Blonde on Blonde (1966)


 
1. Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 2. Pledging My Time 3. Visions of Johanna 4. One of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later) 5. I Want You 6. Stuck inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again 7. Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Ha 8. Just Like a Woman 9. Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I'll Go Mine) 10.Temporary Like achilles 11.Absolutely Sweet Marie 12.4th Time Around 13.Obviously 5 Believers 14.Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands

 

The last album of Bob Dylan's initial "golden period" is undoubtably also his best. It was amazing to see this man continue to evolve and somehow even improve. What was basically unheard of back in 1966 was a concept of a double album. As Dylan would prove years later with masses of unreleased material, he never had a shortage of musical numbers to go on any album, and many were sacrificed for time constraints. Fortunately, that's not the case here, and it's a good thing since this album has no filler. None at all.

He's, again, evolved. The music here is more coherent and if it does sound a tad bit stuck in the sixties, that's not at all a bad thing, since few albums really resonate with what was going on at the time. Witness the very first song, Rainy Day Woman #12 & 35, I have no idea where the title came from, and the song is basically a anthem for stoners everywhere to get high. As the lyrics repeatedly cry "Everybody Must Get Stoned!....", the music accompanies the wasted, drugged out feel that sounds like a peace rally with marching bands and brass sections. It really shouldn't work, but it absolutely does since it's such a stamp of history. Only Dylan could pull something like this off so well.

After this song, things seem to gel a bit tighter with a more consistent feel. The music has a bit of a bluesy sound, that seems to have a harmonica running through every song giving the tracks a unique personality. It probably helped that he was recording and touring now with a solid, steady band known as The Hawks (they would later be known as "The Band") that became almost an extension of Dylan's sound and identity. Yes, you could argue that this was Dylan's "psychedelic" album, but not in the sense of what one thinks about when exposed to this genre of the mid to late sixties. He never sounds like he's embracing the acid reeked sound of the times, he's simply being himself, therefore these songs have a timeless quality about them (other than, perhaps, the above mentioned lead off track).

The songs here manage to sound very similar, yet at the same time he adds plenty of variety to the songs to keep the double album sounding fresh and exciting. There are plenty of, dare you call them, normal songs that don't have that sixties feel to them. Just Like a Woman and I Want You sound as fresh as they did all those years ago, and as Dylan would prove, his unique, differing arrangements throughout his various live albums would always make songs like this sound timeless. Songs that do have a dated feel, such as the somewhat humorous Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat and Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again are so polished, and so strong, that they're still a joy to listen to so many years later.

As with his last album, the final track (Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands) is well over ten minutes long and could have sounded just as good had it been cut in half, but there are many that would find joy in these types of excursions. I wasn't around when this album came out, but listening to this masterpiece gives me a great feel and a great picture of the joyous times known as the sixties.


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