Time Out Of Mind

Bob Dylan

Columbia Records, 1997


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Knowing the wide range of readership we have out there in cyberspace, there has to be someone out there who knows Bob Dylan. If you're that person, do me a favor: tell him to log on and check out this review, or print it out and send it to him. There's something I've gotta say to him. Trust me; you'll understand soon enough.

I don't think there is any artist out there - with the exception of Vanilla Ice - who takes so much abuse from music fans as Dylan has. People for years have ridiculed Dylan's singing style as so much mumbling. I don't think I've ever met anyone who doesn't have their own Bob Dylan impersonation, each one usually more cruel than the other one. Even I've done this, though I'll be the first to admit I've not listened to a good portion of his catalog. After seeing Dylan's appearance on the 1998 Grammies - complete with that "Soy Bomb" asshole - my opinion of his performances didn't change all that much.

But my way of thinking has changed thanks to Huston Combs, who was auctioning a set of five Dylan tapes on eBay that I happened to win. Out of curiosity, I grabbed one of the tapes the other day - Dylan's 1997 release (and 1998 Grammy winner for "Album Of The Year") Time Out Of Mind - and decided to let the music speak for itself.

And, Bob, if you're reading, allow me to state publicly... I take back any negative thing I've ever said about your vocal abilities and apologize to you, and I won't do any more bad imitations of you singing anymore. Time Out Of Mind proves that your vocal clarity is incredible, and that you rightfully deserved the Grammy for what could be the best album of your career.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Now, I'll be the first to admit that Dylan is not the most polished vocalist out there, and that as the years have passed, there has been a rougher edge to his singing. But I think that could be said for anyone who sings as a living; even as much as I loved Jerry Garcia's work, his vocal style just before his death in 1995 wasn't the same as it was in 1970. Besides, a more gruff sound to Dylan's vocals occasionally seems to be the best touch for the songs.

But Dylan proves early on - as well as throughout Time Out Of Mind - that the reputation of being a mumbling singer might not be warranted. Each word, from the opening lines of "Love Sick" to the fades of "Highlands", rings out strongly and clearly, punctuating the sad reserve that Dylan puts forth as the protagonist of this group of songs.

Easily the most beautiful moment on this album is the track "Make You Feel My Love," a song that I am honestly surprised wasn't released as a single. Who knows, maybe someone in charge of creating soundtracks for movies has fallen in love with this and wants to put it in the next Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan smoochfest - though this track deserves a slightly better fate. Something inside me says that I've heard this song before, but Dylan does such a beautiful job on this, that it doesn't really matter.

Dylan seems to be fascinated with certain portions of life on Time Out Of Mind, namely falling in and out of love ("Love Sick," "Standing In The Doorway," "'Til I Fell In Love With You") and religion ("Tryin' To Get To Heaven"), which seems to suggest that Dylan has put into practice - without getting into outright preaching - the lessons he learned as a family man and in his born-again Christian phase. (We'll get to those albums in his discography soon enough.)

The only criticism I could level against Time Out Of Mind is that there are one or two times where it feels like Dylan drags the song past its logical conclusion. "Standing In The Doorway" is one such song that could have benefitted from dropping a verse or three; by the time it wraps up, I found that I had lost some interest in what had started out to be a great track. The same thing could be said for "Highlands," though it's not as strong of a track as "Standing In The Doorway".

When Dylan won the "Album Of The Year" for Time Out Of Mind, I found myself shouting at the television, "What were you people thinking?" At least I now know what motivated their decision - and I know they chose well. Time Out Of Mind is an album that restores my belief that Dylan is still an influential artist in today's music scene, and is a must-own addition to anyone's collection.

Update: I knew I heard that song somewhere before! "Make You Feel My Love" was featured in the movie Hope Floats, sung by Garth Brooks. Well, maybe someone can feature Dylan's version in a better movie. Thanks to the official Bob Dylan Web site for being my guide to this information.

Rating: A-

User Rating: A


Surprised that you praise the vocals without picking up on the dreadful amount of reverb or echo that Lanios (producer) adds to vocals. But yes, a great album. Mercifully on Dylan's next two self-produced albums, his voice is much more natural sounding.
Awesome album.

© 1999 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Columbia Records, and is used for informational purposes only.