Blonde On Blonde

Bob Dylan

Columbia Records, 1966

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Everybody likes to pick on Bob Dylan thanks to his style of singing that more resembles mumbling. Anyone who's heard even one Dylan song probably has an imitation of Dylan's up-down style of intonation as he sings. It's an easy impression to do, and one that still gets cheap laughs when I go to parties.

Ah, but at one time, Dylan's singing was no laughing matter. Fact was, he was quite coherent, and he didn't always have such a see-saw style to his intonation. Case in point: Blonde On Blonde, the album that is considered by some to be the best Dylan album ever released on the planet.

I will respectfully decline from making any such statements, for the simple reason that I am still a pupil in the world of all things Dylan. I only have a few of his albums lurking in the Pierce Memorial Archives, and I've not been able to work up the gumption to listen to them until recently. So, I freely admit I'll be treading a little water here; I ask the Bob-heads out there to cut me a little slack.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

What Blonde On Blonde seems to be mostly is the confirmation of Dylan's break from a pure folksinger image that he had into the role of a rock and roller who has discovered the beauty of 12-bar blues. Taking the lessons he had learned from Highway 61 Revisited (as well as the lessons he'd learn when being called "Judas" for daring to play electric guitar), Dylan searched for a happy medium between the two styles of music he now seemed to be torn between.

In between these two records are some of Dylan's best-known material: "Rainy Day Women # 12 & 35", a rollicking jam session of a song that is still fun to listen to these days; "Visions Of Johanna," a song that had new life breathed into it courtesy of the Grateful Dead; "Just Like A Woman," which brought Dylan's gentle side to the forefront well before "Lay Lady Lay" and Nashville Skyline.

But if you were to just approach Blonde On Blonde for these songs, you'd be missing out on some real treasures, such as "Most Likely You Go Your Way And I'll Go Mine" (which I learned about thanks to Todd Rundgren covering it on Faithful), "Absolutely Sweet Marie," "Pledging My Time" and "Memphis Blues Again". All these songs demonstrate not only Dylan's ability as a songwriter but his overlooked talents as a musician and a singer.

This isn't to say that there isn't filler on Blonde On Blonde - though, to Dylan's credit, there isn't much. "Leopard-Skin Pillbox Hat" is just one track I could not get into, no matter how hard I tried. And I don't know if this is a limitation of my old copy of the record, but the whole-side song "Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands" had terrible sound - almost like a bootleg. (Devotees of Dylan are encouraged to let me know if this was just a problem with my record; I didn't hear any other problems on side four otherwise.)

Blonde On Blonde is one of those albums that you do have to experience in order to appreciate just what is offered. Although my knowledge of Dylan was incredibly limited going into this album, after experiencing Blonde On Blonde, I'm ready to tackle more of his works. A surprisingly approachable set that is rightly considered a classic.

Rating: A-

User Rating: A



© 1999 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Columbia Records, and is used for informational purposes only.