There are many performers I have admired, loved their passion, been blown away by their virtuosity. There is only one performer that I truly believe is a true genius. Genius is a big word to use as if properly credited with the weight it deserves, requires the genius to be truly original and inspirational. The recipient of this label though I believe to be totally worthy. He has never compromised for anyone. I love the fact that he never plays the old songs the same way twice. He will often infuriate his live band by changing tempo and key without warning. He has changed his style more than the coalition budget promises. He is widely regarded as the most influential singer songwriter of the twentieth century. He unwittingly spoke for a disaffected generation scarred by racial tension, the threat of nuclear war and the stranglehold of their parents conservatism. He has released countless dozens of albums in his 50 year career. However he produced one landmark album in 1965 that challenged his vast army of acoustic folk disciples to embrace a very uncomforatble change.
‘Bringing It All Back Home’ was the first album Bob Dylan that really embraced the use of a proper electric backing band. His poetic style of writing also was unleashed with a flourish. Bob had gathered a huge cult following who would expect the man and his guitar to sing thought provoking protest songs that spoke for and to them. This album though pushed through this touching the playful, the surreal and the cynical in a way he had not done so before.
The opening track ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’ (one of my favourite songs of all time) is a lyrical twister with humour running through it. It launches the listener into a different experience. He is not taking himself or the listener too seriously. Much of Dylan’s lyrics have been interpreted as poetic masterpieces speaking profoundly from the heart. His anti war and civil rights songs were grasped by protesters as anthems to rally behind. He sang at the famous Martin Luther King rally in Washington where Dr King ‘had a dream’. Dylan often is more circumspect about the origins of his words. He describes simply as just writing about what he sees around him. He is a commentator more than a political activist. ‘She Belongs To Me’ and Love Minus Zero/No Limit are gentler whimsical songs. ‘Maggie’s Farm’ , ‘Outlaw Blues’ and ‘On the Road Again’ have an almost hard edged quality that echoes early blues and country music. The start of Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream has the greatest false start in any song. His laughter is infectious and sets the song up brilliantly.
For all its new approach with the use of electric instruments and drums, the last four timeless classics are probably the most stand out contributions to this album. ‘Mr Tambourine Man’ is just beautiful with simple, lyrical kaleidoscopic painting. His voice is perfect and passionate. The video in this post has no pictures just the music track. The song speaks for itself though. It almost inexplicably tugs at your heart strings. It makes you smile. I have loved this song from the moment I heard my sister play the original. I cringe at the Byrds sugar coated hippy ‘Glee’ version. It steals the soul of a true classic song. I know many people love that but they are wrong. Listen to the simple unadulterated original and dismiss your fanciful imitations.
‘Gates Of Eden’ is a dark deep song that makes the listener think. Its mix of major and minor chords is a wonderful classic Dylan tack. ‘Its Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding) is a tongue twisting rollercoaster ride that mesmerises you. There is an edge almost anger in his words and guitar style. He sounds like that he wants to get a few things off his chest in the way only Dylan can. ‘Its All Over Now Baby Blue’ is a great classic that is thought provoking and profound. It was as though the last four tracks of the album were written to keep his old followers happy and not thoroughly disillusioned. This embracing of a full backing band led to the famous accusation of ‘Judas’ being shouted at him during a performance in Manchester on tour in 1965. He apparently responded by saying ‘I don’t believe you, your’e a liar’ and then turning to the band and saying ‘Play it fucking loud’ at which point they launched into ‘Like a Rolling Stone’.
If you have to choose one Bob Dylan album to listen to out of the myriad choice, go for this one. It is a true genius doing what he does at his best. Bob Dylan is the coolest man on the planet even at the age of 71. Nowadays he growls and mumbles in song. He is still acutely uncomfortable with any publicity. He does however write the songs that many songwriters/poets/musicians could only dream of. Go and buy/download the album. It will enrich your musical listening. Trust me.