming 16 minutes in popular music. It is mostly a spoken-word kind of thing, backed by a catchy blues riff, about Dylan going into a restaurant and meeting a waitress, but it's like a Peter Cook routine, dry and poker-faced and absolutely wonderful, and it's worth getting the album for this track alone.
But there's more - there's "Make You Feel My Love," a beautiful little piano-led ballad that I think Adele got into the Top 10 with recently. And "Cold Irons Bound." And then consider that "Girl from the Red River Shore," which is in my opinion one of the top-5 songs Dylan has ever written, was left OFF this album, and you start to get an idea of the quality to be found here. (It was released, eventually, on "Tell-Tale Signs.")
And amazingly, on Love & Theft, Dylan actually topped this album.
Time Out Of Mind sees an emphatic return to form from Dylan after years spent in the wilderness and many mediocre albums behind him throughout the 80's. Released in 1997 this is a true testimonial of a grumpy old man who has reached the twighlight of his years and is confused about where he is and what he has become.
Lyrically, I think this is one of Dylan's strongest albums, not just of his latter day career, but of all time. He has become much more focused in his writing and has lost some of the more cryptic writing of his earlier material. I know some regard it as a sin to ay, but I quite like understanding what he's writing about. Don't get me wrong, the Dylanisms and the poetic vision is still here but has been channelled. This is an album of resignation and bitterness and some may struggle with this.
The production is dark and very moody. Dylan previously worked with producer Daniel Lanois on Oh Mercy but I think this is altogether a better collection. This album is dark, mysterious, rare and gritty and this only compliments the songs and their subject matter.
Standouts include 'Not Dark Yet' that has been likened by some to the work of Keats. I wouldn't go that far but it is a wordy masterpiece that stands tall alongside his best. This is a man coming to terms with his life and as such few of these songs are 'happy', least of all 'Not Dark Yet' as the title would suggest. 'It's not dark yet, but it's getting there...'. Here's a man looking both backwards and forwards to the inevitable and hitting it face-on. The song displays a personal honesty rarely seen since 'Blood On The Tracks'.
'Standing In The Doorway Crying' and 'Love Sick' are heartbreakingly honest accounts of lost love whereas 'Make You Feel My Love' is the rare occasion where this album is full of hope. It's a song about winning a lover over that is straight and to the point. Some may know it from the Adele cover but Dylan brings a certain gruffness in comparison to her sweeter version that gives it more potency.
This album paved the way for the Dylan comeback throughout the late 90's and 00's. In my view he has never reached this pinnacle of songwriting since which comes as a great disappointment. Perhaps we should remember this as Dylan's swan song assuming he does not reach these heady heights again.
Dylan returned from the edge of nowhere with this dark & hypnotic release, similar in feel to 1989's 'No Mercy', this is clearly his finest release of the nineties, & arguably his best since the mid 70's.
Coming seven years after his last album of original material (1990's 'Under the Red Sky'), 'Time Out of Mind' shows a recovering Dylan, & his reunion with producer Daniel Lanois brings his best collection of original material in years.
A character like Dylan didn't really fit in the 80's, a decade of bombast, but here he makes a late return to form, capturing a dark & mood filled feeling perfectly in the best tracks to be found here. 'Not Dark Yet' is possibly the best thing here, while 'Standing in the Doorway' & 'Trying to get to Heaven' run it very close.
The sum of the parts here is one of Dylan's truly great albums, up there with his best work from his best work. For me it lacks the visceral, confrontational feeling of his 60's peak, but it stands in it's own right as one of his finest releases.
Phew, just read a few other reviews on the man himself, and suffice to say, i'm not really a "cool bob" fan. I'll perhaps speak to 20 dylan fans and maybe one of them will get what I get from him, so I'll try and explain my love for the Dylan here and in other reviews, but it's kind of like reviewing why your husband or wife is so great. Bob and I have had such an intimate and emotionally charged relationship for the past few years that I'll try and pick out some of the highlights. This album definitely contains some of them. I love bob dylan when hes dealing in emotion, not imagery, which is why I like a lot of his stuff from the later years when the "Mask" of bob dylan is removed.
Cold Irons Bound.. well....?
This is perhaps the song i listen to most, when I'm feeling strange. For me this song is like a walk through everything that has happened to you, lining a long dirt road and you're walking all the way through it, all your old friends and lovers and struggles caught up and frozen in cinematographic stills flanking you on either side and you're trying to walk through it all, trying to piece together who you are and where the hell you've been and where the hell you're going now. theres this great sense of progress and movement about the song, and a sense of resolution. Its about eight minutes long and the intro always reminds me of a long dirt road leading up to the sunset that you start tramping. I'm usually not a huge fan of going out for walks, but i am when this is on. From the outset, when you hear bob's world weary voice crying out " I'm beginning to hear voices...and there's no-one around... i'm all used up, and the fields have turned brown.." "But i'm waist-deep, waist deep in the mist, it's almost like..almost like I don't exist...."
The second song I love from this album is standing in the doorway. Its probably one of the best portraits of understated male pain i've ever heard. Except for everything on "Blood on the tracks". its a song about being left and let down, and for that reason , there's an amazing sense of stillness about it. "Yesterday everything was moving too fast... today...it's moving..too slow.."
I guess it's about the point when the crying is over and there's the life to get on with. the quiet and oddly hollow life. "I eat when i'm hungry, drink when i'm dry.. and live my life, on the square..." The imagery is of life being lived around the speaker- the church bells are ringing in the yard, and the speaker being still, going through the motions "strumming on his gay guitar, smoking a cheap cigar..." with the odd acknowledgement to the stalled pain "Maybe they'll get me, maybe they won't... but not tonight and it won't be here" "
Well, i'm nearly into 600 words so i think i'll quit , but hell, buy this album, its a subdued bob, in the autumn of his years, full of doubts and nostalgia and strength and vulnerability and self deprecation.
Next to Blood on the Tracks, 'Time Out Of Mind' is my favourite Bob Dylan album. It's harshness and intimacy is the album's main selling point. Daniel Lanois' deceptively simple production makes Dylan's music sound like those old scratchy blues tunes from the 40's adding to the classy sound of the whole album.
The album's opener is the slow driving 'Love Sick'. Bob's voice is gruff and weary. I've seen Bob live and his vocal delivery is, how to be diplomatic - never that great. However, with Love Sick and a number of songs on the album, he's pitch perfect.
The skiffle-esque second song 'Dirt Road Blues' is another great example of the style of this album. It's lo-fi and scratchy - but instantly recognisably Bob.
'Standing In The Doorway', 'Not Dark Yet' and the excellent 'Make You Feel My Love' are the three standout tracks for me on this album. They all deal with age and regret and love. All melancholic and heartfelt. If there was one song that I would say was my favourite, it would probably be 'Not Dark Yet'. probably down to the simplicty of the song - as well as the great lyrics.
Its a straightforward love song album, like Blood on the Tracks - unlike the weird abstract lyrics of something like 'Subterranean Homesick Blues.' I've always preferred the electric Dylan (Judas!) as opposed to the acoustic Dylan - however both are put to good use on this album.
'Make You Feel My Love' has been covered from everyone from Billy Joel, to Kelly Clarkson. Its a great vocal performance and a fantastic downbeat track.
It's similar in production style to the latter Rick Rubin Johnny Cash albums, as well as the amazing '12 Songs' by Neil Diamond. I think a Rubin produced Dylan album would be a great album for the future - once he's done with Diamond!
The epic, almost 17 minute 'Highlands' is the album's closer. It flies round in flights of lyrical fancy for the entire time. It's also hilarious - Dylan himself laughs halfway through - as though he's just got a joke he's just written. Great stuff - I think Dylan served up this album and couldn't care less if the musical establishment liked it or not - however I do and urge you to buy it too!
Time Out Of Mind is available from Play.com now for the amazing price of £2.99 including postage. Get your copy immediately!
Time Out Of Mind is the album pretty much everyone was hoping Bob Dylan would make following 1989's magisterial, immaculate Oh Mercy. Like the latter, it is a stunning, swamp-water thick Daniel Lanois-produced masterpiece as wrenching and as touching as anything Dylan has ever done.
Between the two albums, Dylan released the sorely disappointing Under A Red Sky and, much more pertinently, two sparse, acoustic collections, Good As I Been To You and World Gone Wrong, both comprised entirely of new recordings of age-old folk and blues standards.
Time Out Of Mind is not an acoustic record, and it is compositions are Dylan's own, but it feels very much like a fire resulting from sparks ignited by those two immediate predecessors. It is similarly stark, monochrome and piercing, with tracks lunging from filthy, grinding blues (Dirt Road Blues and Cold Irons Bound proving especially electrifying) and aching, reverb-laden ballads like Not Dark Yet ("But it's gettin' there..." croaks Bob) and Tryin' To Get To Heaven.
Make no mistake - Time Out Of Mind is a dark record, even for Bob Dylan, a man hardly renowned for his cheer at the best of times (granted, this is something of a misconception - one need only listen to Another Side Of Bob Dylan, for example, to discover how funny and tongue-in-cheek he could be when the mood took him).
It's the sound of an old man reflecting upon the life he has lived and the death he will sooner or later die, a death that seemed all too near in the months following the record's completion, when a period of near-fatal heart-trouble threatened to prematurely put an end to his career.
In the end, though, both the illness and the album served to nudge Dylan towards a gloriously fertile artistic period resulting in the first installment of his autobiography, his much-loved Theme Time Radio Show and a couple more astounding albums.
Where those subsequent projects have all been in some way informed by nostalgia and yearning for the past, however, Time Out Of Mind gazes unblinking into an uncertain, oft-times terrifying future. When it DOES look back (Dylan ignoring his own advice), it is with trepidation, with regret. "Behind every beautiful thing" he sings on Not Dark Yet, "There's been some kind of pain."
It is an honest, naked, moving and powerful record, and one of Dylan's very finest.
I bought this album, Time Out Of Mind, not long after it came out. Oh I see it was 1997, time flies! I cannot remember what possessed me to buy it, I have never been much of a Bob Dylan fan in the past. I made the seemingly obligatory purchase of Highway 61 Revisited at one point but for whatever reason he just never really spoke to me. Heresy to many, I know. I even recall a roommate in college going to see the man play not long after his heart attack and thinking "I really should see him, just to have seen him", but I just couldn't be bothered, lazy oaf that I am.
So I'm clearly not a reliable judge of the man's vast accomplishments. I watched a BBC documentary about folk music awhile back and Dylan's story is unquestionably intriguing. The former Robert Zimmerman really is a self-made creation. His roots were a combination of folk icon Woody Guthrie and traditional British folk music. I've always thought he was a bit overly precious about his mystique when he clearly spent so much time creating himself as an artist. He unquestionably has staying power, and is unafraid to risk losing his core audience as evidenced in his early dramatic rejection of folk. One of the most hilarious things I have seen in recent memory was in that folk documentary, where the memory of Dylan's infamous act, plugging in his electric guitar at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, actually still brought tears to the eyes of a committed old folkie, recalling Pete Seeger being physically restrained, purportedly demanding an axe to cut the electricity. I couldn't help but laugh, Dylan himself is interviewed and says something like "I don't get what the big deal was" about it, and yet his impact is still so huge on others so many years later.
At any rate, this album is really pretty amazing and holds a strong place in my collection. It is a blues record, not a genre I am overly familiar with. I remember when Eric Clapton was doing his blues phase (or is he still in it?), I thought what a load of affected rubbish (apologies to any Clapton fans!). And yet something I read somewhere must have convinced me to buy this, Dylan's own foray into the blues. And as luck would have it I bought it at what is traditionally the best time to buy a blues record, after a bit of heartbreak. At that particular moment I was truly in the depths of self-pitying, woefully complete despair. I was incapable of much lucid thought at all. I sat around in my room a lot playing music. Mainly I played this record over and over again. Nothing else came close to my misery. Gin and tonics all around!
There is something incredibly soothing about music that truly wallows in misery, that refuses to offer hope or absolution at the end. When you are completely and utterly unhappy, "It's gonna be alright" just doesn't cut it when you know fine it's not and never will be again. There is a time for hope, yes, but you can't force it in the midst of heartbreak or other despair.
"I'm sick of love but I'm in the thick of it
This kind of love, I'm so sick of it."
The opening track, "Lovesick" is angry blues ranting at its best. It starts things off nicely. A droning organ and electric guitar back up the vocal, which is the most important lament and grabs your attention immediately. It seems honest and profound in its pure, dejected bitterness. It is joyfully miserable.
The lyrics unquestionably pay homage to traditional blues songs, with familiar themes running through; dirt roads, trains, nature's elements, abandonment, it all has a definite rural dustiness to it. And yet Dylan's songwriting elevates them to sound as though he was the first man ever to have the blues.
Unquestionably the saddest track, and for a long time my favourite, is "Standing In The Doorway". It combines blues-y organ with startling imagery in its lyrics:
"I can hear the church bells ringing in the yard, I wonder who they're ringing for. I know I can't win, but my heart just won't give in. Last night I danced with a stranger but she just reminded me you were the one. You left me standing in the doorway crying in the dark land of the sun."
It is hard to describe the pain in his voice on this one but it is so tangible, I can hardly even listen to it now without getting a wee tear in my eye. It's definitely not cheerer upper music. And at eight minutes long you've time to down a large one to help drown your sorrows further!
The album as a whole veers back and forth between the sad, slow blues and the disgruntled, driving blues, which is admittedly a bit more fun. Some of his rants are actually quite funny in their bleak, grudging way. Some of his rhyming is whimsical, in a nod to traditional blues I presume. Again speaking out of my depths here but from what little I know of the blues the importance of consistent rhyming/keeping up a rhythm seems something Dylan went out of his way to uphold on this album. He is also startling successful much of the time at coming up with beautiful/striking imagery - as in:
The light in this place is so bad
Makin' me sick in the head
All the laughter is just makin' me sad
The stars have turned cherry red.
At other times the rhymes are more obvious but still very effective in carrying the mood of the song (again consistent with traditional blues), and in a few instances perhaps intentionally funny? I would have to think yes - for instance, in one song he rhymes "white shiny legs" with "hard-boiled eggs". Maybe I read too much into it but some of it seems quite surreal. That said, it still comes across as having a basis in some organic emotional experience:
"I ain't lookin for nothin in anyone's eyes. Sometimes my burden is more than I can bear. It's not dark yet, But it's getting there"
Dylan's voice is far less nasally on this album than I am accustomed to, he attempts to sing "properly", which I quite like. He sounds more vulnerable in this guise, and is incredibly powerful at conveying emotions with each raspy inflection. I am sure it's something I just never noticed before, but the ability to tell a story in song is something he owns completely on this album. He is by turns wounded, irate, resigned, tender - you name it, he carries it clearly in his voice. I really do forget at times that I am listening to music, if that makes any sense at all. It just transports you to a different place, you're not aware of the music "trying" to be something, it just feels authentically distilled. Not having much comprehension of the man's body of work I don't know if this is a common experience.
The instrumentation includes largely subdued electric guitar, not to downplay that it is very affecting and has some lovely guitar solos, as well as driving bass and organ, and Dylan's trademark harmonica. Some of the more uptempo songs are more complex but largely the focus is on the lyric throughout. Storytelling is the most important thing here, although it is of course enhanced by the mournful organ and sloping slide guitar .
Oddly enough I turned on the television today to see Bryan Ferry of all people covering a ballad from this album, "Make You Feel My Love". It is unquestionably the most sweet and least bitter of the songs. I quite like Ferry, and am curious to hear his album re-working songs of Dylan -somewhat unrelated note, sorry!
In summary, this is a great album if you like traditional blues music, or maybe even if you don't. I myself was pleasantly surprised how much I liked it. It's pretty diverse as far as it can be, there are many different styles/tempos within the album. That might be its only detraction for me. I could have happily sat and listened to the pained ballads for an entire album - then again, that may not have been healthy for some frames of mind! I find it quite a comforting album, like an old, tatty blanket. It's a bit rough 'round the edges, it's tarnished and dusty, it feels honest. It actually makes me kind of happy now, is it possible to feel sorrow and happiness at once? Well yes, I think so, it's what Dylan does best here. Without great joy the depths of sorrow would not be so profound, and he turns it into a beautiful and poetic exploration of life's ups and downs.
?Time Out Of Mind? was the last album recorded and released during the 20th century by the man who was perhaps indisputably the most important singer-songwriter of the century ? certainly of the second half. When released in 1997 it was greeted as an amazing return to form, coming from a man of 56 whose last two new albums had been rather indifferent, slapdash sets of traditional folk songs which many punters might not have bothered with had they been put out by anyone else. It was even thought by some that he had given up writing songs altogether. Hence the relief when it appeared. A few years down the line, how does it sound? Overall it?s a sombre album, some of its songs sounding bitter, resigned, world-weary, even fatalistic. He had been critically ill with heart problems not long before, and reportedly remarked that ?I guess I?ll be seeing Elvis soon?. Thankfully, seven years later he's not only still with us - but still playing and touring. The eleven songs seem to fall roughly into two categories. Some are plaintive, introspective, brooding songs close in spirit to those on ?Blood On The Tracks?, long acknowledged as one of his three or four best albums ever. Others are rooted in rock?n?roll or the blues, more or less variations (nor not even variations) on the 12-bar blues structure, with lyrics sounding as if they came more or less spontaneously. ?Lovesick?, the opening song, sets the tone for much of what follows. In that cracked rasp of a voice, against an almost ambient swirl of organ, low-key guitar and muffled drums, he sings ? or rather intones ? that he?s sick of love and ?just when you think that you lost everything, you find out you can always lose a little more.? Gloomy? Yes, but Morrissey has built an entire career out of being a miserable old sod, and some people maintain that it?s heresy to say a word a
gainst him. The second track, ?Dirt Road Blues?, could hardly be more different. Bob?s a rockabilly guy, and Shakin? Stevens could do worse than cover it ? you could almost be forgiven for trying to sing ?This Ole House? to it after the first couple of bars. It?s also one of the only two songs that clocks in at less than five minutes long. From there the pattern seems to be one slow, one fast. ?Standing In The Doorway? is almost eight minutes of anguish, where he sings "I don't know if I saw if I would kiss you or kill you, it probably wouldn't matter to you anyhow" to another grey backdrop. It must be said that on first listen it?s not the most cheerful album to keep you company ? but then, life isn?t always a party. It certainly isn?t on ?Not Dark Yet?, another brooding commentary on life and death, in which he observes that ?I don?t even hear the murmur of a prayer, it?s not dark yet but it?s gettin? there.? The ballads don?t have to be all doom and gloom, though. ?Make You Feel My Love?, despite the decidedly unpretty voice, is as poignant a ballad, with that sweet organ and piano work, as he?s come up with in years. On the lighter note, there?s a lively kick to ?Million Miles?, with its playful, almost jazzy organ and drums. ?Cold Irons Bound? and ?Can?t Wait? are boogie blues shufflers, admittedly hardly as in-your-face as anything by, say, the Rolling Stones, but if nothing else, a reminder that Dylan always had his roots in the blues ? even if he?s left the harmonica at home. To close, there?s the long meandering epic ?Highlands?, a rambling number that?s part amusing narrative, part dreaming of being in the Highlands of Scotland (there?s a reference to his heart being in the Highlands, where the Aberdeen wa
ters flow ? even if he is sitting in a restaurant in Boston, where his waitress produces a pencil and napkin and insists he draw a portrait of her on the spot ? c?mon, you don?t think I?m making this up, do you?), partly more observations on imminent mortality. And he can?t tell a real blonde from a fake. By the way, there are long songs and there are long songs. This one is sixteen and a half minutes in length. On a similar subject, the CD is good value for money. I for one resent shelling out full price for something that's too short. This has a total playing time of almost 73 minutes - compared with Dylan's previous album of self-penned songs, 'Under The Red Sky' (1990), which had a measly 35 minutes! If you're fan enough to have three or four Dylan albums already but don't know this one, I think you'll appreciate it, even if you don't find it instantly endearing. If I was trying to covert a Dylan novice to the great man?s music, this isn?t the first one I would choose. On first listen I found it rather uninviting. But even if it lacks the sheer musical variety or playfulness of its successor, ?Time Out Of Mind?, it?s still worth persevering with. But unless you?re already an enthusiast, you might find it rather heavy going.
Being able to witness the incarnation of a truly great Bob Dylan album in my own lifetime gave me a sense of justification in my dedication. In "Time Out of Mind" Bob returns back to his traditional sound, albeit with a slightly shakier voice and far crisper production. Unfortunately, gone is the vibrance and in its place comes a welcome sentimental sort-of introspective tone. This is heard in tracks such as "Love Sick", "Standing in the Doorway" and "Trying to get to Heaven". There are the bluesy numbers as well: "Dirt Road Blues", "Million Miles" and "'Til I fell in Love with you". Also there are more original sounding tracks such as "Cold Irons Bound". A particular favourite on the album is "Not Dark Yet" - one of those sad songs that actually makes everything seem allright. In true Bob style, he saves the long one to last. "Highlands" is one of those late-night songs when you have nothing else to do but sit down and listen to it all - it is well worth it. Aside from comments about returning to form this is actually a self-standing formidable Bob Dylan album (however by comparison to "Blonde on Blonde" it can only warrant 4 stars). Its not going to shock anyone but I don't think he is really interested in doing that much these days anyway.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Love Sick
2 Dirt Road Blues
3 Standing In The Doorway
4 Million Miles
5 Tryin' To Get To Heaven
6 Till I Fell In Love With You
7 Not Dark Yet
8 Cold Irons Bound
9 Make You Feel My Love
10 Can't Wait