Blonde On Blonde

Bob Dylan

Now that Bob Dylan is in his sixties, maybe it's fitting to go back to the 60s and examine his most vibrant work. While that in itself could turn into an honorable debate, there's no denying that Blonde On Blonde, rock's first double album, was a pivotal step forward for Dylan. With Bringing It All Back Home and Highway 61 Revisited, Dylan had clearly defined his new rock-edged direction; Blonde On Blonde simply made it official. Supported by a huge and wacky ensemble of musicians including members of his new backing band, the Hawks, a.k.a. the Band, Dylan was able to inject new life into his songs -- brilliant arrangements seasoned with humorous, introspective and often poignant lyrics. Each one of the 14 tracks seems to resonate and ring within their own distinctive domain.

The tone is set by the celebratory "Rainy Day Women #12 & #35," which sent shock waves through out America. With its chorus urging that "everyone must get stoned," the stuffed shirts were quick to point a wicked finger at its perpetrator. Apparently, they just didn't get the joke. For the most part, the album's mixture of blues and folk, tenderized by a steady rhythm and an assortment of twanging and booming embellishments is no laughing matter. You can't deny the searing power of something like "Visions of Johanna" or "Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again;" you can't ignore the winsome groove of "I Want You" or "Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat." Then Dylan turns the tables and espouses his tender side with "Just Like A Woman," "4th Time Around" and "Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands."

Recorded in Nashville, Blonde On Blonde is arguably one of Bob Dylan's finest moments. Two months after its release in May 1966, the course of Dylan's career was dramatically altered when he broke his neck in a motorcycle accident. Consequently, he closed out the decade in a rather placid state of mind. He wouldn't really return to full form until the mid-70s when he put out Planet Waves and Blood On The Tracks. Since then, Dylan has dealt out a series of hits and misses — depending on his mood and philosophical temperament. But it's safe to say that Dylan's career has been a marginally smooth ride with seemingly no end in sight.

~ Shawn Perry

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