To be sure, rock 'n' roll's favorite hermit didn't come out of hiding just to tell us he's still kicking. Instead, Dylan surfaced briefly this week to announce the title and tentative track list for his upcoming album. Recorded before his well-publicized heart ailment earlier this year, Time Out of Mind is the first collection of Dylan originals since 1990's Under the Blood Red Sky and the 41st of his storied and strange career.
Coproduced by Dylan and moody soundsmith Daniel Lanois, the new disc will feature 10 to 12 new compositions. "The record has the kind of depth of field that hasn't been heard in a long time," says Lanois. He should know, he's helmed such critical faves as Dylan's 1989 Oh Mercy as well as classic albums by U2 and Peter Gabriel. "It's a most serious work but not without its landscapes of underlying humor."
Keeping up his mystery-man persona, Dylan and record label Columbia have not yet set a firm release date for Time, however Industry gossip has the album coming to stores anywhere between September and November.
Recorded at Criteria Studios in Miami, the disc will have the following songs: "Love Sick", "Dirt Road Blues", "Standing in the Doorway", "Million Miles", "Tryin' to Get to Heaven", "'Til I Fell in Love with You", "Not Dark Yet", "Cold Irons Bound", "Make You Feel My Love", "Can't Wait" and "Highlands."
Although only a few people are rumored to have heard the new songs (including musical historian and pontificator Greil Marcus), the lineup of musicians suggests the album will be a soulful, bluesy, honky-tonk affair. In addition to Lanois, Dylan is backed by Memphis pianist Jim Dickinson (a sideman for Aretha Franklin and the Rolling Stones), organist/accordion-player Augie Myers (Texas Tornadoes), Duke Robillard (the Fabulous Thunderbirds) on electric guitar and Cindy Cashdollar on steel guitar.
Dylan himself describes the disc kind of cryptically. (Would you expect anything else?). "It's definitely a performance record instead of a poetic literary type of thing. You can feel it rather than think about it," he said.
While Dylan downplays the lyrical content of Time, Dylanologists will undoubtedly take their microscope to ditties like "Standing in the Doorway" ("I got no places left to turn/I got nothing left to burn") and "'Til I Fell in Love" ("When I'm gone, you will remember my name") and deduce that Dylan is contemplating his mortality. Of course, those lines were recorded long before he got those chest pains back in May.
Expect a preview of the songs when Dylan tours the U.S. next month.