This will be a new feature, not necessarily daily. Just getting back to what I wanted to do most on this blog — talk about great music. The links will go to Rhapsody, where you can usually get one free listen.
(In this case, you can get lyrics and a free listen at bobdylan.com. I guess his catalog is a little too deep for a four-song burst at MySpace.)
I’m no Dylan historian, but I know enough to know that 1989’s Oh Mercy stands out among his post-70s output. He rambled about the recording process in his recent autobiography, so it apparently meant something special to him as well. It’s one of many fine Daniel Lanois productions, unfathomable Stephen Thomas Erlewine objections notwithstanding. (Seriously, Stephen, did you forget how important The Joshua Tree really was … and is? Listened to Emmylou Harris’ Wrecking Ball lately? Lanois wasn’t some trendoid, flavor-of-the-decade producer.)
Back to the song at hand — Erlewine’s AllMusic cohort Thomas Ward does it justice: “Most of the Time is a hugely affecting, emotional song which displays all the hallmarks of Dylan’s genius of understatement and subtlety.”
The concept is the blues standard of suffering with dignity. With a gruff vocal that’s equal parts resolute and resigned, Dylan describes an ex-lover — perhaps recent, perhaps long-ago — and insists in various ways that he’s over her … most of the time.
It’s a typically sparse Lanois production. The bass line chimes in with a melodic counterpoint, then fades into the mix. An electric guitar noodles some country-blues leads over soft acoustic guitar. Chord changes come from nowhere, shifting so subtly that I can’t even name the instrument that sounds the change. It’s almost as if the mood changes, not the chord.
Together, it’s almost as if Dylan is winking at you as he sings. “Shhh, don’t tell anyone about this. But yeah, I still think about her.”
I can smile in the face of mankind.
Don’t even remember what her lips felt like on mine
Sure he does. And it’s not necessarily a bad memory. Maybe bittersweet. Maybe wistful.
Bottom line — it’s a memory, one that’s fading fast in Dylan’s rear view on a long, long road.