Monday, October 20, 2008


Title: Another Side Of Bob Dylan
Artist: Bob Dylan
Label: Columbia
Released: 1964
Songs: All I Really Want To Do/Black Crow Blues/Spanish Harlem Incident/Chimes Of Freedom/I Shall Be Free, No. 10/To Ramona/Motorpsycho Nitemare/My Back Pages/I Don’t Believe You (She Acts Like we Never Have Met)/Ballad In Plain D/It Ain’t Me Babe
Written by: Bob Dylan
Produced by: Tom Wilson
Thoughts: You can’t catch lightning twice, especially when you try to do it standing in the same spot. I hadn’t really thought of this album in these terms until I started writing, but here goes. I believe that Dylan realized that what he did on The Times They Are A-Changin’ wasn’t exactly the best thing to do. Ten songs with the exact same tempo doesn’t make for a great listening experience, so he went back to plan A, which was to make another The Freewhellin’ Bob Dylan. So, I guess a better title for this album would have been Another Side Of The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan! The formula for The Freewheelin’ was an acute balance of serious protest songs and unassuming love songs. For Another Side, Dylan tried that again, but the problem was that he overloaded on one side. A few of these love songs could have found homes on The Freewheelin’, like “To Ramona” or the exquisite “Spanish Harlem Incident”. The only true, out-right protest track is “Chimes Of Freedom”, although that takes on an otherworldly feeling, since it does not pertain to a specific event. Then, there’s the odd “My Back Pages”. I love this song so much. From the first time I heard it, that couplet, “Although I was so much older then/I’m younger than that now”, has been ingrained into my brain. It took me so long to figure out what that and the rest of the song meant, but when I did, I realized how it was all there from the beginning. Dylan was protesting the protesters. He was saying that he had to stop before he was consumed and really turned into something he wasn’t.
To my ears, there are three annoying tracks. “Black Crow Blues”, which shows off whatever piano playing skills Dylan had in 1964, is just too silly to take seriously. “I Shall Be Free, No. 10” is saddled with a title that begs us to compare it to “I Shall Be Free”, the closer on The Freewheelin’, but it is impossible to live up to that. I mean, the whole Cassius Clay thing is ridiculous and he uses the most stupid lines he ever wrote to close a verse: “Yippee! I'm a poet, and I know it/Hope I don't blow it.” Then, of course, the final track that annoys me, and just about every Dylan fan in the universe, is “Ballad In Plain D”. The track is so long at 8:17! What stands out to me is how Dylan tries to end the song with a really philosophical line. The last verse goes:

Ah, my friends from the prison, they ask unto me,
"How good, how good does it feel to be free?"
And I answer them most mysteriously,
"Are birds free from the chains of the skyway?"

Now this a great verse that I couldn’t write. The problem with it is that so much precedes it, that by the time you get to it, you are probably asleep.
To conclude the album, Dylan chose the perfect “It Ain’t Me Babe”. Within the confines of Dylan’s lyrics it is just a love song, but if you let it escape, it becomes something more. It is an ode to the throngs of people that believed he was some sort of messiah. “It Ain’t Me Babe” is also the last song on the final acoustic album, closing Dylan’s first musical period.

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