Bringing It All Back Home is the fifth Bob Dylan album and continues his departure away from focusing on mainly protest songs. Another Side of Bob Dylan released in 1964 presented more personal lyrics, here Dylan explores surreal imagery along with a touch of psychedelia thrown in. Controversially, the first side is devoted to electric songs played with a band while the second side is where longtime fans would find the mainly acoustic songs.
Dylan gives a nod to the beat poets with a blast of bluesy rock and roll on the opener “Subterranean Homesick Blues”. His first charting single in the US saw Dylan film a highly influential video for the track where he holds up cardboard cue cards with the lyrics written on them including the classic line, “Johnny’s in the basement, mixin’ up the medicine/I’m on the pavement, thinkin’ about the government”. “Maggie’s Farm” is a furious blast that was recorded in just one take as Dylan spits out the lyrics of working for little pay and no respect while you drive yourself insane.
The pace is slowed down on the love song “Love Minus Zero/No Limit” and the midtempo “She Belongs to Me” that speaks of a bohemian who is “an artist, she don’t look back/she can take the dark out of the nighttime and paint the daytime black”. Side one closes with the six plus minutes of “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream” that breaks down into guffaws before the surreal track talks of the discovery of America.
Side two opens with one of Dylan’s most beloved songs in “Mr. Tambourine Man” that was later taken to #1 in the US by The Byrds. Originally intended for the previous year’s Another Side of Bob Dylan, the song regularly features on best of lists and countless Dylan compilations. The acoustic side closes with two very different tracks – the first being the seven minute “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)”. The intense song is one that demands attention as Dylan tells us that “he not busy being born is busy dying” and that “I got nothing, Ma, to live up to”. Side two closes with “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue”, another track that is widely covered by other artists. Accompanied by the bass of Bill Lee, Dylan’s voice rises and falls with the music as he speaks about a love that is over or perhaps a goodbye to his younger self.
Dylan’s world was expanding during this time period as he met The Beatles for the first time, tried LSD, and in the summer of 1965 of would famously be booed at the Newport Folk Festival. Refusing to be just one type of songwriter that some want him to stay as, Dylan keeps growing and expanding his sound and lyrical inspiration. Bringing It All Back Home is another extraordinary album just three years and five albums into his then brief recording career.