Monday, 15 August 2005

Blonde On Blonde

At the moment I've got reviews scattered around various places on the web (my old homepage, on Amazon, etc.) I think it's time to start aggregating all this stuff in the one place.

So we'll kickoff with a review (which I wrote a while ago) for one of my favourite albums - Blonde on blonde by Bob Dylan (from 1966).


Robert Allen Zimmerman is a living legend, and this double album release in 1966 is not only his greatest album, but one of the greatest albums released by any artist in the history of music. He has released many brilliant albums in 5 decade career, but in my opinion none has topped this album of lyrical and musical prowess.

It's hard to describe exactly what I love about this album. It's the vibe, man. Dylan called it the thin, wild mercury sound. I just call it a vibe. Take the opening verse of One of us must know. "I didn't mean to treat you soooo baaaaad...You shouldn't take it so perrrrrsonal...I didn't mean to make you soooo saaaad....You just happened to be there, that's all". In the wrong hands, this would come across as sentimental drivel (to quote a Radiohead song). But when Bobby sings it, you believe every word! The longing in his voice...the passion.

This album is full of moments like that. The barroom vibe of the piano at the start of Temporary like achilles. The beautiful intro to 4th time around with the finger-picked chords and harmonica finally giving way to Bobby's longing vocals. The perfectly constructed ditty I want you - just try not tapping your knee this one, just try - I DARE you! Then there are the songs which showed Bobby's warped sense of humour - opener Rainy day women nos 12 & 35 (everybody must get stoned!), Leopard-skin pill-box hat - what IS he singing about? Do we really care when the music rocks this much?

What about epics? Yep, we have them as well. Visions of Johanna, Stuck inside of mobile with the Memphis blues again (and what kind of song title is that anyway?), and the closer Sad eyed lady of the lowlands, which took up an ENTIRE side of the original vinyl. None of these songs, even the 11 minute closer, outstay their welcome.

I could go on this way about every song on this album, but I won't. Let me just say that every song on this album leaves me wanting...no, it leaves me CRAVING more. Craving - that's not a word you see very often in album reviews, is it? But Blonde on blonde is one of the few albums that I CRAVE. Granted, I sometimes have to be in the right mood to listen to it, but when I'm in the zone, nothing quite hits the spot like this one.

And honestly, has anyone ever looked cooler than Bobby does on the cover?

4 comments:

  1. Still can't really get into Dylan. I'll keep trying though!

    The album cover is poo though - an out of focus photo? What, like he's too cool to put some effort in? ;)

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  2. Personally I love the album cover.

    Technically it's not a brilliant photo, but technically Bob Dylan has a crap voice but it doesn't mean I don't love it anyway.

    The surreal cover is actually perfect for this album, it sums up the music incredibly well.

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  3. I'm with Matt on the Dylan front, can't get into him. But I doubt I ever will.

    I find his voice so crap (both technically and, well, just generally) that I cannot get past it to the apparently-brilliant songs. Gonna have to let this particular Jiggy-recommendation through to the 'keeper.

    And Jiggy - Add a scarf around your neck and slightly crazier hair to your "Profile" picture, then fuzz it up a bit - jackpot! :-)

    Chis (Who just spent far too long settling on his own picture)

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  4. I guess I can understand how people can, on the surface, think that Dylan has a crap voice.

    What makes me love his voice is how incredibly real it is. When Dylan sings about things you believe him because of his voice. It's so down to earth, so gritty, so utterly wonderful. It's the complete inverse of commercial made-to-sell-records voices like Anthony Callea. There is simply no doubting Dylan's authenticity, he is as for real as it gets.

    What really upsets me is that Bob Dylan is such an incredibly gifted songwriter, but many consider his voice to be a roadblock in appreciating his music.

    On a side note, I'd recommend Rodriguez for a more user-friendly version of Dylan's voice. His utterly wonderful masterpiece of an album Cold Fact is something that everybody should hear at least once in their life.

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Sing some harmonies here: