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Turns melancholia into great art
on 1 November 2017
After several years of wondering if Dylan's songwriting skills had left him, he comes up with one of the finest albums of his career. Daniel Lanois's swamp rock production is ideal for these songs of mortality and resignation. Some reviewers have described this as his best album since "Blood on the Tracks" (I think it is even better), and like that album, it comes after the break up of his marriage. The album begins in fine style with the dark "Love Sick", which opens with the line: "I'm walking through streets that are dead" before taking us on a journey to the dark side of love. "To Make You Feel My Love" at first seems less melancholic than the opening track, but has an intensity, almost a desperate pleading for the other to respond. In "Not Dark Yet", Dylan not only reflects on his own mortality, but also seems tired with his life, with lyrics like: "I just don't see why I should even care", "Sometimes my burden is more than I can bear" and "Don't even hear a murmur of a prayer", each followed by the refrain: "It's not dark yet but it's getting there". The melancholia continues with "Trying to Get to Heaven", where he not only reflects on lost love and wasted time, but is worried that heaven might close its door to him. There are so many other highlights on this album, including the final track "Highlands", which takes Scotland's bard Robert Burns' poem "My Heart's in the Highlands" as its launching pad (Burns himself borrowed the idea from a traditional Scottish Gaelic song). Whereas the Burns poem is about taking the Highlands with him, Dylan's song is about finding his way back to the Highlands, which may also be a metaphor for peace of mind, or even for Heaven. Although melancholic, the song does end with hope, thus ending the album on a note of hope: "There's a way to get there and I'll figure it out somehow/But I'm already there in my mind and that's good enough for now." Truly one of Dylan's finest albums.