“After spending much of the '90s touring and simply not writing songs, Bob Dylan returned in 1997 with Time Out of Mind, his first collection of new material in seven years. Where Under the Red Sky, his last collection of original compositions, had a casual, tossed-off feel, Time Out of Mind is carefully considered, from the densely detailed songs to the dark, atmospheric production” (Erlewine).
“Sonically, the album is reminiscent of Oh Mercy, the last album Dylan recorded with producer Daniel Lanois, but Time Out of Mind has a grittier foundation – by and large, the songs are bitter and resigned, and Dylan gives them appropriately anguished performances. Lanois bathes them in hazy, ominous sounds, which may suit the spirit of the lyrics, but are often in opposition to Dylan’s performances” (Erlewine).
“Consequently, the album loses a little of its emotional impact, yet the songs themselves are uniformly powerful, adding up to Dylan’s best overall collection in years” (Erlewine).
“Lead track, Not Dark Yet appealed to sentimentalists because it felt like Dylan was revealing a truth (‘Sometimes my burden is more than I can bear/ It’s not dark yet but it’s gettin’ there’) and bearing down for arts’ sake, too” (Tyrangiel/ Light).
“Forget truth – Dylan always has – and focus on the sly, world weary atmospherics of Dirt Road Blues and Highlands, Dylan’s funniest song since the 60s. (‘She got a pretty face and long white shiny legs/ She says ‘what’ll it be/ I say ‘I don’t know, you got any soft-boiled eggs’)” (Tyrangiel/ Light).
This is “a better, more affecting record than Oh Mercy, not only because the songs have a stronger emotional pull, but because Lanois hasn’t sanded away all the grit. As a result, the songs retain their power, leaving Time Out of Mind as one of the rare latter-day Dylan albums that meets his high standards” (Erlewine).
Interestingly, for Dylan’s first top ten album on U.S. soil in twenty years, and with a Grammy for Album of the Year to boot, “it was cover versions of To Make You Feel My Love by Garth Brooks and Billy Joel that generated the bulk of the cash Dylan made from Time Out of Mind” (Tyrangiel/ Light).