Bob Dylan’s Oh Mercy came out thirty years ago last week. It received immediate positive buzz–I can recall reading Rolling Stone‘s rave review–and was an instant hit amongst those in my office, too. I’d been slowly acquiring a taste for what I consider the best of Dylan’s post-60s work (Blood on the Tracks and Infidels, primarily) via my officemate Will. I’d rank Oh Mercy in between those two, somewhat ahead of Infidels, and five of its ten tracks still strike me as remarkable today. Daniel Lanois, the producer, was in the middle of his late 80s/early 90s roll, and I like what he did on this record.
Here are those five, in order of current personal preference. I’ll largely dispense with comment, but will say: since Dylan doesn’t seem too interested in having folks upload unofficial videos for the originals of his songs on YouTube, three of the five are nice cover versions.
#5. “Political World”
The album opener, and the only song on Oh Mercy to have a studio version official video.
#4. “Shooting Star”
Moving on to the album’s closing track, a sad and wistful piece. Our cover is by Jason Bennett, who I think can be found at this website. Overall Bennett does it justice.
#3. “Everything Is Broken”
About eighteen months after Oh Mercy came out I met up with my HS friend Tony after he flew into Chicago for a weekend. A cold, raw spring weekend. This one came on the radio while we were driving around one afternoon–we belted out line after line. Can’t listen to it now without hearing Tony sing, “Feels like you’re chokin’!” It’s another primo choice for karaoke someday.
Anyway, here’s a version that Sheryl Crow and Jason Isbell cooked up earlier this year. I’ll have to hear it a few more times to decide what I think.
#2. “Most of the Time”
Now we’re to the real cream of the album. Somehow a homemade video of the studio version for “Most of the Time” has survived on YouTube for more than seven years.
#1. “Ring Them Bells”
I’m going to have to seek out more from Sarah Jarosz. A lot more. That is all.