As the 16-minute-long "Highlands" detours from its verse-chorus-verse path to an extended narrative bridge, the deadpan twang in Dylan's voice becomes more pronounced, and his old sly glee can be glimpsed. The voice -- conversational, playful, sensual -- snakes over a shimmering blues-guitar... Read More
riff and the chords of a distant Farfisa organ as it recounts a conversation at a restaurant with a woman, a knockout "with a pretty face and long, white, shiny legs." The narrator and his female companion spar verbally, a comical exchange of clashing values and cryptic, coded messages. Desire cools as the singer realizes that he is in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong woman. He eases out of the joint and conveys the delight of a convict who has just tunneled out into the daylight: "I'm crossing the street to get away from a mangy dog/Talkin' to myself in a monologue/I think what I need might be a full-length leather coat/Somebody just asked me if I registered to vote."
Then the swagger is gone, and Dylan once again wears his 56 years as he rasps, "There's less and less to say ... I got new eyes/Everything looks far away."
Time Out of Mind is thick with faraway ghosts. Although the deluge of breakup songs on the album might suggest that it is a long-lost sequel to Dylan's famed "divorce album" of 1975, Blood on the Tracks, the singer's world-weary delivery hints at a broader intent. When he recorded Blood on the Tracks, Dylan was just entering middle age and was still a major figure in pop culture as he made a conscious return to the spare, folk-oriented intensity of his early albums. Twenty-two years down the road, Time Out of Mind finds Dylan on the culture's fringe, confronting his advancing years and the prospects of failing health (he was hospitalized a few months ago for a heart ailment) and irrelevance.
Time's perspective is that of an outsider speaking to an absent confidant, a distant lover, a long-departed audience. He sings about love gone awry, but until the surreal conversation that occurs in "Highlands," that loss never acquires a human face. It's a memory, a dream, a specter, as if Dylan were singing not about a companion but about something far less tangible. He projects the unease of someone adrift in a world that he ceases to understand and that has ceased to understand him.
In this sense, Time Out of Mind is a more fully realized version of Oh Mercy, the 1989 album that Dylan recorded with producer Daniel Lanois. The new album not only reunites Dylan with Lanois, it also expands on the tone set by such Oh Mercy songs as "Everything Is Broken" and "Man in the Long Black Coat," in which Dyla