After five years of sub-par product, Oh Mercy has Dylan throwing over a few tables, shaking off cobwebs, and giving us what for. Despite, once again, some career defining songs mysteriously not appearing (Series Of Dreams, Dignity, God Knows, Born In Time) he still put out a five star ground breaking album. It all happened (apparently) on stage at a gig in Locarno, Switzerland; an epiphany of the soul - a realisation that he had found a voice and a purpose that was the new Dylan.
In all honesty, all of this aside, the fact is that the songs were flowing once more. That's what mattered. They were brilliantly swamped up by Daniel Lanois and they fit perfectly with Dylan's new Leonard Cohenesque delivery. Gone was Dylan the ageing rock star - here was Dylan who could spin his age around to his advantage.
Moments like Ring Them Bells, Man In The Long Black Coat, Most Of The Time and Shooting Star show that he really meant business. Most of The Time in particular showcased his new style, one that more or less crops up to this day. Wistful, slightly sentimental, tinged with an aching form of regret....it is simply engaging. We find ourselves hanging on to his every word because he speaks for all of us at some point in our lives. But in truth there isn't a bad song on here and it doesn't outstay its welcome. It was a perfect way to end an imperfect decade; the fact that several masterful songs were absent only makes it all the more impressive.
(I would recommend Bootleg Series Vol 8 as an accompaniment to this. It contains quite a few out-takes and missing songs from this period).