Thursday, January 19, 2012

"Highway 61 Revisited" by Bob Dylan (August, 1965)

Dad's Take:

Poor widdo Bwadley has to listen to another Dylan album already. Poor guy. This one is listed at number 4 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums list, and its big single, "Like A Rolling Stone," is number one on their list of greatest songs. In other words, This will be pure torture for Brad. He's really going to be thrilled that the songs are so long on this record. But this album is a classic with a capital C. Even outtakes from this record like "Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window?" are great.

OK, so for Rolling Stone to pick a song called "Like A Rolling Stone" seems like it could have more behind it than simply liking the song, but seriously, it's hard to argue that choice. This song is a tour de force, unlike anything by anyone else (except maybe a few other Dylan tunes). It's spectacular. If it were the only decent song on this album, the album would be a classic.

But it's not.

Song after song is a gem. After "Like A Rolling Stone," we're treated to "Tombstone Blues," with its brilliant fast blues groove and its tribute to Woody Guthrie in the chorus. The lyrics are playful and poetic. This is a song that takes multiple listens before it all sinks in, but it's better with ever listen, and not so bad on the first one. Six minutes of near perfection, from the lyrics to the crunchy guitar. Next comes the piano-based blues of "It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry," with its train-whistle harmonica (oh, Brad's gonna love that!) and easy, shuffling blues rhythm.

This album is song after song of highlights. More favorites for me include "From a Buick 6," and "Ballad of a Thin Man" and and "Queen Jane Approximately," and the title track, and "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues" (again, incredible lyrics, set to a cool song), and "Desolation Row," and --wait, I just mentioned every song on the album.

Perfection on vinyl. Or whatever CDs are made of. This is Dylan at his bluesy best, showing that there's more to Zimmy than a folk star. He's reinvented himself so many times, but this is the Dylan phase I like best. People Who Don't Know won't expect these words, but they're true: Dylan rawks! My favorite Dylan album is yet to come on our list, but this is awfully close.

Have fun, Braddio. Me, I'm spinning this one again, a little louder this time.

(Just a note about influence: watch what happened to rock and roll after these last couple Dylan albums. Dylan's direct influence is clear: the popular music of the day moved from typical songs about love to deeper songs with a more poetic and personal lyrical content. Thanks to Dylan, the Beatles (for one) moved from "I want to hold your hand yeah yeah" to "Doesn't have a point of view, knows not where he's going to, isn't he a bit like you and me?" And where Dylan took the Beatles, the rest of the serious music scene followed. Sure, there was still plenty of moon/June/hand/understand on the radio, but most of the more substantial artists moved beyond that, and the music world changed. Thank you, Mr. Dylan!)

Brad's Take:

Here we go...

On Bob Dylan's previous album, Bringing It All Back Home, he made Side A the electric/bluesy side, and Side B consisted of acoustic driven songs. Ol' Bobby decided to take it even a step further on Highway 61 Revisited though, and decided to make almost the entire album electric, much to the dismay of his long time fans; the ones who began to love him when he was just playing acoustically. I, personally, much prefer his electric stuff. It's easier for me to listen to because there's a lot more going on. (Dad, are you proud yet?)

The album opens with the lead single "Like A Rolling Stone." I, of course, have heard this song a few times before, but I never actually listened to it until now. It's definitely a song I can listen to many more times. I was surprised with how much I actually liked it. (How 'bout now, Dad?)

A few songs later, and I found myself really digging this album. It's upbeat and bluesy, and Bob's voice isn't as irritating on this album. (Or maybe I'm just used to it now.) But then about halfway into "Ballad Of A Thin Man," I started to feel the urge to skip to the next track, in hopes that the album wasn't actually starting to go downhill, like it felt like it was. I got through the whole song though, and then regained some faith as "Queen Jane Approximately" played, although not completely. (Sorry, Dad.)

It's safe to say that I really enjoyed the first half of Highway 61 Revisited the most, while the second half felt like just another Bob Dylan album to me, for whatever reason. "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues" was enjoyable though. It should have been in the first half, as Side B feels to be the mellower side.

In the end, I did not dislike this album. In fact, I enjoyed the majority of it. "Like A Rolling Stone" was definitely my favorite song off of it. I got a bit bored with the second half of the album, but that might be mainly because the entire 9 song album is 51 minutes long. It was a struggle to get through it, but I did it without really suffering. It was a good album. (Now are you proud, Dad??)

1 comment:

Scott said...

All right, Brad! Maybe now you're primed for one of my top two favorite albums ever (you know the other one), coming up soon in our list.