Category: Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan – Highway 61 Revisited

ARTIST: Bob Dylan                            220px-Bob_Dylan_-_Highway_61_Revisited

TITLE:  Highway 61 Revisited

YEAR RELEASED: 1965

CHART ACTION: #3 US, #4 UK

SINGLES: Like a Rolling Stone (#2 US, #4 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Oh, jeez. All of ‘em?

LINEUP: Bob Dylan, Mike Bloomfield, Charlie McCoy, Paul Griffin, Al Kooper, Frank Owens, Harvey Brooks, Russ Savakys, Joe Macho, Bobby Gregg, Sam Lay

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Dylan’s classic melds folk sensibilities with rock. He painted his masterpiece.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Long songs take patience, except when they’re brilliant and move you so that you don’t notice the time. In the 60’s, there weren’t many non-jazz or classical tracks that approached five minutes. This record has six of the nine cuts over the five minute mark, with the shortest at 3:19 – still long for the time.

These nine songs, packaged as one album, are absolutely brilliant. From songs that are serious and dour like “Ballad of a Thin Man”, to ‘lighter’ numbers like “Tombstone Blues”, to the massive “Like a Rolling Stone”, these all show the range of Dylan. His gift of melody and lyric at this time were unparalleled.

The final cut, “Desolation Row”, is brilliant and confounding. Over it’s 11+ minutes, it doesn’t wear out it’s welcome. This album doesn’t either – it keeps giving.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: All but “Like a Rolling Stone” were cut over four days in late July and early August in 1965.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No. There are a lot of outtakes about though on his other compilations. 

GRADE: A+: One of the best records, ever.

Bob Dylan – Bringing It All Back Home

ARTIST: Bob Dylan                    Bob_Dylan_-_Bringing_It_All_Back_Home

TITLE:  Bringing It All Back Home

YEAR RELEASED: 1965

CHART ACTION: #6 US, #1 UK

SINGLES: Maggie’s Farm (#22 UK), Subterranean Homesick Blues (#39 US, #9 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Oh, the whole damn thing.

LINEUP: Bob Dylan with an electric session band

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Everyone talks about the two albums that follow, but here’s where my money is. Half-electric, half-acoustic (ok, half without drums) and all 11 cuts classic Dylan.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The two least known songs on this record are “Outlaw Blues” and “On the Road Again”, would be the best cut ever recorded by 90% of the bands operating at that time, maybe 95%. That’s how good this record is.

One side one, there’s humor, there’s humor sending a message, there’s a return to a talking blues, and there’s timeless folk and folk rock. Side two, the quieter side, starts with “Mr. Tambourine Man”, then goes to “Gates of Eden”, “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)”, and “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue”.

But it’s the two love songs, “She Belongs to Me” and “Love Minus Zero/No Limit” that tie everything together. Dylan is now complete. Dylan is Dylan.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They kept the first take of “Bob Dylan’s #115th Dream”, where the band misses the cue to come in.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No, but many outtakes are on other releases.

GRADE: A+:  Can I do an A++?

Bob Dylan – Another Side of Bob Dylan

ARTIST: Bob Dylan Bob_Dylan_-_Another_Side_of_Bob_Dylan
TITLE: Another Side of Bob Dylan
YEAR RELEASED: 1964
CHART ACTION: #43 US, #8 UK
SINGLES: None
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Lots: All I Really Want to Do, Spanish Harlem Incident, Chimes of Freedom, My Back Pages, It Ain’t Me Babe
LINEUP: Bob Dylan
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Dylan changes direction, from pure protest to lots of personal songs. The humor is back too.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: It may have been JFK’s assassination, or that he was just weary of writing protest songs, and wanted his other material out there, but the change between albums three and four for Dylan were quite noticeable. Dylan said, “…there aren’t any finger-pointin’ songs” on this album. Yeah, that’s probably right

“Chimes of Freedom” definitely was a political song, but it moved on from abject concrete moralism into symbolic abstractions. Some political songs were clouded in humor, such as “Motorpsycho Nightmare”. “Spanish Harlem Incident” was just oblique.

Dylan also went to the personal – writing love songs with many of the same abstractions as his political songs. He also got the humor back into things with “Motorpsycho Nightmare” and “I Shall Be Free #10”

The title also had people thinking. Was this just a one-shot foray into other topics and then Dylan would be back into the protest game? Well….I think he answered that in “My Back Pages”.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Even though “Chimes of Freedom” is quite memorable and one of his best loved early songs, he didn’t play it live for over 25 years.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

GRADE: A: Because it’s lighter, and it has SO MANY timeless songs, this is a very enjoyable listen, and set everyone up for Dylan’s next phase.

Bob Dylan – The Times They Are A-Changin’

ARTIST: Bob Dylan Bob_Dylan_-_The_Times_They_Are_a-Changin'
TITLE: The Times They Are A-Changin’
YEAR RELEASED: 1964
CHART ACTION: #20 US, #4 UK
SINGLES: The Times They Are A-Changin’ (#9 UK)
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: I think every song on this album is known either by Dylan or as a cover. The most notable: “Boots of Spanish Leather”, “Ballad of Hollis Brown”, “With God on Our Side”, “One Too Many Mornings”, “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll”
LINEUP: Bob Dylan
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A true protest album. All of the songs have Dylan as the righteously indignant poet / singer. While important, the tone of the album is strident and a bit preachy.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: As he would going forward, Dylan laid down a lot of songs in the various sessions leading to the compilation of this album. This time, though, he centered the record around a protest theme backed by the title song, one of the most famous and timeless protest songs ever written.

As a listener, though, the album seems to be rather one-note and relentless. Yes, there was a chasm between the establishment and the young people and there was must injustice done to all of the voiceless and unfranchised. But this was an album that was very serious, and devoid of the humor that even Phil Ochs would bring in from time to time.

Dylan may have known that – he may have spent himself on pure protest. It also may have been the Kennedy assassination, which happened shortly after these sessions wrapped. But this would be the last full ‘protest’ album by him even though he had that label going forward for many years. Yes, there would be protest songs going forward, but they’re always balanced by other, more personal, material.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The title track has been used for commercials. Not sung by Dylan, but by Richie Havens and Pete Seeger.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: B+: As material for a history lesson it’s invaluable. It’s not fun to listen to all the way through, especially now. Still, almost every song is well known.

Bob Dylan – The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan

ARTIST: Bob Dylan Bob_Dylan_-_The_Freewheelin'_Bob_Dylan

TITLE:  The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan

YEAR RELEASED: 1963

CHART ACTION: #22 US, #1 UK

SINGLES: Blowin’ in the Wind

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Girl from North Country, Masters of War, A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall, Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right

LINEUP: Bob Dylan

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Dylan unleashes DYLAN. His storehouse of folk and protest songs are recorded and released to the public, and many of them become instant folk standards.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: It’s easy to forget how insular and incestual the folk scene in the US was in the early 60’s. Many of these songs were known by the folkies in the scene. Still, the general public wasn’t keenly aware of Dylan’s talent until this record came out.

It took a year of intermittent recording, two producers, managerial vs. record company intrigue, and a released and withdrawn version before most of the world got their hands on this. What they got was 13 folk and talking blues songs that took the adult music world by storm. Soon, many artists covered the big songs on this album and almost everyone knew the words to every tune.

The masterpiece, though, is “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall”. Never has the issue of Armageddon been articulated in such a metaphorical, topical and clever way. That, “Masters of War” and “Blowin’ in the Wind” make this a must purchase, and that’s not to slight the other 10 tracks. It’s a stunning work of rigor and complexity, especially for someone who was barely 22.

NOTES & MINUTAE: The suits at CBS got nervous about the first rack list, and so did Ed Sullivan, who told Dylan not to perform “Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues”. That song, along with “Rocks and Gravel”, “Rambling Gambling Willie” and “Let Me Die in My Footsteps” were all withdrawn after the test pressings, and four newer songs (including “Masters of War”) added.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION:  No. But I’d love to put together the original version and see how that track order fell.

GRADE: A+: The perfect folk album.

Bob Dylan – Bob Dylan

ARTIST: Bob Dylan 220px-Bob_Dylan_-_Bob_Dylan
TITLE: Bob Dylan
YEAR RELEASED: 1962
CHART ACTION: #13 UK (in 1965, BTW)
SINGLES: None
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Song to Woody. A bunch of these songs were standards.
LINEUP: Bob Dylan
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A relatively unknown folkie records a debut album with 11 covers and two originals, and isn’t quite yet a sensation.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: This is pretty simple. It’s one man, one acoustic guitar, one harmonica. He’s singing 11 traditional songs well known in the NYC folk community, and two originals – one a talking blues and the other a homage to Woody Guthrie.

It’s a nice collection of folk material and it gives a glimpse of what was happening in that scene. Dylan was a young upstart and being a tremendous sponge of any material that he heard his peers and friends perform.

The two originals show the potential of Dylan. His talking blues was great, and he’ll have some better examples as his career goes on. Song to Woody is a marvelous tribute.

All in all, it’s a decent 1962 folk album. Nothing earth shattering, yet.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Dylan pinched the arrangement of House of the Rising Son from Dave Van Ronk. Van Ronk didn’t particularly like that.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, but not on Google play. That’s OK. They’re around somewhere online.

GRADE: B: If you like early folk, you’ll like it.