Thursday, December 26, 2013

Bob Dylan - Bringing It All Back Home

On this, his 5th studio album, Dylan began his experimentation with r'n'r, using an electric band for the first half of the album while returning to his acoustic side for the second half. But he managed to alienate his old fan base on both sides - offending the purists with his electric experimentation and with his move away from his protest songs to more personal and abstract lyrics in his acoustic numbers. Ironically, this has become one of his most well-known and iconic albums, precisely because of these moves.

"Subterranean Homesick Blues" is an upbeat talking blues that most people will know from the early "video" that was done with Bob and his placecards - and guest appearances by the likes of Allen Ginsberg - not to mention great lines like "you don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows", which gave name to a leftist political group. While still electric, with some nice, melodic guitar lines, "She Belongs to Me" is a laid-back ballad-y number and is followed by the powerfully acerbic "Maggie's Farm", documenting his move away from the protest scene and those trying to hold him back. He returns to a low-key love song in "Love Minus Zero / No Limit", similar in style to "She Belongs to Me" - far from a rockin' raver - simply another nice Dylan tune with some electric guitar added. But "Outlaw Blues" is a harder blues, again referencing his move away from the protest scene and "On the Road Again" is one of his absurdist, wildly abstract lyrical inventions, which led to multiple parodies. He updates "Motorpsycho Nitemare" in "Bob Dylan's 115th Dream", though here with cool electric guitar lines intertwining with his acoustic as he surrealistically rambles about American society.

The acoustic side opens with his "Mr. Tamborine Man" (although, again, there are some electric guitar lines throughout), which is beautifully done and would shortly become the breakthrough smash hit for the Byrds. "Gates of Eden" follows, which contains more abstract lyrics but seems vaguely political and certainly sounds like a judgement on the American society. With its descending guitar line and minor chords, "It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)" is one of Dylan's most successful songs, with many memorable and oft-quoted lines and plenty of venom. But, it's impossible to name any one as Dylan's best, as immediately following is the terrific "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue", a beautifully sad parting song that again has had innumerable covers - most quite well done.

Again, there is no way to claim any one song or album is Dylan's best, but this is definitely a record that everyone should own and another that helped change the face of popular music forever.