Bob Dylan – Blood On The Tracks (1974)

AllMusic Review: Following on the heels of an album where he repudiated his past with his greatest backing band, Blood on the Tracks finds Bob Dylan, in a way, retreating to the past, recording a largely quiet, acoustic-based album. But this is hardly nostalgia — this is the sound of an artist returning to his strengths, what feels most familiar, as he accepts a traumatic situation, namely the breakdown of his marriage. This is an album alternately bitter, sorrowful, regretful, and peaceful, easily the closest he ever came to wearing his emotions on his sleeve. That’s not to say that it’s an explicitly confessional record, since many songs are riddles or allegories, yet the warmth of the music makes it feel that way. The original version of the album was even quieter — first takes of “Idiot Wind” and “Tangled Up in Blue,” available on The Bootleg Series, Vols. 1-3, are hushed and quiet (excised verses are quoted in the liner notes, but not heard on the record) — but Blood on the Tracks remains an intimate, revealing affair since these harsher takes let his anger surface the way his sadness does elsewhere. As such, it’s an affecting, unbearably poignant record, not because it’s a glimpse into his soul, but because the songs are remarkably clear-eyed and sentimental, lovely and melancholy at once. And, in a way, it’s best that he was backed with studio musicians here, since the professional, understated backing lets the songs and emotion stand at the forefront. Dylan made albums more influential than this, but he never made one better. — Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Track Listing

Side one
No. Title Recorded Length
1. “Tangled Up in Blue” December 30, 1974, in Minneapolis 5:42
2. “Simple Twist of Fate” September 19, 1974, in New York City 4:19
3. “You’re a Big Girl Now” December 27, 1974, in Minneapolis 4:36
4. “Idiot Wind” December 27, 1974, in Minneapolis 7:48
5. “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go” September 17, 1974, in New York City 2:55
Side two
No. Title Recorded Length
1. “Meet Me in the Morning” September 16, 1974, in New York City 4:22
2. “Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts” December 30, 1974, in Minneapolis 8:51
3. “If You See Her, Say Hello” December 30, 1974, in Minneapolis 4:49
4. “Shelter from the Storm” September 17, 1974, in New York City 5:02
5. “Buckets of Rain” September 19, 1974, in New York City 3:22

 

Schill Score:  9/10

 

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Bob Dylan – Blonde On Blonde (1966)

Blonde on Blonde is the seventh studio album by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, released on June 20, 1966 by Columbia Records. Recording sessions began in New York in October 1965 with numerous backing musicians, including members of Dylan’s live backing band, the Hawks. Though sessions continued until January 1966, they yielded only one track that made it onto the final album—”One of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later)”. At producer Bob Johnston’s suggestion, Dylan, keyboardist Al Kooper, and guitarist Robbie Robertson moved to the CBS studios in Nashville, Tennessee. These sessions, augmented by some of Nashville’s top session musicians, were more fruitful, and in February and March all the remaining songs for the album were recorded.

Blonde on Blonde completed the trilogy of rock albums that Dylan recorded in 1965 and 1966, starting with Bringing It All Back Home and Highway 61 Revisited. Critics often rank Blonde on Blonde as one of the greatest albums of all time. Combining the expertise of Nashville session musicians with a modernist literary sensibility, the album’s songs have been described as operating on a grand scale musically, while featuring lyrics one critic called “a unique mixture of the visionary and the colloquial”.[3] It was one of the first double albums in rock music.

The album peaked at number nine on the Billboard 200 chart in the US, where it eventually was certified double platinum, and it reached number three in the UK. Blonde on Blonde spawned two singles that were top-twenty hits in the US: “Rainy Day Women No. 12 & 35” and “I Want You”. Two additional songs—”Just Like a Woman” and “Visions of Johanna”—have been named as among Dylan’s greatest compositions and were featured in Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list.

In 1999, the album was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, and it is on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list.

Track Listing:

Side one
“Rainy Day Women No. 12 & 35” – 4:36
“Pledging My Time” – 3:50
“Visions of Johanna” – 7:33
“One of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later)” – 4:54

Side two
“I Want You” – 3:07
“Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again” – 7:05
“Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat” – 3:58
“Just Like a Woman” – 4:52

Side three
“Most Likely You Go Your Way and I’ll Go Mine” – 3:30
“Temporary Like Achilles” – 5:02
“Absolutely Sweet Marie” – 4:57
“4th Time Around” – 4:35
“Obviously 5 Believers” – 3:35

Side four
“Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands” – 11:23

Review: If Highway 61 Revisited played as a garage rock record, the double album Blonde on Blonde inverted that sound, blending blues, country, rock, and folk into a wild, careening, and dense sound. Replacing the fiery Michael Bloomfield with the intense, weaving guitar of Robbie Robertson, Bob Dylan led a group comprised of his touring band the Hawks and session musicians through his richest set of songs. Blonde on Blonde is an album of enormous depth, providing endless lyrical and musical revelations on each play. Leavening the edginess of Highway 61 with a sense of the absurd, Blonde on Blonde is comprised entirely of songs driven by inventive, surreal, and witty wordplay, not only on the rockers but also on winding, moving ballads like “Visions of Johanna,” “Just Like a Woman,” and “Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands.” Throughout the record, the music matches the inventiveness of the songs, filled with cutting guitar riffs, liquid organ riffs, crisp pianos, and even woozy brass bands (“Rainy Day Women #12 & 35”). It’s the culmination of Dylan’s electric rock & roll period — he would never release a studio record that rocked this hard, or had such bizarre imagery, ever again. — Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Schill Score: 9.25/10

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Bob Dylan – Highway 61 Revisited (1965)

Highway 61 Revisited is the sixth studio album by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, released on August 30, 1965 by Columbia Records. Having until then recorded mostly acoustic music, Dylan used rock musicians as his backing band on every track of the album, except for the closing track, the 11-minute ballad “Desolation Row”. Critics have focused on the innovative way Dylan combined driving, blues-based music with the subtlety of poetry to create songs that captured the political and cultural chaos of contemporary America. Author Michael Gray has argued that, in an important sense, the 1960s “started” with this album.

Leading with the hit song “Like a Rolling Stone”, the album features songs that Dylan has continued to perform live over his long career, including “Ballad of a Thin Man” and the title track. He named the album after the major American highway which connected his birthplace of Duluth, Minnesota, to southern cities famed for their musical heritage, including St. Louis, Memphis, New Orleans, and the Delta blues area of Mississippi.

Highway 61 Revisited peaked at No. 3 on the US Billboard 200 and No. 4 on the UK Albums Chart. Positively received on release, the album has since been described as one of Dylan’s best works and among the greatest albums of all time, ranking No. 18 on Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Albums of All Time”. “Like a Rolling Stone” was a top-10 hit in several countries, and was listed at No. 1 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list. Two other songs, “Desolation Row” and “Highway 61 Revisited”, were listed at No. 187 and No. 373 respectively.

Track Listing

Side one
No. Title Recorded Length
1. “Like a Rolling Stone” June 16, 1965 6:13
2. “Tombstone Blues” July 29, 1965 5:56
3. “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry” July 29, 1965 4:09
4. “From a Buick 6” July 30, 1965 3:19
5. “Ballad of a Thin Man” August 2, 1965 5:58
Side two
No. Title Recorded Length
1. “Queen Jane Approximately” August 2, 1965 5:31
2. “Highway 61 Revisited” August 2, 1965 3:30
3. “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” August 2, 1965 5:32
4. “Desolation Row” August 4, 1965 11:21

Schill Score: 9.75/10

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Bob Dylan – Bringing It All Back Home (1965)

Bringing It All Back Home (known as Subterranean Homesick Blues in some European countries) is the fifth studio album by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan. It was released on March 22, 1965, by Columbia Records.

The album features an electric half of songs, followed by a mostly acoustic half, while abandoning the protest music of Dylan’s previous records in favor of more surreal, complex lyrics. On side one of the original LP, Dylan is backed by an electric rock and roll band—a move that further alienated him from some of his former peers in the folk music community.

The album reached No. 6 on Billboard’s Pop Albums chart, the first of Dylan’s LPs to break into the US top 10. It also topped the UK charts later that spring. The first track, “Subterranean Homesick Blues”, became Dylan’s first single to chart in the US, peaking at No. 39. Bringing It All Back Home has been described as one of the greatest albums of all time by multiple publications.

Track Listing:

No. Title Recorded Length
1. “Subterranean Homesick Blues” January 14, 1965 2:21
2. “She Belongs to Me” January 14, 1965 2:47
3. “Maggie’s Farm” January 15, 1965 3:54
4. “Love Minus Zero/No Limit” January 14, 1965 2:51
5. “Outlaw Blues” January 14, 1965 3:05
6. “On the Road Again” January 15, 1965 2:35
7. “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream” January 13 (intro) and January 14, 1965 6:30

Side two (Acoustic Side)

No. Title Recorded Length
1. “Mr. Tambourine Man” January 15, 1965 5:30
2. “Gates of Eden” January 15, 1965 5:40
3. “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” January 15, 1965 7:29
4. “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” January 15, 1965 4:12

Review: With Another Side of Bob Dylan, Dylan had begun pushing past folk, and with Bringing It All Back Home, he exploded the boundaries, producing an album of boundless imagination and skill. And it’s not just that he went electric, either, rocking hard on “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” “Maggie’s Farm,” and “Outlaw Blues”; it’s that he’s exploding with imagination throughout the record. After all, the music on its second side — the nominal folk songs — derive from the same vantage point as the rockers, leaving traditional folk concerns behind and delving deep into the personal. And this isn’t just introspection, either, since the surreal paranoia on “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” and the whimsical poetry of “Mr. Tambourine Man” are individual, yet not personal. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, really, as he writes uncommonly beautiful love songs (“She Belongs to Me,” “Love Minus Zero/No Limit”) that sit alongside uncommonly funny fantasias (“On the Road Again,” “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream”). This is the point where Dylan eclipses any conventional sense of folk and rewrites the rules of rock, making it safe for personal expression and poetry, not only making words mean as much as the music, but making the music an extension of the words. A truly remarkable album. — Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Schill Score: 8.5/10

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Bob Dylan – The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan (1964)

The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan is the second studio album by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, released on May 27, 1963 by Columbia Records. Whereas his self-titled debut album Bob Dylan had contained only two original songs, Freewheelin’ represented the beginning of Dylan’s writing contemporary words to traditional melodies. Eleven of the thirteen songs on the album are Dylan’s original compositions. The album opens with “Blowin’ in the Wind”, which became an anthem of the 1960s, and an international hit for folk trio Peter, Paul & Mary soon after the release of Freewheelin’. The album featured several other songs which came to be regarded as among Dylan’s best compositions and classics of the 1960s folk scene: “Girl from the North Country”, “Masters of War”, “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall” and “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right”.

Dylan’s lyrics embraced news stories drawn from headlines about the Civil Rights Movement and he articulated anxieties about the fear of nuclear warfare. Balancing this political material were love songs, sometimes bitter and accusatory, and material that features surreal humor. Freewheelin’ showcased Dylan’s songwriting talent for the first time, propelling him to national and international fame. The success of the album and Dylan’s subsequent recognition led to his being named as “Spokesman of a Generation”, a label Dylan repudiated.

Track Listing:

Side one[26]
No. Title Recorded Length
1. “Blowin’ in the Wind” July 9, 1962 2:48
2. “Girl from the North Country” April 24, 1963 3:22
3. “Masters of War” April 24, 1963 4:34
4. “Down the Highway” July 9, 1962 3:27
5. “Bob Dylan’s Blues” July 9, 1962 2:23
6. “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall” December 6, 1962 6:55
Total length: 23:29

Side two
No. Title Recorded Length
1. “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” November 14, 1962 3:40
2. “Bob Dylan’s Dream” April 24, 1963 5:03
3. “Oxford Town” December 6, 1962 1:50
4. “Talkin’ World War III Blues” April 24, 1963 6:28
5. “Corrina, Corrina” (traditional) October 26, 1962 2:44
6. “Honey, Just Allow Me One More Chance” (Dylan, Henry Thomas) July 9, 1962 2:01
7. “I Shall Be Free” December 6, 1962 4:49
Total length: 26:35

Review: It’s hard to overestimate the importance of The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, the record that firmly established Dylan as an unparalleled songwriter, one of considerable skill, imagination, and vision. At the time, folk had been quite popular on college campuses and bohemian circles, making headway onto the pop charts in diluted form, and while there certainly were a number of gifted songwriters, nobody had transcended the scene as Dylan did with this record. There are a couple (very good) covers, with “Corrina Corrina” and “Honey Just Allow Me One More Chance,” but they pale with the originals here. At the time, the social protests received the most attention, and deservedly so, since “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “Masters of War,” and “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” weren’t just specific in their targets; they were gracefully executed and even melodic. Although they’ve proven resilient throughout the years, if that’s all Freewheelin’ had to offer, it wouldn’t have had its seismic impact, but this also revealed a songwriter who could turn out whimsy (“Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right”), gorgeous love songs (“Girl From the North Country”), and cheerfully absurdist humor (“Bob Dylan’s Blues,” “Bob Dylan’s Dream”) with equal skill. This is rich, imaginative music, capturing the sound and spirit of America as much as that of Louis Armstrong, Hank Williams, or Elvis Presley. Dylan, in many ways, recorded music that equaled this, but he never topped it. — Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Schill Score: 5.75/10

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