Yes, I’m back. I give you all of my apologies for the Grand Canyon sized gap between reviews. I’m very surprised that its taken me this long to mention Mr. Dylan. You see, Bob Dylan is the most important artist to my musical growth. He was the first true progression from artists that were either Beatles or Green Day related. He was my first musical gamble, if you will. Highway 61 Revisited was the album that I took a chance on. When I saw it in that CD store for $7.99, I had no clue in the world that it would become my choice for Greatest Album Ever Recorded. I would akin it to my decision to click on Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver on the Netflix Instant. I had no idea the life-changing ramifications that would ensue. So all that said, I must clarify one thing: this is not my Favorite Album. you might be confused, seeing as how I just called it the Greatest Album Ever Recorded and all, but I’ll clarify. You see, there is one other album that means more to me on a personal level. Each and every track has a great and distinct memory that I can recall as soon as I hear it. I’ll save that for another time. Onward with this review!
This masterpiece of an album starts out, fittingly enough, with a masterpiece of a song. Like A Rolling Stone is probably the Ultimate Dylan Song. So much has been written about it that there is not much left to say. But I’ll give it my best shot. The song is a brutally funny take down of some socialite snob who mistreats everyone. While the lyrics might be a bit surreal (“Your diplomat, who carries on his shoulder, a Chinese cat.” WAT?), the message is unflinchingly clear. The venom just seeps from the song. What a way to start and album. Lesser known is the next track, Tombstone Blues. As the name foretells, it’s an even more surreal blues number that I think has some political commentary, but only Bob can know the true meaning. It’s also got some great one-liners, with the best being “The Sun is not yellow, it’s Chicken!” How great is that?! The range of characters is wide and crazy. Everyone from Beethoven to Jack The Ripper to Galileo. It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry comes next. It’s a softer and gentler number, similar to what Dylan did on Another Side of Bob Dylan, only with a backing band. Some see it as a weak point on the album, but what they fail to realize is this: This album has no weak points. From A Buck 6 is the weak point of the album. Wait, that contradicts what I just said. Let me try this again. From A Buick 6 is the least amazing song in an amazing group of songs. It’s really good and rocks harder than any other song on the album, but something about it just makes it not stick out as much. I cannot put my finger on it now. Oh well, it still kicks an undermanned amount of posterior. Rounding of Side One is one of the best songs of all-time (enter Kanye: OF ALL TIME!) Ballad of A Thin Man. Just… just… I’m at a loss for words! The piano, the ruthless lyrics, the atmosphere! It is all so great. I would NOT want to be the Mr. Jones that Dylan is talking about.
Side Two starts out with a gentler note: Queen Jane Approximately. Often derided as the true weak point of the album, see the section about It Takes A Lot To Laugh. It’s a great ballad, like all great Dylan songs, has multiple interpretations. Is it a song to help reassure the subject? Is it a condescending put-down? Is it a weary “I-told-you-so” Just like the number of licks it takes to get to the Tootsie-Roll Center of a Tootsie Pop, the world may never know. I don’t need to, that’s part of what makes the song so good. Now we come to the title track. You know how I said that other songs were funny on this album, well this is even funnier. Brace yourselves, ladies and gentlemen. We’ve just hit critical mass. The song has too many great lines for me to write here. Just go look up the lyrics. Or better yet, buy this album, press play, be amazed and astounded by the other tracks, and then be amazed and astounded by this one as well. Yeah, I like that plan. I read that the strange whistle sound that is repeated through the song is what Dylan would blow whenever someone tried to get high in the studio. You learn something new everyday. We have now arrived at the final stretch of the album. Captain, I don’t think the ship can take much more! Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues is a softer blues song about Dylan getting stuck in Mexico and meeting the strange locals. I love this song so much. But there is one more song we have to talk about. How could anyone possibly end an album like Highway 61 Revisited? With what is my favorite song of all-time: Desolation Row. It is an eleven-minute kaleidoscope of characters and events all linked by the titular area. Despite it being my favorite song, I don’t know what to say about it. Can we truly say why our favorite are our favorites? Maybe it’s the lyrics, which incorporate so many literary figures, you would think that Dylan pillaged a Public Library and cut out sentences. Or maybe it’s the Spanish-flavored music, which is the only acoustics on the album. No, I know. It’s the combination of those plus Dylan’s unconditional yet beautiful voice. That’s what makes it my favorite song.
This is an important album. Not only to me, but to the world of music. This is the spring from which many classic bands, albums, and even genres have been drawn. So just listen to it and enter the world of Bob Dylan. You may never want to leave.