Tuesday, February 3, 2015

4 Highway 61 Revisited (1965) Bob Dylan

1. Like a Rolling Stone
2. Tombstone Blues
3. It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry
4. From a Buick 6
5. Ballad of a Thin Man
6. Queen Jane Approximately
7. Highway 61 Revisited
8. Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues
9. Desolation Row

Even if every other track on this album was sub-standard filler material that left as much impression on the listener as a nerf ball leaves on granite, the opening track would still be enough to justify the presence of this album on the countdown.

Highway 61 opens with Like a Rolling Stone which for many is the greatest song ever recorded by anyone anywhere ever. It frequently tops greatest song lists and is cited as a huge influence by a staggering range of great musicians. When Rolling Stone magazine decided to put together a list of the top 500 songs of all time, Like a Rolling Stone sat in the number one position. What does it say about us a race that we voted this song as the best when there are so many alternatives that are a lot nicer? There are a billion love songs and odes to peace, companionship and other great things in life that could have moved us but we seem to care more for a song which is downright nasty. It's cruel and seems to revel in the plight of a woman who has fallen so far she's living on the streets. Of course Dylan isn't singing about a real person's situation but still someone has taken a fall and Bob seems rather pleased. Either way that "How do you feeeel" refrain is almost impossible not to sing along with. It's a genuine masterpiece and while I might try and think there are other greater songs when I'm not in its presence, as soon as I hear this I agree with everyone who voted it number one. Rolling Stone is truly magnificent and I can honestly say the entire rest of the countdown isn't nearly as good.

Thankfully the rest of the album isn't just filler material. If you took the opening track off there's still enough here to justify its inclusion on this list. The title track is an oustanding rock and roll composition which makes us forget that Dylan hadn't actually been writing Rock and Roll all his life. While this is his sixth album, it's only his second attempt at writing music for a rock band and it's amazing that he's so good at something he's only been doing for a couple of months. There were bands who were trying to write music like this as soon as they heard Please Please Me in early 1963 that hadn't managed it by the end of 1965 but Dylan just plugged in and mastered rock straight away, pulling of tracks like this and Tombstone Blues as if he'd been writing them for decades.

Dylan also quickly mastered a means of turning his previous acoustic music into electric performances without compromising integrity, message or mood. Queen Jane Approximately is a mid tempo slice of brilliance that immediately comes into my head whenever I meet anyone named Jane, irrespective of their position in a royal family. I can't help but feel sad for anyone who got angry hearing this. There were those who wanted Dylan to forsake electricity and return to his acoustic roots writing the protest material that made people love him. If they could get over the instrumentation and subject matter they would find a fantastic song that has a brilliant tune at its core.

There isn't a weak song on Highway 61. There's not an ounce of filler and no lyric that sounds like it was tossed off quickly on the way to the studio. It's perfect from start to finish and while people dwell a lot on the start they should definitely take the time to enjoy the finish which is just fantastic. Desolation Row rarely gets covered because there aren't too many artists who feel like doing their own version of a 12 minute odyssey without a standard verse chorus structure. People don't tend to do it live very much if only because they struggle to remember all the words. The more you hear Desolation row the more hypnotic it becomes and the more you get lost in the series of images which tumble out of Dylan as he sits with just his acoustic guitar and his incredible ability to create entire worlds with just his lyrics.

Highway 61 is the highest ranked Dylan album on this list and testament to his incredible ability. He's got albums from the 60's, 70's, 90's 00's spread throughout this list which is a feat no other artist can manage.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "It's crap. It's just a commercial computer manufactured pile of flaming poo"

-Wait, computer manufactured? In 1965? Huh?

So if you've listened to this album recently, how do you feeeeeel? Let me know below

1 comment:

  1. Wow , incredible. Some songs from Rock& Roll just sit there in the background while you do something else. This album says stop what you are doing and just listen to me. Then it leaves a more intelligent , more articulate probably more cynical world weary person for the experience. And continues to do 50 years into its release.

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