If ‘Bringing it all Back Home’ was a bridging album, ‘Highway 61 Revisited’ is a rocket lift-off; stratospheric. From the opening snare strike, an epic song strings minute on minute of discourse of a characters fall from notoriety. Snarling commentary and undressing of a contemporary gone to the gutter. What is this to say of Dylan? His venom is still on the tip of his tongue with this release.
A third of the album contains this poison. Disillusionment in another. A soul sighing in disappointment. It follows as such, ‘Ballad of a Thin Man’ and ‘Queen Jane Approximately’. ‘Ballad’, a critique of someone who lives off of critiquing. It is said by many, those wearing a reporters cap, asking the speaker sophomoric questions to a genius mind. As an aside, I saw this performed in late 2010, center stage in front of a large screen posting black and white imagery. This in fact was the high point of the show that night in Poughkeepsie; it’s seething qualities came to life.
‘Queen’, another fail at a woman who too has fallen from grace and riches. ‘Tombstone Blues’ and ‘Just Like Tom Thumbs Blues’, (hold please so I can listen to them again), balance a ruckus up-tempo-blues-word-kaleidoscope with a 4/4 lament of the environment of the speakers set and cast of characters he is in contact with. ‘Highway 61’; a delve into Christian imagery and a scramble at a description of a place of folly, “take everything down to Highway 61.”
My best friend at the time, (other then my dog), a schizophrenic French linguist, pot smoking chair of the foreign language department at my college stood by the next track as his all time favorite Dylan tune. Boy did he never take his meds, smoked campfires of weed and blew awful harp. ‘It Takes A Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry’, was often heard screaming out his apartment window. A tromp of a blues tune that gets you in the gut. Another aside, he was fired shortly after gaining his position for smoking cigarettes in his faculty tower suite.
Passing over just one track let’s take a jaunt or be dragged into and down, ‘Desolation Row’. The song, a descriptor of an apocalyptic city scape, the dregs of N.Y.C. at the time possibly. A metaphor of word collage and imagery for the bleak and weary. Such sweet sounding south western guitar styling juxtapose the scenery with the music. Certainly the masterpiece of the album but then again many are.
‘Highway’ is like Dylan put on a new pair of boots and stepped into the sawdust of a new kind of honky-tonk. A carnival of sound, imagery and styling. Spin it and see. Let your ears jump forward at that opening snare drum!
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