Personnel: Bob Dylan (vocals, 6- & 12-string guitars, guitar, harmonica, piano, organ); Daniel Lanois (guitar, lap steel, dobro, Omnichord); Mason Ruffner, Brian Stoltz, Paul Synegal (guitar); Rockin' Dopsie (accordion); John Hart (saxophone); Malcolm Burn (keyboards, tambourine); Tony Hall, Larry Jolivet (bass); Willie Green, Alton Rubin, Jr. (drums); David Rubin, Jr. (scrub board); Cyril Neville, Daryl Johnson (percussion).
The second half of the 1980s was a dark time for hardcore Dylan fans, as their hero released a string of overproduced, lackluster albums, but the trend was gloriously reversed in 1989 with OH MERCY. The record was produced by Eno acolyte Daniel Lanois, and would help make the Canadian studio wizard a first-call producer, in addition to righting Dylan's reputation. Accordingly for an album made in New Orleans, OH MERCY has a thick, swampy, organic feel that echoes the blues roots so fundamental to Dylan's aesthetic, while simultaneously re-imagining them in a fresh, contemporary setting.
The songs, too, were Dylan's strongest in years. The modal "Political World" and chugging "Everything Is Broken" accurately take the sociopolitical temperature of the times without resorting to pedantry. "Most of the Time" is as full of romantic regret as "What Was It You Wanted" (later covered by Willie Nelson) reeks of emotional aloofness, and "Man in the Long Black Coat" is a mortality meditation as foreboding as anything in Dylan's catalogue. Though Dylan would turn out one more sub-par album after this (UNDER THE RED SKY), OH MERCY nevertheless marked the master songwriter's powerful return and dramatic upswing.
Rolling Stone (11/89) - Ranked #44 in Rolling Stone's "100 Best Albums Of The 80s" survey.
Q (3/93, p.94) - 4 Stars (out of 5) - "...OH MERCY put him in the studio with Daniel Lanois, who accordingly delivered his usual sticky-in-the-heat-of-the-night feel, and Dylan did the business with 10 superior songs..."