The rumor is true: Bob Dylan, an artist for whom many fans had simply given up hope, has made an excellent album. Dylan's first collection of new songs in six years, Time Out Of Mind is a stark, haunted work that recalls his best material and doesn't suffer by comparison. Because he recently released two collections of roots-music covers, it's not surprising that the 11 songs here have a raw, bluesy sound to them, a sound that suits Dylan's distinctive and increasingly ragged voice well. He can still turn a memorable phrase better than anyone else, and twist an apparently predictable lyric ("Don't know if I saw you / If I would kiss you or kill you…") into something more memorable ("…It probably wouldn't matter to you anyhow"). The material here is generally slow and meditative, lending the work a consistent tone appropriately capped by the 16-minute "Highlands," a "Desolation Row"-style experiment with an extended song form; it's further proof that the singer/songwriter is far from coasting. Time Out Of Mind should remind old fans why Dylan used to be called a genius on a regular basis, and could convince some new ones that it was a title fittingly bestowed.
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