Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Bob Dylan 4: Another Side Of Bob Dylan

Having firmly typecast himself as a dour troubadour, Bob took a left turn with his next collection of songs. Another Side Of Bob Dylan—which got its title from his producer, against the artist’s instinct—was recorded in a single night over several bottles of Beaujolais, and leans heavily more towards love songs and imagery, pointedly away from social commentary. It remains one of his best.
The jaunty opener “All I Really Want To Do” uses a rhyming dictionary to tell the jokes, and you can hear him laughing in between verses. This was an easy cover for the next year’s folk-rockers. “Black Crow Blues” is a sloppy piano blues, using that instrument for the first time on a Dylan LP. The haunting “Spanish Harlem Incident” is rich with summer heat, evoking scenes of young men on city street corners once upon a time. Those looking for a Big Statement would have their hands full with “Chimes Of Freedom”. It takes some patience as his voice loses the path, but there is some incredible imagery in all those words. To defuse the gravitas comes “I Shall Be Free No. 10”, which improves on its predecessor two albums earlier with a better riff (learned in England) and much funnier lines. Closing out the side is “To Ramona”, another tender love song that demonstrates the man’s impeccable phrasing.
Side one begins with “Motorpsycho Nitemare”, which drags out the old traveling salesman story with some contemporary pop culture and a melody that you’ll hear again. You’ll also find yourself picking up the various non sequitirs before long. Similarly, “My Back Pages” takes the “Hattie Carroll” melody from the last album and adds new words; it would be done better in a definitive version by the Byrds after both they and he had moved on from this point. The masterful “I Don’t Believe You” takes a wry look at the aftermath of a one-night stand, and is very clever coming oddly enough from the man’s jilted point of view. While lambasted by several authors for its unnecessary airing of dirty laundry, “Ballad In Plain D” is a remarkable composition with lines so alternatively tender and aching. The final verse makes it all worthwhile. But after those eight minutes of heartbreak, it’s the narrator who comes out on top, as “It Ain’t Me Babe” ends the album on a defiant note.
Another Side Of Bob Dylan may not have pleased people hoping he’d continue to explain the world to them, but it has endured as a collection of songs from that brief period amidst his journey from protest singer to absurdist visionary. Crack a bottle of cheap wine, open the windows, and let the songs unfold from the speakers. Give in to the simplicity of the songs, and you’ll want to go back again and again.

Bob Dylan Another Side Of Bob Dylan (1964)—4

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