Review: Dylan’s expanded 1997 masterpiece reveals new layers

“Fragments — Time Out of Mind Sessions (1996-1997): The Bootleg Series Vol. 17,” Bob Dylan (Columbia Records/Legacy Recordings)

When Bob Dylan released “Time Out of Mind” in 1997, it was heralded as a late-career masterpiece featuring songs like “Make You Feel My Love,” “Love Sick” and “Not Dark Yet.”

Now, a quarter century and several other seminal Dylan records later, “Time Out of Mind” is still viewed as a masterpiece, just a mid-career one.

“Fragments — Time Out of Mind Sessions (1996-1997),” the 17th volume of Dylan’s bootleg series archival release series, reveals even more layers to the record that reset the trajectory of Dylan’s career. It also proves, yet again, that Dylan’s discards are as good or better than most people’s official catalogue.

The five disc set is an amalgamation of previously unheard studio outtakes, a remixed version of the original record, live tracks and previously released alternate versions.

The remixed original record allows listeners to experience “Time Out of Mind” in a new way, stripping away Daniel Lanois’ swampy production to present the songs closer to how they were played in the studio. The live versions captured between 1998 and 2001 crackle, with Dylan’s touring band flexing its muscle.

But the heart of the release is the studio outtakes. It’s through these that we hear Dylan recrafting the songs, taking discarded bits from one and adding them to another, dropping and adding lyrics seemingly at whim.

“I feel like the hand of fate has jabbed its finger in my eye/I’m in the land of the lost where dreams come to die,” Dylan sings on an uncharacteristically jaunty outtake version of “Not Dark Yet.”

A bonus treat: Dylan’s heartfelt rendering early in the recording sessions of the Scottish folk song “The Water is Wide.” Rather than a toss off, Dylan leans into it and delivers a rendition that will raise the hairs on the back of your neck.

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