Real Life Rock Top 10: January 20, 2023
Special All-Bob Dylan Bootleg Series No. 17 "Fragments: The ‘Time Out of Mind’ Sessions 1996-1997" (Sony) Edition!
People gathered around Time Out of Mind because it was one of those singular albums that in its music—as much or really far more than in its words, the music of singing as well as the music made with guitars, piano, bass, drums, steel guitar, organ, whatever else—captured a vision of life. When it appeared, the sometimes suicidal despair that washed through “Love Sick,” “Not Dark Yet,” “Standing in the Doorway,” “’Till I Fell in Love with You,” the suppressed anger in “Can’t Wait,” the depression weighing down every step in “Highlands,” the fatalism even in the rising, reaching “Tryin’ to Get to Heaven,” led people to call it a break-up album. Faced with something as unyielding as this music, more than a few need to find a box to file it away, to shut the door, to wall it off from any way it might cut the ground out from under their own feet as completely as it seemed to do for the characters, or even the single character, who were singing. But it was so much more. I remember the break-up shibboleth coming up in an undergraduate seminar in 2000; a student named Amy Vecchione reacted as if she’d been slapped in the face of her own intelligence. “It’s a break-up album,” she said mordantly, almost contemptuously, then casting back to Dylan’s embrace of Jesus and his onstage fire-and-brimstone sermons of twenty years before, a strain that continued speaking through the next decade, from the 1983 Infidels through the 1989 Oh Mercy, “but it’s not about breaking up with a woman. It’s about breaking up with God.” The kind of religion to which Dylan had pledged himself was its own wall, its own box, where there were no questions, only answers: now certainty had been replaced with doubt, love with abandonment.