BOSTON — Bob Dylan's first album of new material in seven years, "Time Out of Mind" (Columbia), is a remarkable return to form that has been acclaimed by critics as one of the finest albums of the year. It has landed Dylan in the Top 10 Billboard album chart for the first time since his 1983 album "Infidels."
Perhaps the legendary singer was inspired by the chart success of his son Jakob, who fronts the hot band the Wallflowers.
Dylan fans have been waiting patiently for this for years, as the singer continued his seemingly never-ending concert tour and released a couple of albums devoted to old blues and folk songs.
Those recordings were spotty, but sometime around 1994 it became apparent that the singer had been revitalized. His concerts, which for years had been lackluster, suddenly bristled with a newfound musical energy and power.
In this collection of 11 bluesy new songs, Dylan reaffirms his position as the preeminent composer and wordsmith of the rock era. Although simple in terms of structure, the compositions here teem with richness, humanity, pain, poetry, and humor.
Daniel Lanois's unobtrusive production, and the playing by a crack ensemble that includes such ringers as Duke Robillard on guitar and Auggie Meyers on organ, puts the focus squarely on the songs and Dylan's voice, which the years have now reduced to barely a croak.
But it is still the most expressive croak in rock.
The album is often dark and gloomy, filled with songs expressing the bitterness of failed relationships ("Standing in the Doorway," " 'Til I Fell in Love With You").
But it also contains one of Dylan's most affecting love songs, "Make You Feel My Move" (recently covered by Billy Joel). "When evening shadows and the stars appear, and there is no one there to dry your tears, I could hold you for a million years," he gently sings. Considering all the angst that has preceded it, it is an even more telling and powerful reminder that romance, and hopefulness, lives on.
* Bob Dylan's new album can be sampled at: http://www.bobdylan.com/