Oh Mercy (1989)


 
1. Political World 2. When Teardrops Fall 3. Everything is Broken 4. Ring Them Bells 5. Man in the Long Black Coat 6. Most of the Time 7. What Good Am I? 8. Disease of Conceit 9. What Was it You Wanted 10.Shooting Star

 

This is one of those Bob Dylan albums that seems to be such an incredible gem that was released during a period of lackluster rubble. Maybe sensing that, not only were his records not selling, but they just flat out sounded.....well.....drab, caused him to pay a bit more attention and produce something much more worthwhile. Maybe not, I honestly don't know, but this record sure sounds like it. For this album, he teamed up with producer Daniel Lanois, who has a strong reputation, but really didn't have that much of a resume apart from a few albums by Peter Gabriel and U2, so it may have seemed a bit of an odd combination.

The sign of a good producer isn't necessarily getting the artist to sound like what the producer thinks they should sound like, but rather bringing the best out of the particular artist. Let's face it, there aren't that many similarities between Peter Gabriel and/or U2 and Bob Dylan. Yet Lanois delivers in a very big way. The best way to describe the key strengths of this album are, quite simply, the production. It's not "over the top", as a matter of fact, it's quite simple. Most of the second half of the album contains very soft, simple, introspective songs without any enhancements, yet this album never "feels" simple. The touches that are added throughout simply add to the overall enjoyment.

Since Dylan never really took an extended break from recording, it might be difficult to note, exactly, when and where his voice changed from the happy, go-lucky ramblin' poet of the 1960s, but this is the album where you can safely say that he arrived at the sound where he was more known as the old codger, with a voice distinctly more raspy, and seemed a bit older than he really was. None of this is bad - the mood of the songs fits perfectly. Apart from the opener Political World, the atmosphere of the album is much more subtle without necessarily being dark. He's not being preachy, and not really complaining about much either. No surprise that the strongest songs are the most positive; songs such as Ring Them Bells, Shooting Star and Most of the Time.

Maybe the cover of the album biases me, but I can't help but think that this album is best listened to at night. Maybe in a club surrounded by only a few strangers that are feeling comfort from the presence of others. It's definitely moody, but in a good, strong way.

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