Bob Dylan - Highway 61 Revisited (1965)
Highway 61 Revisited is a landmark — recorded in 1965, during the same tumultuous summer that had seen him plugging in his electric guitar at the Newport Folk Festival, Highway 61 Revisited is Bob Dylan diving head-first into the rock and roll maelstrom, backed by the studio prowess of Al Kooper, Michael Bloomfield and others on such devastating classics as the epochal "Like A Rolling Stone."
Recorded in Columbia Studios, New York, New York in June-August 1965.
Though 1966's BLONDE ON BLONDE is usually singled as the most innovative Bob Dylan album, its predecessor HIGHWAY 61 REVISITED is the one that definitively marks Dylan's transformation from progressive folk singer to visionary rock poet. It's Dylan's first fully electric album, powered by the manic intensity of Mike Bloomfield's skull-and-crossbones blues-rock guitar leads and Al Kooper's rich organ fills.
While many of the songs are presented in a traditional 12-bar blues format, the lyrics find Dylan finally abandoning conventional linear narrative in favor of poetic abstraction, surreal imagery, and biting sarcasm. In the rock world, there has never been a lambasting harsher or more cathartic than the excoriation of "Ballad of a Thin Man," and no challenge more bold than that offered in the iconic "Like a Rolling Stone." When Dylan invokes the names of Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot towards the end of the poetic epic "Desolation Row," he's not just name-dropping; he's merely delineating the company in which a work as rich and ground-breaking as HIGHWAY 61 belongs.
Personnel: Bob Dylan (vocals, guitar, harmonica, piano); Michael Bloomfield Charlie McCoy (guitar); Al Kooper, Paul Griffin (piano, organ); Frank Owens (piano); Harvey Goldstein, Russ Savakus (bass); Bobby Gregg (drums).
Engineers include: Peter Dauria, Roy Halee, Frank Laico.
AMG review by by Stephen Thomas Erlewine:
Taking the first, electric side of Bringing It All Back Home to its logical conclusion, Bob Dylan hired a full rock & roll band, featuring guitarist Michael Bloomfield, for Highway 61 Revisited. Opening with the epic "Like a Rolling Stone," Highway 61 Revisited careens through nine songs that range from reflective folk-rock ("Desolation Row") and blues ("It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry") to flat-out garage rock ("Tombstone Blues," "From a Buick 6," "Highway 61 Revisited"). Dylan had not only changed his sound, but his persona, trading the folk troubadour for a streetwise, cynical hipster. Throughout the album, he embraces druggy, surreal imagery, which can either have a sense of menace or beauty, and the music reflects that, jumping between soothing melodies to hard, bluesy rock. And that is the most revolutionary thing about Highway 61 Revisited -- it proved that rock & roll needn't be collegiate and tame in order to be literate, poetic, and complex.
Dylan was virtually gushing great songs when this masterpiece arrived in the summer of 1965. From the epochal opening of "Like a Rolling Stone" through the absurdly apocalyptic closer, "Desolation Row," his command of surrealistic language was daring and amazing. As a vocalist, he was rewriting the rules of the game. Jimi Hendrix made note of Mr. Z's technically suspect pitch and decided that he too was a singer. And the backing, though ragged, is precisely right. Is this the essential Dylan album? It's certainly one of them. --Steven Stolder
1. Like A Rolling Stone 6:13
2. Tombstone Blues 5:58
3. It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry 4:09
4. From A Buick 6 3:19
5. Ballad Of A Thin Man 5:58
6. Queen Jane Approximately 5:31
7. Highway 61 Revisited 3:30
8. Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues 5:31
9. Desolation Row 11:21