Posted in Album Reviews

Bob Dylan – Blonde on Blonde (1966)

By the time he was 25 years old, the former Robert Zimmerman had already released at least 2 classic albums and several more stellar ones.  A few weeks after his birthday in 1966, he released yet another classic with the double album Blonde on Blonde. The famous album cover shows a slightly out of focus Bob Dylan wearing a checkered brown scarf. The 14 tracks contain several of his most loved songs plus a slew of stellar album tracks to boot.

The album starts with the ruckus marching band sound of single “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” with its hollering and laughing where “everyone must get stoned”. “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again” has the really nice organ sound of Al Kooper and the chorus that gets punctuated by the smart drumming of Kenneth Buttrey. The upbeat “Most Likely You Go Your Way and I’ll Go Mine” is powered by the military drumming of Buttrey and further organ theatrics on a track about an end of a relationship and wondering who comes out better for it. “Absolutely Sweet Marie” sees Dylan pen the oft quoted line – “to live outside the law, you must be honest” while “I Want You” takes things a bit slower with a direct chorus on a song that hit the top 20 in the US.

Dylan takes pop music to its zenith several times on Blonde on Blonde.  The seven minutes of “Visions of Johanna’ are stunning with the bass groove of Joe South and Dylan complaining that “it’s so hard to get on/And these visions of Johanna kept me up past dawn”.  The piano and organ work to a dazzling effect on “One of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later)” where Dylan tells a lover, “I didn’t know that you were sayin’ goodbye for good”.

A couple comes together from different worlds on “Just Like a Woman” that delivers the devasting line, “she aches just like a woman/but she breaks like a little girl”.  “4th Time Around” brings Dylan to The Beatles by way of “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)” that borrows liberally from that song’s tune. On the original album, the eleven-minute country harmonica of “Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands” about his first wife takes up all of side 4.  Another stunning track on an album full of them, it’s a heartbreaking song about the woman who would give Dylan four children. 

The towering achievements of Bob Dylan albums from the sixties cannot be understated with Blonde on Blonde arguably being the most impressive.  It expertly mixes folk, rock, pop, and poetry on an album head and shoulders above his peers. The album would go top ten in the US and hit #3 in the UK.  It’s a record that has been passed down from generation to generation and is one that even non-Dylan fans would find much to like.



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