Bob Dylan – Oh Mercy: #352 of best 1,000 albums ever!

So why is Bob Dylan’s Oh Mercy on this best 1,000 albums ever thing?

Oh Mercy is the sixth Bob Dylan album I’m featuring on this here best 1,000 albums ever project (and that’s so far!), and I have an interesting background with this one.

I was roughly a freshman in high school when it was released in 1989, and it completely passed me by at the time. Even as I discovered and devoured Dylan’s output from the 1960s and 1970s while in high school, his “later stuff” passed me by for many years*.

* The brilliant “Things Have Changed,” which was featured on the Wonder Boys soundtrack (#507 of best 1,000 albums ever) in 2000, alerted me that I was missing out on another few decades of music from the prolific icon.

It was TV/movie producer and showrunner Brian Koppelman (more on Kopp below) who helped turn me on to the brilliance of Oh Mercy.

Cut back to 1989, and consider that it’s the end of eight years of Ronald Reagan’s presidency in the United States, and the go go capitalism and “greed is good” materialism and culture that came with it.

“Political World” is Dylan spitting mad and bitingly poetic, with rock music that jumps and cuts. It’s the kind of song that you can listen to over and over and it makes you think about different things each time.

Each verse starts with the repetition of We live in a political world and then provides a poetic sketch of the world he sees near the turn of the 1990s.

We live in a political world
Courage is a thing of the past
The houses are haunted, children aren’t wanted
Your next day could be your last

As of this writing in 2023, there’s still a lot we can all take away from “Political World.”  

Most of the rest of Oh Mercy is much quieter and introspective. The best of these songs is “Shooting Star,” a gorgeous ballad that’s Dylan at his sweetest. With “Political World” kicking off Oh Mercy and “Shooting Star” as its closer, it’s rather perfect.

“Where Teardrops Fall” is almost as good as “Shooting Star” for much the same reasons.

And “Everything Is Broken” is Dylan loose as hell, shooting from the hip, and most importantly: fun and rocking as all get out.

Pop culture stuff that has something to do with Bob Dylan’s Oh Mercy

I probably connected the dots on who Brian Koppelman is by way of his occasional appearances on Bill Simmon’s podcast.

Kopp – along with his longtime creative partner David Levien – is best known these days for creating and showrunning the TV show Billions. And I’ll always have a soft spot for the pair for producing a number of great movies, particularly Rounders and Knockaround Guys.

Couple of other fun Koppelman things:

  • He hosts a great interview podcast called The Moment.
  • I love coffee, and so I was very excited and supportive of Koppelman coining the term, “The Royale,” for one’s first cup of coffee in the morning. If you think about it, it’s just rather perfect.

Some stats & info about Bob Dylan – Oh Mercy

  • What kind of musical stylings does this album represent? Rock Music, Album Rock, Contemporary Rock, Singer Songwriter
  • Rolling Stone’s greatest 500 albums ranking – not ranked!
  • All Music’s rating – 3.5 out of 5 stars
  • When was Oh Mercy released? 1989
  • My ranking, the one you’re reading right now – #352 out of 1,000

Bob Dylan’s Oh Mercy on Spotify

A lyrical snippet from Bob Dylan’s Oh Mercy that’s evocative of the album in some way, maybe

We live in a political world where mercy walks the plank. Life is in mirrors, death disappears up the steps into the nearest bank.

What does the “best 1,000 albums ever” mean and why are you doing this?

Yeah, I know it’s audacious, a little crazy (okay, maybe a lot cray cray), bordering on criminal nerdery.

But here’s what it’s NOT: a definitive list of the Greatest Albums of All-Time. This is 100% my own personal super biased, incredibly subjective review of what my top 1,000 albums are, ranked in painstaking order over the course of doing research for nearly a year, Rob from High Fidelity style. Find out more about why I embarked on a best 1,000 albums ever project.