Bob Dylan seemed to have a lot to prove in 1997 when he released Time Out Of Mind, his first album of new material since 1990’s Under The Red Sky. Seven years seemed to be a very long time to wait for new original songs from Dylan, but – as usual – he exceeded expectations with one of his most successful albums of his career, earning three Grammys including album of the year. Critically, it continues to be regarded as one of his very best albums.
The album was produced by Daniel Lanois, and interestingly enough it was the last time Dylan let anyone produce him. Dylan’s comments on Lanois’ production have varied over the years, often expressing that he was unhappy with the overall ‘sound’ of the album.
With the new Bootleg Series Vol. 17 box set covering the Time Out Of Mind era, the opportunity to remix the album from the original multitracks finally presented itself. In addition to the new stereo mix, renowned mixing engineer Michael H. Brauer and his assistant Fernando Reyes also created a Dolby Atmos version. Though the Atmos mix is available to stream on Apple Music and Tidal, it was also issued on a limited-run Blu-Ray disc from SuperDeluxeEdition.com.
In the liner notes, Brauer describes his remix as “a companion to the original record, but by no means a replacement.” It is not a question of which version is better or worse, but a simple matter of different ways in which to present the music.
Time Out Of Mind opens with “Love Sick,” an unforgettable performance that sets the mood and tone for the album. It is not a concept album, but there are recurring themes. Dylan looks at love, life, mortality, and aging. “Old Dirt Road” has a much more upbeat sound, but again, lyrically it shows Dylan questioning and searching.
From there, Dylan continues to examine his life and the time he has left. “Standing In The Doorway,” “Not Dark Yet,” and “Trying To Get To Heaven” all share the theme of mortality and what is next. He sounds vulnerable, especially in “Trying To Get To Heaven,” and one can hear the weariness in his voice at times. It is absolutely perfect.
The album ends with the 16-minute epic “Highlands.” It’s like a short story that cannot be put down. Once again, Dylan sets about telling his tale. In the remix, the song seems sparser and less produced. Here, the song has an entirely new intimate feel.
One would not necessarily associate Time Out Of Mind with surround sound or immersive audio, given the sparse nature of the album, but it works brilliantly. The separation of the instruments and Dylan’s voice is truly breathtaking, adding a whole new dimension to the songs.
“Love Sick” is a great example. Dylan and most of the band are upfront, while the electric guitars appear in the rear speakers. Hearing the album in Atmos, one is quickly aware that Lanois layered sounds and instruments throughout the entire album. That is the beauty of surround sound, it allows the listener to experience music they love in a completely new way.
The Blu-ray is nicely packaged with liner notes and information about the album. Overall, it is a great package. Although past Dylan albums have been remixed in 5.1 surround sound, this is his first release in Dolby Atmos. One can only hope it is not his last.