The '80s was a particularly shifting, uncertain decade for Bob Dylan's creative voice. But he capped it off with his first album of all-original material in several years and his best since Infidels
. A lot of the credit for Oh Mercy
's distinctive appeal has been given to producer-musician Daniel Lanois (who backs Dylan on all but one cut), and there's no denying the effect of his magnetic, fog-thick sound sculpturing here. Overlays of lap steel, dobro, and mercy keys along with a slithering subterranean bass evoke a complete sonic climate, and the synergy between Lanois and Dylan would have a huge payoff with 1997's devastating Time Out of Mind
. But however tightly produced, Oh Mercy
also displays Dylan at the peak of his songwriting craft, fracturing words and phrases for the things-fall-apart jeremiads of "Political World" and "Everything Is Broken" and stringing images together for the noirish ballad "Man in the Long Black Coat." There's the usual dichotomy between Dylan's slashing accusatory mode ("What Was It You Wanted") and the self-effacement of "What Good Am I?" Aside from the miscalculated, sappy "Where Teardrops Fall" (the disc's sore thumb), this album has the classic staying power of Dylan's finest efforts. --Thomas May
Daniel Lanois brought as much imagination to the production on this 1989 LP as Dylan did to the images and poems within these striking songs. Lots of gems to be discovered here: Everything Is Broken; Ring Them Bells; Disease of Conceit; Shooting Star; Most of the Time; Political World , and more!