Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Album Of The Day #91: HIGHWAY 61 REVISITED - Bob Dylan

As stated in my introductory essay, my thoughts on Bringing It All Back Home can be found here.

Title: Highway 61 Revisited
Artist: Bob Dylan
Label: Columbia
Released: 1965
Songs: Like A Rolling Stone/Tombstone Blues/It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry/From A Buick 6/Ballad Of A Thin Man/Queen Jane Approximately/Highway 61 Revisited/Jut Like Tom Thumb’s Blues/Desolation Row
Written by: Bob Dylan
Produced by: Bob Johnston, except “Like A Rolling Stone”, by Tom Wilson
Thoughts: It just doesn’t get any better than this, does it?
I really could end it there, because there is not a single second of this record that is impossible to not enjoy. I mean, right from that opening drum crack of “Like A Rolling Stone” to the last line of “Desolation Row”, it is all impeccable. There is nothing in the world like these nine songs. Every time you hear “Like A Rolling Stone”, it feels like a vast ocean of ideas and thoughts come pouring into your head for six straight minutes. Then, it really kicks into gear with “Tombstone Blues”, a winding story of well-known cultural figures in the weirdest spots imaginable (“…Jack the Ripper who sits/At the head of the chamber of commerce” has to be one of the strangest lines ever). “It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry” slows the album down a bit, but it is one of my favorite Dylan songs. I love the idea of the title describing the song. Without the title, the song makes little sense, but with it you get what Dylan means, especially by the last lines of all three verses. “From A Buick 6”, the shortest song on the album, is quick, but easily the hardest rocking number on here and I’m sorry, but there’s nothing funnier than “She walks like Bo Diddley and she don't need no crutch.” “Ballad Of A Thin Man” is awesome and “Queen Jane Approximately” is sickening, telling the sob story of a girl who thinks she is a queen, but isn’t in reality. You can never get tired of listening to “Highway 61 Revisited”, especially with that scathing first verse. “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” is probably the only song I have trouble remembering, but that doesn’t hurt it at all. It’s just great, with this weird story about a guy who has left the city and sees all these odd girls. Finally, the album ends with Dylan’s longest composition up to that point, “Desolation Row”. It is such an original idea to just have a song describing all these people who came to this hanging. These characters are not just flat portraits that come together as a list. Instead, Dylan presents multi-dimensional characters that have backgrounds, with lovers and individual personalities.
If this is the second part of a trilogy, Highway 61 Revisited is definitely The Empire Strikes Back.

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