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Review: Time Out of My Mind, Dylan | Really?

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I admit: I am in slightly taken with Time Out of Mind, the Dylan album that I’ve had long arguments with people about because they like others more and sure, they’re good and we all love the old Bob, but frankly, I’m partial to the new Bob and I’m worried. Very worried…

Argue all you want, but I think it is one of the most honest Dylan albums that I’ve heard in ages, and while many have come before (that I truly love), in terms of more recent music, it is Time Out of Mind that appeals.

“I’m sick of love….that I’m in the thick of it.” he sings in “Love Sick” about a certain kind of love (“this kind of love, I’m so sick of it.”) What kind of love, I wonder. Is he talking about a true and lasting love (if so, it doesn’t sound it). Is it a sort of fight and fuck love that we’ve most of us dealt with? Is it groupie shit that god knows, we’ve heard rumors but the hell with rumors, or is it still the hurt from years ago or a more recent hurt? No matter which way you cut it, the first cut is apt: He is, as he says “love sick” and the rest of the album bears it out.

The songs of note that stand out to this reviewer anyway all speak to love in one of its many incarnations, but love nonetheless. They are songs of longing and yearning and being left and being hurt and being tired and hating “silence” which can be like “thunder” which is true ~ a deafening silence. He says, “Could you ever be true? I think of you, and I wonder…” Here is a man who sounds to me, hurt. But is he talking about love itself or love with someone or love in his terms.

It would sound as though he is speaking of Love herself. Love in the Platonic sense and yet, and yet… it is directed to a certain person. The song itself is remarkably simple in terms of chords and notes and is not the typical dancing hopping Dylan, but who would expect that from a song all about being sick of love?

Dirt Road Blues is more typical, but what can one say about that song. It’s good, but it is more expected and not why I write now. It’s more blues, folk and takes us back and I love the happiness and tradition of it; one could almost trace the roots all the way back and that’s great, but it doesn’t sound as honest as some of the other stuff, though I have to say, in it I sometimes hear the “old” Dylan voice, meaning the younger Dylan voice – the one who shouted back to our “Judas!” friend “I don’t beeelieevee youuuu….” Listen, and every now and then it creeps in.

But it is “Standing in the Doorway” and “Trying to Get to Heaven” that beak my heart and make me think he is feeling more than he would ever let on. In Standing in the Doorway:

Yesterday everything was going to fast
Today it’s moving too slow…
I got no place left to turn ~
I got nothing left to burn ~
Don’t know if I saw you
If I would kiss you or kill you.
It probably wouldn’t matter to you anyhow.
You left me standing in the doorway crying ~
I got nothing to go back to now.

What more honest words on this record are written? Argue if you like, but to me, this is the most honest song on the album and it stands out for a reason, or to me it does. Never mind that he says “gay guitar” and get over it because you know he means it in the older sense of the word and I’m tired of people making fun of Dylan for that one line for what is a beautiful song, with that line included.

Now who the song is to, if anyone, though I would guess it is to someone, is hard to judge; perhaps it goes way back, perhaps it goes all the way back to Sara, I obviously can’t speak for Dylan and won’t in that regard. My job, as a journalist is to interpret only and to make an educated guess based on what I know, what I hear, what I’ve read.

Here is a man whose been riding the “midnight train that he swallowed in his vein.” Hmmm… let’s hope that doesn’t mean what it sounds like. I am hoping those days are gone for our Dylan, though I no right to say “our Dylan, I feel a strange and strong attachment as if he is the Dylan that I anyway, do care about, and I want to rush in and “save him” though it’s probably the last thing he wants. He’s not Aimee Mann after all, wailing out (and beautifully) “Save me.” Or is he in some disguised form? It doesn’t seem his style though, even if he wanted to be saved, I doubt Dylan would make it public in such a way… though is lyrics betray him:

“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.”

And he’s right because he tries again and again. He writes,

Last night I danced with a stranger,
but she just reminded me you were the one…

“It always means so much
even the softest touch.”

God don’t I want to be there to give it to him. As a friend, you want to be there and comfort and love, but then is all of this just bullshit, some ruse to get us to listen and some lyrics that mean nothing? Is this yearning, stretching, reaching out man really riding the “midnight train” in his vein?”

A Million Miles” isn’t so different. It all seems about divorce and being left in the “cold” and a cold woman who takes the “silver and the gold” and even when people ask, he tells us, he doesn’t tell them the whole truth. He is too kind, perhaps. And perhaps whomever this relationship, or this amalgam or relationships has left him too damaged to try again in any real way.

It is that old thing of Geschwinds and Penning, two eminent neurologists who spoke of a “doubling of consciousness.” When I recently read that phrase for another book, Dylan immediately came to mind because there does seem to be some sort of waking reminiscence going on here. A sort of “waking trance” as Tennyson called it and while this usually applies to those of us with epilepsy (current presence included, and no shame here), Dylan is clearly living in two places at once: somewhere in the past ~ distant or really distant past. Either way, there is a sort of doubling here. We get the distinct sense from this album, if you listen closely to the lyrics and not just the music, then you see a man who is clearly not only conflicted, but living in two places at the same time ~ both present and past and writing, constantly it would seem here, of the present. What had happened just before this album… anything? Or are we talking about some distant, distant past.

Here is a tired man, and one is perhaps tired of trying but he’ll keep doing it. The rest of the album tells us as much but there is a point at which he just wants is “trying to get to heaven before they close to the door…” and that’s it.

Has he given up? He’s been walkin’ that lonesome valley, he says, some reference to a Valley of Death? I hate to over intellectualize and maybe in that area I do a bit, but it does sound like he is preparing himself for some inevitability.

Yes “when you’ve found out you’ve lost everything, you do find out you can lose a little more” as he sings in “Tryin’ to Get to Heaven.” He has been all around the world and I get the awful sense that somehow, it’s over for him or he thinks it is.

He may still be trying to get closer as he says, but he’s still “a million miles away from you.” This cold-hearted bitch, as she sounds, who seems almost mythical in some ways, will take a “janitor to sweep her off her feet” she tells Dylan, whose response is “that’s okay.” But still, he wants to “rocked”

“Rock me baby.
Rock me, pretty baby, all at once.
Rock me for a little while. Rock me for couple of months.

And that oh –so Dylan and sexy pause:

And I’ll rock you too” So he is willing it sounds, to try again, or perhaps not try, but at least be “rocked,” some euphemism that works for me anyway.

There is God here too, in this album. He has “God has his shield” he says and was “alright til I fell in love with you.” I suppose again, we come back to the same tired story I’ve been telling all along. Unlike Nelson, who I’ve written about before, Dylan has not made his peace, though they have had different lives I suppose, different wives, but still, Willie has made a life for himself and is surely older than Dylan and if anyone is closer to heaven’s door it is Willie. Yet we do not hear him signing of it or not so melancholically anyway and any heartache, he seems to work out in his songs and there is often a prevailing sense of joy.

Dylan had that at one point, even if he was a serious guy or an angry guy, whatever it is he feels or felt, he feels it intensely. There is, as the neurologist I noted before wrote, “A deepening of emotional response” and surely that is true of Dylan. A clear and certain deepening.

Personal favorite on this record is “Not Dark Yet.” It is a sentimental song, or could be and more of a ballad, but it seems more real to me and a summation of all that the album is about. It fits in the middle because it takes both ends and ties them in the middle like a sort of bowtie with a center pivoting around this one song.

“Feel like my soul is turning to steel
I’ve still go the scars, but the sun in me
There’s not even room enough to be anywhere
It’s not dark yet
but it’s getting there…”

“Behind every beautiful thing,
There’s been some kind of pain…”

What more can I say? As he says, “She put down in writing what was in her mind” and more, “He doesn’t see why he should even care…” I care. You care. But Dylan… Does he just not care about her? Does he not care about himself, love, Love, all of it? It sounds to me like all of it… and I want so much to change that. I want to make it better. I want, as I’ve written before, I want to find for him that soft place to fall.

Here is a song in which, when I saw Dylan, I fell against my lover and watched as the last of the sun had gone and the sky was not quite black but that dark dark blue color it gets just before it turns to night. It was the song he closed with and it was perfect, but as I fell into his side, wearing his denim jacket to shield me from the cold, I wondered who Dylan had. I wondered how lonely it was for him.

Who would he fall against that night?

sadi ranson-polizzotti

Edited: cmp

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About Sadi Ranson-Polizzotti

  • Excellent review. Glad to see this album getting some consideration.

    I think I still like “Love and Theft” better in terms of latter day Dylan but there are days where I am more in the mood for “Time Out of Mind.” “L&T” is a bit less moody and is more fun. What is odd about that is I usually like the moodier, ‘darker’ stuff better. Both are terrific albums.

    “Not Dark Yet” might be one of the best five or six songs ever written.

  • How can you fail to mention “Highlands”? That’s the best song on the record — a real narrative epic about midlife yearning.

    As for the death knell that rings throughout the record: it was made around the time he was having heart trouble, which would later lead to an operation. He was definitely seeing the end in sight — which is why I’m disappointed you never mentioned the last song, where he wrestles with it at some length, with both sadness and wry humor. He talks about Erica Jong, about Neil Young, about what he no longer is:

    I see people in the park forgetting their troubles and woes
    They’re drinking and dancing, wearing bright colored clothes
    All the young men with their young women looking so good
    Well, I’d trade places with any of them
    In a minute, if I could

    It’s a great song: the “My Back Pages” of his twilight years.

    Anyway, glad to see someone chiming in about this disc, Dylan’s strongest work since the one-two love & divorce punch of Blood on the Tracks and Desire. I’ve never really seen what the reviewers saw in Love and Theft.

  • yes, first ~ thanks both; i’m grateful for the read… and appreciate it.

    i, of course, know the whole album and yes, it does definitely lighten toward the end and that much is true and the heart issue likely factors in but there is just so much about love. the mortality issue is also a factor, as you note wisely, but i think there is a lot of disillusionment. but again, you make an excellent point. The end with the lovers in the park etc etc is good, but here again he says he would give anything to swap places with just one of them… so there again is that longing even in the happy (in quotes) songs… but i do get your point and am certainly glad you made it.

    yes, this album deserves/merits attention fully, thus/hence etc the review since it seemed to be not covered enough for MY tastes or not by me anyway and i wanted to give my two scents… all of my Dylan pieces are on http://www.tantmieux.squarespace.com ~ scroll down on the right nav to the Dylan section. They linked to it, which is cool cool cool… check out only if you want to… and again, thanks both for some interesting thoughts and as ever, the kind words. grateful

    yours, as ever… and thanks for reading,


  • Dylan has been steadfast and prickly in his denials that the heart operation he underwent around the time of this album had anything to do with the tone or subject matter.

    Paraphrasing an interview he gave USA Today, he was annoyed so many critics inferred songs like “Not Dark Yet” were dealing with his mortality – as if everyone else does not have to deal with the concept of mortality.

    Having said that, much of “Time Out of Mind” does deal with ‘midlife’ issues (autobiographical or not) and it deals with them brilliantly.

  • this is one of those records where folks, before listening, think “eh…that old geezer hasn’t done anything good since Blood On The Tracks”.

    …then you pop this cd in the player and it lops the top of yer head clean off.


  • Very true sentiments, Mark. Too bad it encourages bad albums from other geezers who cannot pull off something this terrific.

  • i agree, Mark, hence the review, you and i are sympatico, as usual.

    in my view; he aint’ no old geezer though. he’s still Bob Dylan and in that way, could never be old to me…. just a personal response… but as to the rest a resounding Yes! It does lop your head clean off because it’s so damn true….

  • DJ — I can understand why Dylan (or any artist) would object to any kind of biographical interptretation, and maybe it was a little crude on my part to infer it. It’s not like you have to be on death’s door to grapple with the songs. It’s just there are connections there that are hard to overlook. Dylan of course is all about multiple interpretations, of course, especially when you consider that he allowed such a painful song as “Love Sick” to be used to sell panties.

  • Rodney, I do not think it was crude to draw the inference. I drew it and so did many others. I just happened to read a couple of his denials.

    I still think you had some excellent observations on the album (and Highlands, to be specific).

  • i don’t think it’s so much about mortality, though i agree ~ name any artist, present company included, who wants their work to be interpreted… by someone else!!! it’s a bit of a ballsy thing to do. But that is partially inevitable iwth any amount of success. I mean shit, even the smallest amount of success will guarantee this (and stalkers… lol).

    But really – for me, it’s not so much about mortality, which yes we all have to face in the final account but it’s a different thing when it’s at your door and anyway, can’t blame dylan for being pissed off for someone bringing it up. I’ve been there and i get annoyed myself. it’s my business; it’s his business.

    still, again, this seems more about Love and there is a lot of that here and i DO take it seriously because i keep seeing signs of these love sickness in other ways as well… not to say i’m a clinical psychologist or trying to analyse him in this way; i’m not. i’m simply offering up an opinion as one who has/ or is/ there ,… or what i think is where he is or was,..

    i hope this makes sense to you all…

    good discussion…

    cheers, x


  • Sade – I agree that the whole album is not about mortality. “Not Dark Yet” certainly touches on that. I think the album has multiple themes. Love and relationships figure prominently… although not in the way they are often dealt with by, well, younger artists. I think this is a ‘grown up record,’ if you will pardon the phrase.

    I am so glad you posted this. This is a great album to discuss.

  • exactly ~ more grown up is key… and that’s the point; he doesn’t seem as able to “handle” (for lack of a better word) it (getting older) as does Nelson (willie), which i noticed during the show… so it’s interesting and sad, because i dont’ think of bob as that old… i really don’t… but anyway… did i post my link? shit, i can’t remember…


    there. now i know i have…..

    but yes, more grown up to be sure, but sadder somehow…

    tant pis. he’s still pretty great in my book. wish i ‘d known he was in Boston looking for a girl in the park….

  • Sadi, another fantastic piece here. i gotta say i been enjoyin your recent streak of dylanology somethin profound. I got this record on at the minute, in fact. a wonderful album, and one that is indeed soaked in a fear of impending death. far as anyonek new, Dylan WAS approahcing death at the time, so this is fairly understandable.

    its a brilliant record. a wonderful companion piece to his earlier Lanois collaboration, Oh Mercy.

  • dang, i gotta go home and listen to this again.

    right after my haircut.

    …and mowing the lawn.

    …and fixin’ dinner.

  • Mark – you make me laugh always…

    duke duke duke ~ i am SO glad you popped by because.

    a. i’ve been meaning to email you and

    b. i’m glad you like this piece so much.

    what are you listening to? this album? this album is incredible… and i love it. not sure what i’ll be doing next, but it will be another Dylan piece to be sure though i hope i have something new to say… we’ll see… just keep trying… i see to be constantly inspired by him so that’s always good….
    in any event… lots of x’s to you… and speak to you soon….. where is E. these days? never hear from him –

    cheers, and glad you’re liking this.

    rock on.


  • godoggo

    Two songs that I love: Not Dark Yet, and Trying to Get to Heaven.

    Theres also some embarrassing parts e.g. that crap about listening to Neil Young, but I guess that’s par for the course.

  • Sadi, it was indeed this album i was listenin to. your article reminded me to get it ripped onto itunes, on account of i been meaning to for months.

    my listening this past month, in so far as Dylan goes, has been mostly John Wesely Harding and his debut, which i find delightful.

    Dylan and plenty Fuck Forever by Babyshambles, although i’ve never found Dylan to be so attractive, i must admit.

  • A: you love the two same songs i do… so we agree on that score… 😉

    Ed: hmmmm, you speak to me of curious and new things. SEnd me email with more info… i know little of this and am curious…. send along, plus i need to chat w/ you anyway… you on MSN messenger per chance? if so, add me…

  • oh, and the attractive thing ~ let’s say a personal idiosyncrasy then… i’ve always found him incredibly attractive, and even do now… he just is.. but that’s such a personal thing, and i mean it in every way… he’s just an attractive person, which is part of what has made him so successful. not only physically attractive, but he has charisma, charm, talent, the whole package so to speak… lucky him.

    he always knew it too, if you read Chronicles…

  • chronicles is great! an i think i confused myself with the attractive thingy. i can understand why you would find him so, but i was busy musing along the lines of the frontman of Babyshambles, and was comparing the too. i’ve never felt a filthual attraction to dylan. Pete Doherty of Babyshambles on the other hand…

  • hmmmm….interesting. don’t know what he looks like, but this conversation could now quickly degenerate into … well… all sorts of mess. privately… i’ll tell you more…;)

    cheers, duke


  • Sadi, you must observe HERE and all will become apparent.

    and at this point i must announce my heterosexuality, and never ONCE have i been tempted in the other direction, at least not by anyone that isn’t Pete Doherty or Connor Oberst…

  • duke, too funny… am very amused and laughed out loud at previous comment… never questioned it for a minute, love…



  • My only hope is that the Fahey-ites will kill and then punish Conor Oberst.

  • LostSok

    Very nice Sadi. TOOM is a masterpiece, even though there are times I think the band was a tad lethargic. I’ve come to enjoy the live recordings of the TOOM songs better than the studio, especially Highlands and I Can’t Wait, which were both sizzling around ’99-’00.

    Great read, though. Enjoyed it very much…

  • Jerry

    As great as many of the older albums are, TOOM is still my favourite. Brilliant Songs, and just the right music to make them shine.

    By the way, I think the lines from Standing are more like this:

    I’ve been riding the midnight train
    Got ice water in my veins



  • ahhh, thanks for the line correction there… i didn’t quite get that right and i should have. expectingrain.com linked to my site, so i’m psyched about that…

    Yes TOOM is my fave for now, but in past, i’d have to say Blonde on Blonde (could it be the blonde hair she wonders?) NO… i just really like that album, Visions of Johanna is a truly great song, though there are so many to choose from it’s hard. i really like almost all of them…
    i’ll be writing more. i think i may write about some individual songs…
    which could be interesting. we’ll see. could be dead boring, but i’ll try my best….

    listen, thanks for reading and the great words of encouragement. you can always read more on my site under the Bob Dylan link…

    rock on


  • Jon

    Please check your lyrics again. I think it makes a big difference when talking about Bob. First of all, he doesn’t say “I’m sick of love….that I’m in the thick of it.” he says AND I’m in the thick of it. Second of all and most importantly, you say he is riding a midnight train? he doesn’t say, “midnight train that he swallowed in his vein.” He says, “I’ve got ice water in my veins”. That’a big difference…I could go on, but all you have to do is listen more carefully or at least just check his website for the lyrics. I think he deserves that much when his lyrics are being dissected…-Jon

  • john or whomever wrote the comment “he deserves that much” ; obviously, i think so too and am linked in with the lyrics site and expecting rain so yes, i should (again, i’ve said it) checked before i wrote, but it sounded clear to me. That said, i will not disagree with you because i should have known better. But if you think i thin he deserves less, then why would i write about him or build a whole Dylan site at all? NOt sure if you posted your comment here, and i’m not being snipey, i’m just saying, why would i try to or not care about the lyrics. IT was an honest mistake because i believed i heardhim clearly.

    Obviously, not something i would do again. I’m glad you made the comment, but someone already did and we’ve addresed that…



  • Jon

    I’m sorry if I came off like an A-hole in my posting, it’s just that I take Bob very serious, maybe too serious:) I truly meant nothing ill about you, and I apologize for reading the previous post first. Maybe I should have done my home work too! 🙂 Sorry–Jon

  • I have 24 straight hours of Bob on iTunes, and last night I listed to both Time Out of Mind and most of Love and Theft in honor of Sadi — not that I needed a reason, of course, but this article put the records in my head again. Great as ever. Thanks.

  • hey Rodney:

    24 straight hours! by god are you man or what????? assuming can’t have been so so long, but who knows, lord knows i could too ~ addressed the previous comment privately from John: no harm/no foul or however the expression goes… (reverse? ) well anyway, i’m flattered that my article has inspired so many people to pull out this terrific album again and listen… i’m truly grateful.

    I”m sure, no doubt, he would be as well… i sent this link to expectingrain so they will likely link to this article as well for today or yesterday.

    cool cool. they DID link to my Dylan site and that in itself is my great honor… rock on…


  • ok, i admit it….

    i did get my haircut last night.

    and i did mow the lawn.

    but i didn’t listen to Time Out Of Mind.

    i’ve misplaced my copy (gees, maybe if my collection wasn’t in such a gawdawful state this wouldn’t happen).

    i did however, listen to the Billy Corgan solo disc again. it wasn’t bad, but he aint no Bob.

  • Great review, especially the “double consciousness” bit…I’ve always thought that this one had at LEAST that many dimensions, which I guess is a part of dealing with aging the way Dylan does on this one.

  • sure, the doubling of consciousness is a big thing with Dylan and applies to others as well (van gogh etc. etc. ) but that’s a looooonnggg article…

    but anyway, Mark ~! great about hair, lawn etc etc, but suck suck suck about album. go out and buy new one… NOW!!

    terrible to lose stuff like that…

    i feel for you… good luck w/ it. and rock on.


  • Sade, have you any thoughts on Todd Hayne’s upcoming biopic of Dylan? It sounds all the fascinating in the world. He’s got nine actors to play Bob, far as i remember. Theres both black and white Bob’s, male and female Bob’s, young and old Bob’s. It sounds inspired.

    Mind you, Masked And Anonymous pulled a smilar trick, although it wasn’t so upfront about it. Far as i can see Bob Dylan wasn’t the ONLY Bob Dylan in that picture.

  • haven’t or don’t know much, should say, about Haynes so if you have link, do post… would be curious. uhml,masked and anonymous i wrote review of and htink i posted here so check…. if not, go to http://www.tantmieux.squarespace.com and visit there and you’ll find it under Dylan section with all the other stuffy or Google me and you’ll find it on the third page or something… anyway…

    sounds like an interesting project. due when? any ideas…

    (oowww these new glasses are giving me a headache at first… which they say is normal but still….)


    well, xo


  • i did indeed see your review of Masked And Anonymous, and alongside the reviews of don’t look back and eat the document, is made for a fine eve’s reading.

    heh, can we expect an analysis of hearts of fire? Dear god, what a gloriously awful picture.

    i reviewed M&A back in the day here on blogcritics, an eat the document too. you’d probably find a link to it in the film section of the mondoirlando.com review archive.

    as to Haynes’ number, the imdb page is HERE

    Julianne Moore an Adrian Brody are just two of the Dylans. i tihnk Beyonce is one of em also.

    Haynes is responsible for the likes of Safe, Far From Heaven and Velvet Goldmine, so i can get behind this experiment.

  • sonny

    very nice article. i love the record. his best since BOTT and better than L&T

    pardon, but one more lyric correction:

    “Feel like my soul has turned into steel
    I’ve still got the scars that the sun didn’t heal
    There’s not even room enough to be anywhere
    It’s not dark yet
    but it’s getting there…”

  • Scorsese also has a Dylan documentary due out soon.

  • i keep hearing about this Scorsese thing… do you know when or where that is airing / theatres etc. or can one purchase it? just curious…that would be great…..

    Duke ~~ the film you speak of scares me slightly though i love Julianne Moore and certain others but Beyonce? That is too weird for me and the idea of a two-sexed Dylan just doesn’t appeal… am i alone in this? or am i misunderstanding something? i just dont’ get it…

    we’ve reviewed a lot of the same things…. you can check out mine on my home page, as i’ve said on the Dylan section. Shoot me your link and you have mine: and we’ll link to each other with a kind word (or i will and hope you will too).. that would be super, since i don’t have yoru URL

    email it to me and i’ll build it in and vice versa..,..

    thanks for kind words on review and lyric correction; i should have looked and not trusted my ears so much, though i’m tired of saying that now, so this is the last time i’m saying it. i know, i shoujld have done that and i’m grateful for the correction truly, and truly glad you enjoyed the piece…

    thanks, as ever, all, for reading for sucfh lively and good conversation.

    oh, i hear he’s making a commercial; anyone know anyting about this?



  • kurt

    The album is about pilgrimage: walking streets that are dead, through the summer nights; wading through high, muddy water; going down the road feeling bad; trying to get to heaven. The Highlands are the ultimate goal of the journey, but the journey is the theme of the album, and all else (broken relationships, lost hope, darkness falling, love sickness) are scenes along the way. Dylan offers us the internal dialogue of a restless wanderer who continues to persevere because he believes in his destiny. Therefore, Time Out Of Mind is one of the most hopeful albums of all time.

  • interesting Kurt… nice.