Michael Gray on Time Out Of Mind
The #TOOM25 Event Series
The multitudes that Dylan contains is never more clear than when listening to wise and articulate people discuss his writing and performing.
Venerable Dylan writer and critic Michael Gray joined us to share his views on this great album.
The first serious critical study of Bob Dylan’s work was Song & Dance Man: The Art of Bob Dylan, which Michael Gray released in 1972. Since then he has remained one of the most prolific and more importantly respected observers of Dylan’s work.
Michael’s major Dylan books including not only Song & Dance Man (now in it’s highly revised third edition), but the massive Bob Dylan Encyclopedia and recently a collection of his writing on Dylan has been published as Outtakes on Bob Dylan: Selected Writings 1967-2021.
Michael Gray was 25+ years into critically writing about Bob Dylan when Time Out Of Mind was released. And when the world nearly instantly fell for the new gloomy Dylan, Michael was surprised.
As a close observer he’d read and seen what they had been saying about Dylan for more than a decade, and was a bit surprised how quickly Bob became revered again.
Michael tells us about the mixed feelings he had about the record, and we discuss his writings from the time. He felt that 4 songs were ‘major songs’ but that musically and lyrically not everything was up to those standards – he called some of it ‘lazily written’ with a ‘roughness to the vocal that didn’t always convince’.
One example he uses is the difference between the title sentiment of ‘Million Miles’ vs the similar sentiment expressed in ‘One Too Many Mornings’ where he finds more care and originality.
Michael goes on to showcase his close and illuminating analysis of the songs and methods and work Dylan applied. He explains the re-evaluation he had of the album a bit later, in which he took back some of those initial harsh words and elevated his view of the album as a whole.
Readings & Commentary
We talk about what readers can get from criticism, how others cover Bob Dylan, and the difference between listening to the original albums vs the live shows.
Michael then reads us one of his favorite or illustrative passages from Song & Dance Man III, and adds further commentary. It’s an example of how he looks very closely at individual details in the songs, as a way of helping us see more of what is there within the whole album.
We then read four more passages to Micheal, some of our favorites, and ask him to comment, and expand – which he does in very interesting ways.
- One is about Dylans singing ability
- Another is about the music (not the words), one about Dylan humor
- The next discusses Dylan being expressive via his phrasing
- Finally, some comments on Highlands, and how it succeeds.
They all help us to see how Micheal hears and reads Dylan, in ways that help all of us hear him differently.
Michael Gray’s latest book is a collection of Dylan essays from 1967-2021 called Outtakes on Bob Dylan (Available at Amazon)
Watch Michael Gray’s 50 minute discussion.
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