Bringing it All Back Home, Bob Dylan, Columbia, 1965
It seems hard to believe now both as to the performer as well as to what was being attempted that anyone would take umbrage at a performer using an electric guitar to tell a folk story (or any story for that matter). It is not necessary to go into all the details of what or what did not happen with Pete Seeger at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965 to know that one should be glad, glad as hell, that Bob Dylan continued to listen to his own drummer and carry on a career based on electronic music.
Others have, endlessly, gone on about Bob Dylan’s role as the voice of his generation (and mine), his lyrics and what they do or do not mean and his place in the rock or folk pantheons, or both. I just want to comment on a couple of songs here. Obviously, no one will ever really unravel what the meaning of "Subterranean Homesick Blues" is about except that it has produced one of the most famous lines of the 1960’s- ‘you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows’ (although if the truth be known you do) that I am fond of using anytime I get a change to use it as a political cutting edge. "Love Minus Zero No Limit" is one of the great modern love songs that will along with a few others define what love,longing and companionship meant for our generation.
Needless to say "Gates of Eden" is the modern equivalent of John Milton’s Paradise Lost (and I do not mean to use that praise hyperbolically). If Milton was explaining the ways of god to man in the aftermath of the defeat of the English Revolution then Dylan was attempting to give his take on the eternal verities for modern times.
John Wesley Harding, Bob Dylan, 1970
Others have, endlessly, gone on about Bob Dylan's role as the voice of his generation (and mine), his lyrics and what they do or do not mean and his place in the rock or folk pantheons, or both. I just want to comment on a couple of songs here. Needless to say this is a theme album centered on the old West that Dylan has written songs about elsewhere as well. That too is part of the American folk heritage. This rather good thematic conception hits right from the opening "John Wesley Harding" (a real, if more villainous, character of the Old West than portrayed here), "All Along the Watchtower" (that was given its definitive cover by Jimi Hendrix) and finishes up with the bittersweet "I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight". Politically, "I Pity The Poor Immigrant" takes on added meaning with today’s immigrant trials and tribulations. Is this Dylan’s best work? No, but it is a worthy effort.
Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits, Vol 3, Bob Dylan, 1993
Others have, endlessly, gone on about Bob Dylan's role as the voice of his generation (and mine), his lyrics and what they do or do not mean and his place in the rock or folk pantheons, or both. I just want to comment on a couple of songs here. This is compilation of songs from various, none of them new except the lyrically very well done "Dignity" that tells more about the meanness of modern life than many a novel. Some of the other material of note- "Forever Young" (our anthem as the 1960’s generation grows older) - the surreal "Brownsville Girl" that shows that Dylan could certainly use that stream of consciousness trope to great effect, the flat out rocking of "The Groom Still Waiting At The Altar", the topically political "Hurricane" (about the frame up for murder of the fighter Rubin Carter and the fight to free him-a fight that we can draw lessons from today about the nature of class struggle defense) and from his born-again Christian period a rousing "You Got To Serve Someone". Just a nice cross section of material here.
Highway 61 Revisited, Bob Dylan, Columbia, 1965
Others have, endlessly, gone on about Bob Dylan’s role as the voice of his generation (and mine), his lyrics and what they do or do not mean and his place in the rock or folk pantheons, or both. I just want to mention a couple of points here. Any song that starts out like "Desolation Row" with the line- “ They are selling post cards of the hanging, they’re painting the passports brown” will automatically get my attention every time- and keep it through over 11 minute of stream of consciousness, word play and harmonica energy. If I had to pick my number one favorite Dylan song (and the one that I have listened to the most) this is the one. Start me off with the “ When you're lost in the rain in Juarez ” of "Tom Thumbs Blues" as an appetizer and I am all set for a while. How is that for back-to-back treats- harmonica thrown in gratis?
Having mentioned my two favorites on this album I have hardly completed comment. I am not sure whether Bob Dylan was the voice of the generation of ’68, or whether he wanted to be. However, few can deny that "Like A Rolling Stone" was one of the anthems of our generation- with or without direction home. Highway 61 Revisited has over the years gone up in my estimation as a song with an interesting story line and a very rock beat. Of course, with Dylan one needs some thoughts of lost love, longing and the vagaries of keeping a relationship on course so "Queen Jane Approximately" fits the bill. Well, I could go on and on but you get the point this is a Dylan album you must own. More than that though if you want to get a feel for the trials and tribulations of the 1960’s by one of its best troubadours you NEED this album.