Bringing It All Back Home

Bob Dylan

Columbia Records, 1965

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


With his fifth album, Bringing It All Back Home, Bob Dylan alienated a lot of his fans. He dared to do the unthinkable with his music - he introduced electric guitars to the mix. Egads, people thought, has the poet of our times sold his soul to the rock music devil?

It's easy, over 30 years later, to sit back and explain why such a move was hardly dangerous (or unexpected) for Dylan, but in 1965, it was almost a sign of the apocalypse for afficionados of folk music. It would prompt people to boo Dylan when he would pull out a Stratocaster in concert, and evoked the cry of "Judas" from an audience member at the mislabeled "Royal Albert Hall" concert a year later. (You can hear that moment of history on The Bootleg Series Volume 4: Live 1966 Royal Albert Hall.)

But if people had been paying attention to the progression of Dylan's music from his self-titled debut from 1962, they would have known that Dylan could not be limited by the acoustic guitar for long. Even on his previous release, my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Another Side Of Bob Dylan, you could feel a sense of musical restlessness building, even though he dutifully stuck to the acoustic on the album.

Besides, if you really listen to the electric side of Bringing It All Back Home, people would have recognized that this was the same young poet whose work they had fallen in love with. If anything, the power of electric guitars (as well as a full band for these tracks) freed Dylan up to create some more thoughtful phrasing, as "Love Minus Zero/No Limit" proves. It also seemed to bring out the humorist in Dylan, as "On The Road Again" and "Bob Dylan's 115th Dream" prove. (The latter track has quickly become one of my favorites; I'd almost like to see someone create a psychedelic cartoon to fit the music. If someone actually does this, or wants to know what I picture in my head, drop me a line.)

For the most part, the electric "set" (for lack of a better term) contains some great music, from the opening call to attention of "Subterranean Homesick Blues" to the franticness of "Maggie's Farm," even to the gentle blues-like nature of "She Belongs To Me". If this was an experiment, I'd say it was a success.

Yes, Dylan had started featuring electric guitar (though an acoustic was still used in many of the songs on the first half of Bringing It All Back Home). But the second half of the release should have quieted many of the folkies, at least for a short time. For three of the four songs on the acoustic half of Bringing It All Back Home have become some of Dylan's most recognized songs, from "Mr. Tambourine Man" (which The Byrds would take to dizzying new heights) to "It's Alright (I'm Only Bleeding)" to "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" (another song The Byrds would cover).

Yet as good as these songs are, it almost seems anti-climactic to hear Dylan back with the acoustic and sparse instrumentation, if there is indeed any used on the songs. It almost feels like Dylan had let Pandora out of the box on the first half of the album, then changed his mind and slammed the lid back down on her for this portion of the album.

Still, Bringing It All Back Home is one incredible musical ride, and remains one of my favorite releases in Dylan's catalog. It's worth rediscovering if you grew up with Dylan's music, and it's worth picking up if you're just getting into his work.

Rating: A

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Probably my favorite Bob Dylan album.

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