"They say prayer has the power to heal / So pray for me mother / In the human heart an evil spirit can dwell / I am a-tryin' to love my neighbor and do good unto others / But oh, mother, things ain't going well." —from "Ain't Talkin'"
Bob Dylan once titled an album Time Out of Mind, but it might be more fair to say that he's got time on his mind. "The Times They Are A-Changin'" he told us in the early '60s, and, nearly forty years later, he was still telling us the same story—"Things Have Changed." And now comes Modern Times, the third in a series of bewildering latter-day masterworks from the Voice of a Generation, and further proof that, over the course of a career that has spanned four decades, innumerable musical genres, and at least two belief systems, Dylan's song has always been the same. Nothing has changed and everything has changed, both at the same time.
Entire volumes could be written (and have been written) about Dylan's peculiar and indelible vision, and, in the past year alone, his story has been well documented in his own set of memoirs and in a celebrated documentary by Martin Scorsese. The socially aware protest songs, the druggy absurdist storytelling, the albums of heartbreak and romantic desolation, the Jewish upbringing and shocking conversion to evangelical Christianity—it's all part of the Dylan lore, and any one phase of his career gives ample material for interpretation and speculation. What's curious, though, is that his past three albums—masterpieces Time Out of Mind and Love and Theft, as well as the brand new Modern Times—have, in a sense, summarized everything that he's ever said before: The world is going to pot, humanity is nothing but a bunch of cads and villains, ...1