Monday, April 27, 2009

Bob Dylan 5: Bringing It All Back Home

For those of you keeping score, this is the album where Dylan went electric, as the pundits like to say. But if you’re not ready for that, take comfort in this: Lyrically Bringing It All Back Home continues his progression from folksinger to poet, underscored by the use of a full rock combo on the first side, with slight accents on the second.
The acoustic guitar strums alone for a split second, then the band comes crashing in. “Subterranean Homesick Blues” is still remarkable after forty-plus years, a proud son of “Too Much Monkey Business” and father of “Pump It Up” (and, unfortunately, “Wild Wild West” by Escape Club). The volume goes down for “She Belongs To Me”, a deceptive portrait of a lady in the blues structure but with a twist. “Maggie’s Farm” is a protest song for those who want one, via the theater of the absurd. “Love Minus Zero/No Limit” is an underrated gem. The vocal is lovely, matching the words, and a good example to use for people who think all Dylan did was whine. “Outlaw Blues” pushes its luck, noisy for the sake of it, but “On The Road Again” is an improvement, with a great punch line on each verse. “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream” takes the melody from “Motorpsycho Nitemare” on the previous album, and tells another story of a man lost in a new world. The laughter at the start makes the track succeed.
It’s been said that side two continues the “electric” idea in the songs, which leap forward to parts uncharted. “Mr. Tambourine Man” would be done better by the Byrds, as would become common, but they only used one verse. (And of course, William Shatner recorded the definitive version himself, based on the Byrds arrangement.) “Gates Of Eden” is never sure what key it should be in, but it’s just a setup for the epic “It’s All Right, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)”. There’s always something new to discover in these verses, constituting an angry torrent of disappointment against all kinds of ugliness. After all that, “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” is almost pleasant. While still a classic Dylan kiss-off, it’s a great end to an amazing journey.
Bringing It All Back Home may have upset the folkies, but it brought him to the level of pop idol, and encouraged the direction of the next eighteen months. Even the cover was pretty cool.

Bob Dylan Bringing It All Back Home (1965)—

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