The generation that came of age in the 1960s in some ways never seems to leave the decade. Or stop listening to its music. With Bob Dylan's emergence, that music was radically redirected. Thoughtful social commentary was in. The questions now were of peace and war. The answers were found blowing in the wind.
If flashback-to-the-sixties radio, along with rock bands still touring their old hits, seems to suggest a genre and even a generation trapped in a time warp, the ongoing evolution of Dylan's music does not. His Time Out of Mind album (which won the Grammy award for album of the year—1997) has been critically hailed as his most important work in years. It's common for successful performers to return to the recording studio many years after the pinnacle of their careers and show they have survived. Dylan did so, and showed, to some, that he had grown. Not that his vocals are nearer any traditional standard. But some feel the poetry has deepened. If Dylan was once labeled the voice of a generation, he may still voice what that generation now contemplates, what it yearns for.
The intensely personal, shared by an artist, at times becomes the universal. That's true with this album. Religious themes—the mercy of God, trying to get to heaven, praying for salvation—mingle with reflections on the limits aging seems to put on the once unbounded aspirations of youth.