Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Bob Dylan - Another Side of Bob Dylan

On this, his 4th album, Dylan made a conscious effort to tone down his political rhetoric and simply write songs - and some damn good ones - which prompted the album title. But, he is still solo here - mostly guitar and harmonica but occasionally piano, as well. Even though he had not yet ventured into his electric phase, he garnered criticism just from his lyrical move.

In any case, the record opens with a terrific number, "All I Really Want To Do", which became one of his most famous tunes due to hit covers by both Cher and the Byrds. Here he continues to add occasional Jimmie Rodgers-esque yodels and giggles, showing that he did not take himself overly serious here. "Black Crow Blues" is a fairly straight-forward blues number with Dylan tackling the piano as his backing, rather than guitar, though he still managed to blow some harp, also. His more rambling, folk style is more apparent in "Spanish Harlem Incident" and the emotionally charged "Chimes of Freedom". He does another Guthrie-inspired "talking blues" in "I Shall Be Free No. 10", where he gets downright silly, especially when - but hardly limited to - threatening Cassius Clay!

He is much more serious in "To Ramona", a tender love song set to a waltz-beat, of all things, with a more distinct melody than many of his, causing this to be described as one of his "most realized songs" by critics. "Motorpsycho Nitemare" would be revisited later as "Bob Dylan's 115th Dream", though the tale here is a humorous take on the old farmer's daughter joke. Another classic from this album is the wonderful and oft-covered "My Back Pages" with its terrific refrain "I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now". There's a highly familiar descending melody in "I Don't Believe You" that I can't place and he borrows from a Scottish folk song for the vitriolic (but still lovely) "Ballad in Plain D", detailing his breakup with former album cover mate and lover, Suze Rotolo. A bookend to "All I Really Want To Do", the closer "It Ain't Me Babe" was also covered by many and made a hit at least once or twice (the Turtles took it highest) and was also a bitter rebuke to a former lover.

This is definitely a classic album, with some of Dylan's most memorable, early tunes. Many Dylan records should be in everyone's collection and this would be one.