on Blonde on Blonde

In a long, bewildering, dazzling and frequently deliberately perverse career, Blonde on Blonde stands as Bob Dylan’s shining hour. His high and shining hour.

PIC_0008f.jpgBlonde on Blonde earns it’s place as the greatest rock album ever recorded, barring nothing, by the simplest of tricks – by taking everything that Dylan had done on his and the emerging rock music’s previous high water mark, “Highway 61 Revisited” and doing it twice as well. For the swirling and vicious “Like A Rolling Stone” we have the 3 a.m flipside that is “Visions of Johanna”, for the raucous and bizarre Tombstone Blues, there’s the raucous and loopy “Stuck Inside of Mobile with The Memphis Blues Again”, the sweet and naturalistic “It Takes A lot to Laugh” goes down a darker road to “Temporary Like Achilles”….. make your own comparisons but they are all there. That’s not to say there’s nothing new there – there are levels of intimate emotional complexity in “I Want You”, “Just Like A Woman” and particularly the albums stand out track “One of Us Must Know (Sooner Or Later)”, there is an engagement with pop forms that we hadn’t seen before (“Absolutely Sweet Marie”, “Rainy Day Women 12 & 35”) and it’s the one album of all of his that you buy for the sheer moments of musical complexity that go beyond anything in Dylan’s back pages – the arrangement on “Just Like A Woman”, the piano part on “Sooner or Later”, the butterfly delicacy of “4th Time Around”.

It’s joyfully barely in control, ragged, manic and thread worn. It casts a pale over days and turns anytime you listen to it into a cold night with coffee, cigarettes and the questions that linger in the mists of your soul. Rock turned into other things after this, it got louder and freakier and artier and harder – but it never got better, it never got vaster, it never became a thing which more closely ages with you from first listen to all those years later than it does here.

 

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