Musicheads Essential Album: Bob Dylan, 'Time Out of Mind'

Bob Dylan 'Time Out of Mind' album cover.
Detail of Bob Dylan, 'Time Out of Mind' album art. (Columbia)

An autumnal masterpiece, Time Out of Mind definitively established Bob Dylan as being among the rare artists who remain capable of profound work throughout their lives. It's a Musicheads Essential Album.

By 1997, many fans doubted Bob Dylan would ever again produce a classic album. In the two-plus decades since Blood On the Tracks and Desire, Dylan had produced a couple of strong albums, several uneven ones, and a few absolute bombs. For Time Out of Mind, he turned back to the producer who'd helmed arguably his best album from that period, 1989's Oh Mercy.

Dylan and Daniel Lanois never had an uncomplicated working relationship, but the producer's signature swampy soundscape proved an engrossing setting for the music legend's aged croak. The extraordinarily poignant quality of Time Out of Mind comes from the tension between Dylan's worn, weary tone and the brilliant melodies that unfold throughout the LP.

Songs like "Standing In the Doorway," "Tryin' to Get to Heaven," and "Not Dark Yet" found Dylan at the peak of his incomparable power as a lyricist, singing of past regrets and clinging hopes with a dark lushness of style that recalled the late Sinatra — a singer he'd explicitly invoke with his standards albums of two decades later. The album also included a beautiful love song that became a standard in its own right: "Make You Feel My Love," which has since been covered by hundreds of artists including Adele, Billy Joel, and Garth Brooks.

Stunned critics swooned over Time Out of Mind, which won the Grammy for Album of the Year. At the ceremony Dylan sang the album's opening track, "Love Sick," in a performance that was interrupted by a shirtless performance artist whose chest was painted with the words SOY BOMB. The song would also soundtrack a Victoria's Secret ad starring Dylan, who'd declared all the way back in 1965 that the only product he'd sell out for was "ladies' garments."

With Time Out of Mind, Dylan proved that though he might be "Cold Irons Bound," his brilliant songwriting and iconoclastic spirit were as unfettered as ever.

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