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Old 07-23-2014, 11:14 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Bob Dylan- Highway 61 Revisited

Sometimes we as human beings look to the past for answers. You would be shocked at how many times during an average day you rely on things taught to you as a child that has shaped you and made you the person who you are. I recently caught myself telling my young son some of the same things my parents said to me, its a never ending cycle...

Recently, I have been going through the vaunted Rolling Stone top 500 albums list and album by album I started going through them, one of the biggest surprises for me was listening to Bob Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited. This album, when talked about usually accompanies universal acclaim, how this record broke barriers and torn down walls.

I have to scratch my head here...This album sucks.

No, I appreciate music. I love music, all kinds. I understand influence, I comprehend spellbinding lyrics and the bad ones too.

But words cannot describe how this record just didn't age well. The themes just don't resonate with me because I know how things turned out. Compare this to any record by the Beatles, most of which if they were released today would still top the charts. Compare it to Bruce Springsteen's Born to Run.

Dylan, along with Paul Simon and the Doors are performers living off the 60's and quite frankly, I never got what all the hoopla was about. If you could magically erase them from humanities timeline, you could have replaced them with just about anyone from the era they performed in, and not missed a beat.

Highway's only merit is the title track, its the only thing that's intrigued me as listenable. That's it, next...

As more and more of the hippies from the 60's get older and older, I believe Dylan and his ilk will fade away into the either. Hype does not equal talent, and in this albums case, it has lived off hype for far too long. Think that is harsh? Find someone who has never heard of this record and ask them to listen to it, they whole thing. If they don't fall asleep and get through it all, do you really think they will know what Dylan was bitching about, or better yet, do you think they will even care?

Hype indeed.

1.5 out of 10.

Chips Fontaine
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Old 07-23-2014, 11:47 AM   #2 (permalink)
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I like you, Chips. Good stuff.

I feel the same way. Although I do appreciate a good story from time to time, I could never get into Dylan. The nasally drone of someone who thinks he had a bad life and bitching about it through song just doesn't do anything for my neurons.
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Old 07-23-2014, 04:34 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Gonna have to disagree with you there, "Chips". Of course it's all down to your personal perception of the album, but I am going to challenge some of the points you made.

You claim that the album didn't "age well". I find this to be a particularly vague criticism. What about the album didn't age well? How is a song like "Like a Rolling Stone" not addressing a timeless theme, much in the same way that "The Times They Are-a-Changin'" did? If you don't like the song, then fair enough, but isn't the topic of fair-weathered fame, 15 minutes in the sun before a lifetime of obscurity, the tragically addictive stories of fame, wealth, and power turned destitution and misery just as (if not more) relevant than it ever was in the 60s?

I don't really understand how you can compare this "ageing" with the longevity of The Beatles, as if "Ballad of a Thin Man" has aged...or is no longer would a song like "I am the Walrus" or "Nowhere Man" still be considered relevant? It's all nonsense rhyme after all.

What is it specifically that means that this album can't live outside of the 60s? "Tombstone Blues", "Desolation Row" and "Highway 61 Revisited" are all removed from any particular political/social/musical era. The reason why there is so much hype around Dylan's lyrics is not simply because that's the "way things are remembered/perceived by history". The man has no lyrical rival. The Beatles are still brilliant..but nowhere near as hard-hitting or provocative, and Springsteen was never as poetic.

I think your review is heavily prejudiced, but had you fallen asleep during Blonde on Blonde I perhaps wouldn't have been so quick to that is a truly overrated album (in my humble).

My point made concise is that many of these songs are not about any particularly identifiable can "Desolation Row" age when its ostensibly about nothing? I think the reason Dylan is still popular is because there hasn't been an artist since him who's managed to consistently out-do him in the lyrical department. ..but maybe you just don't dig the vibe.
'Well, I'm a common working man,
With a half of bitter, bread and jam,
And if it pleases me, I'll put one on ya man,
When the copper fades away!'
- Jethro Tull
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Old 05-13-2015, 04:40 AM   #4 (permalink)
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I've tried several times, but never got into his music.
It's like chewing wet paper with your ears.
Is he even considered musically influential?
I always thought he was more of an influence in the fields of themes and lyrics.
A smell of petroleum prevails throughout.
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Old 05-17-2015, 08:33 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Chips Fontaine is a newcomer to MB, and deserves a welcome: ( *EDIT: oops! Chips isn' t a newcomer - this is a bumped thread from last year!* )

Nonetheless, I share blackdragon’s disappointment with Chips’ post about Highway 61 Revisited. I never expected that a beleaguered Bob Dylan would need me to defend him, but what with illustrious members like Plankton and grindy ganging up against him too, I feel that poor old Bob could do with a champion.

Firstly, of course, it’s not obligatory to like Dylan. More than most vocalists, his voice dominates every album without respite, so if his voice is the problem you really just have to move on.

As grindy says, Dylan’s songs are all about the lyrics and he’s not known for being musically adventurous, although this album does have some pretty good touches imo; there is Al Kooper’s driving organ on Like a Rolling Stone and the wonderful plunking piano of It Takes a Lot to Laugh. Often, though, the song structure is some unexceptional (borrowed?) blues-rock riff that chugs along without much variation until Bob has had his say and vented his spleen.

Originally Posted by Chips Fontaine View Post
As more and more of the hippies from the 60's get older and older, I believe Dylan and his ilk will fade away into the either. Hype does not equal talent, and in this albums case, it has lived off hype for far too long.
^ Yes, there's a lot of hype around the album which is difficult to ignore. ChipsF suggests that the album lives off the hype, when surely it's the other way round; the album came first and sold well - the hype is a parasitical growth that attached itself to the album. Back in ’65 the album was doing fine without the help of the hype, thank you very much, and in fact the album today would convey more of its original impact if people weren't pre-primed to expect something fabulous. They say there’ s no smoke without fire and to swap metaphors, hype, like smoke, both indicates and obscures the original flame that started it all - but Dylan and his album can't be blamed for that.

Find someone who has never heard of this record and ask them to listen to it, they whole thing. If they don't fall asleep and get through it all, do you really think they will know what Dylan was bitching about, or better yet, do you think they will even care?
^ No plan to take up Chips' challenge; obviously, anybody playing the album for the first time makes their own appraisal, but Chips seems to speculate unfairly that no new listener will care about the album. To refute that notion, I’d like to mention just one enthusiastic post I read on YouTube yesterday; some guy, discovering that Desolation Row wasn't written by My Chemical Romance, was exploring Dylan for the first time. This suggests that there is a continuing interest in the songs of Highway 61 Revisited.

Actually, the whole debate about “is it relevant/popular today” is itself in some ways irrelevant. Although Chips ascribes it all to hype, Highway 61 Revisited has already earned its place in rock history, even if the tingle of how innovative the album was cannot be experienced by somebody hearing the album today.

And what made it innovative? Well, firstly, at a time when many singles were about 2 mins 45 seconds long, the album spawned a staggering 6 min single. This was unheard of in mainstream music, but there are other, more significant, surprises in this album too. Dylan didn’t only outrage his folk fanbase by his shift to electric, on H61R he went electric in such an aggressive uncompromising style, which other groups weren’t risking at the time. Bear in mind that The Byrds’ version of Mr. Tambourine Man was in the charts that same year, outraging nobody, and even the Stones, for all their swagger, were following the cleaner-sounding conventions of pop.

But Dylan broke another, wider-ranging taboo as well. I remember a musician, perhaps in the 90s, enthusing on tv about the very first opening second of H61R – the single snare drum beat that starts the whole onslaught. The death knell, he called it, of everything that had gone before, and in a way he was right; up until this album nobody, to my knowledge, was expressing so much anger, scorn, derision and cynicism in their music. Dylan’s whiney voice wasn’t particularly whining about his hard life. You won’t find confessional songs on Highway 61 Revisited, with Bob complaining that “my girlfriend dumped me” or “my dad wanted me to sell insurance”. Instead he’s giving voice to a generalised bunch of negative emotions that no other artist had the nerve to enunciate at the time. A drug-fuelled aggressive contempt runs through the album, hitting a nerve of undirected anger which became the rallying cry of punk about 20 years later.

Which rather brings me back to the lyrics again. There maybe some weak moments on this album, as Dylan tries to name-check every cultural icon he can think of, taking us through a whole dramatis personae of characters, from Miss Lonely, Mr. Jones and Romeo to Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot. But there are plenty of killer couplets too. Here’s just one personal fave from the all-verse, no-chorus, Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues:

When you’ re lost in the rain in Juarez and it’ s Eastertime too
And your gravity fails and negativity don’ t pull you through
Don’ t put on any airs when you’ re down on Rue Morgue Avenue.
They got some hungry women there and they’ll really make a mess outta you.
OK, I’m about done with this over-long post: hadn't planned on doing an album review, because MB already has a good one here written by TheCellarTapes :-
Originally Posted by TheCellarTapes View Post
... Desolation Row at over eleven minutes it is so long you can actually feel yourself getting older as you listen ...
"Am I enjoying this moment? I know of it and perhaps that is enough." - Sybille Bedford, 1953

Last edited by Lisnaholic; 05-17-2015 at 11:28 AM.
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Old 06-02-2015, 01:06 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Topping the charts does not make one talented. I think that's an important point to remember. Would Dylan be as successful today as he was in the 1960s? Probably not but it's a hard topic to get into especially considering how much the industry has changed since the 60s.

Dylan was not a pop artist in the same sense that the Beatles were. He's not nearly as accessible, but he never sought out to be either. He relied on his lyrics and his delivery of those lyrics, not so much melody and arrangement. That's something you have to accept about listening to his music going into it, and you're either into it or you're not.

I think another thing that should be understood was when Dylan first came up Rock music was just feel good dance music and was not the "thinking man's music." If you wanted depth, you would listen to Folk. This is why Dylan fan's got so angry when he decided to plug in for the first time. They thought he was selling out. It was the Beatles who joined the two worlds, but it was Dylan's influence on them that inspired them to do that to begin with.
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Old 06-03-2015, 10:53 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Bob Dylan is a legend, and one of the few American musicians I liked.
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Old 07-27-2015, 08:29 PM   #8 (permalink)
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That album's overrated, but it's still good just for the title track, Like a Rollingstone, and Desolation Row. A lot of great artists have albums that get over-hyped just for having just two really good songs. Blood on the Tracks is without a doubt Dylan's best album but he has many other classic albums (Blonde on Blonde, Freewheelin', Bringing It All Back) . I think Bob Dylan's the greatest american song writer to ever live.
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Old 07-27-2015, 08:57 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Highway 61 is my favourite Bob Dylan album. A week's not complete without hearing it at least once.
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