Tim Out Of Mind...
Whether this qualifies as Dylan's finest album or not is probably not important. What IS important is that, for me, this album contains all the wisdom and beauty in the world. I've probably listened to it once a week since its release back in 1997 and I'll be surprised if that pattern doesn't continue for at least another hundred and fifty years...
I don't really know what it is about this one. I won't say that it's without weakness (and when I heard the left-off cuts on Tell Tale Signs - especially 'Red River Shore' and 'Mississippi' - it was all I could do to resist making a mock-up album, just for the hell of it) but there really is something in amongst these tracks that hits every one of my many wildly swinging moods.
For me, 'Time Out Of Mind' is definitely the finest album Dylan has made since 'Blood On The Tracks', and if he hadn't already produced 'Blonde On Blonde' or 'Highway 61 Revisited' it might be the best he's ever done. Then again, maybe it's the best he's ever done anyway... I think this is one album that he really did pull out of the ether. He and Daniel Lanois achieve such a wonderfully rich and echoey sound, and then there is all the other stuff going on in the background too, not least all that haunted-by-the-ghost-of-Buddy Holly business. But in the end and through it all, it's his voice (fuelled by the best set of lyrics that he's written in an age) that does it. He sounds ancient on this, in the same way that Johnny Cash sounded ancient on the American Recordings albums, and he never fails to move me with these songs.
My favourite track on the album changes constantly, and on any given day it might be 'Tryin' To Get To Heaven' or 'Love Sick' or 'Make You Feel My Love' or 'Not Dark Yet'. Today though, it's Standing In The Doorway. I love how nostalgic the verses get and how far he lets them go before snapping them coldly back, bending them until they scream out and give with the biggest unspoken BUT that I've ever come across in either story or song. Time and again he does this, and yet the trick loses none of its sleight-of-hand magic.
Last night I danced with a stranger
But she just reminded me you were the one
(BUT) You left me standin' in the doorway cryin'
In the dark land of the sun. (bitch...)
That's the stuff of Hemingway or Raymond Chandler, in my opinion. Stripped bare but still dense with meaning. That does it for me every time...