Angst and poetry have been side by side in literature since man first began to write. If something is not happy, it is sad, if something is not good, it is bad, and if something is not right, it is wrong. There is no rhyme or reason to music, however. An explanation is not needed for inspiration. Highway 61 Revisited may just be the evidence of that. The raw cynicism and dark outlook of this Bob Dylan classic is enough to make anyone a dimmer person. Considered by many to be Bob Dylan's magnum opus, Highway 61 is the man's most bleak album to date, and one of his first entirely electric compositions. The futility of trying to find flaws in the music is only error that this album possesses. First of all, Bob Dylan had made the choice to go electric in 1965, with Bringing It All Back Home, an album proceeding this by a matter of months. But more importantly, this is not the political outcry aspect of Dylan that you have seen prior. Highway 61 marked a milestone in Dylan's career as a songwriter, focusing much more on poetry than his controversial, left-winged political views. His oral narration of his own thoughts are some of the most impressive lyrics that I have heard, in all my time as a listener, speaking in broad terms. The amalgamation of folk, blues, and rock music into one rich, full sound is something that should not go unnoticed in the stream of popular music. Fortunately for Bob Dylan, Highway 61 Revisited got about all the PR that one album would need.
As previously stated, Highway 61 Revisited is Bob Dylan's turning point as a songwriter, venturing from politics into poeticism. Not to say that the mood of his music and word is not any brighter than before, because if anything, his music is more blunt, cynical and mordant than it has been beforehand. Lyrics that range from a sardonic outlook on a broken home to an anthem of seeing people change for the worse, Bob Dylan's lyrics are sheer genius. Of course, they are vocalized through Dylan's gravelly, whiny, southern voice (ironic for a Minnesotan). Bob Dylan can be impugned for some of the most verbally attacking, controversial, masterful lyrics that have swept the American subcultures. Musically, Highway 61 is somewhat of a gem within the Dylan omnibus. While Bob Dylan has taken a 'less is more' approach to his music, Highway 61 is the oddball of instrumental virtuosity. There are distorted guitar leads, and hypnotic electric organ arrangements that accompany Bob Dylan's acerbic word of mouth. Personally, I wouldn't want anything else from a Dylan album.
Brevity is not something that Robert Zimmerman sought to integrate into the production of Highway 61. In more comprehendible words- Not very many songs are short enough for any pop culturist to approach as an introductory listen to Bob Dylan's work. But why this is a bad thing still escapes me. In a time where song length was a scapegoat for popularity, Highway 61 was the nonconformist. Abstract is not something that occupies the unwelcoming song lengths, nonetheless. Rather than just scribbling random words into melody, the songs on here each tell a unique story that do not coexist with one another in the slightest trace. The range between these stories are a phenomenal contrast to the concept albums, where one plot is told over the duration of the album, while each song on Highway 61 is reminiscent of one scathing chapter in a novella. The most fitting analogy to Bob Dylan's words on Highway 61 Revisited would be the melodic equivalent to George Orwell's work in 1984.
The dirtiness of the blues folk encompassed here is by far one of Bob Dylan's greatest efforts next to Blonde on Blonde. Dylan breaks out the harmonica for magnificent solos, and accordingly, the head bobbing, foot tapping melodies are great. For the nine hundred and ninety ninth time in this review, some of my favorite lyrics stand firm on Highway 61. In particular, Queen Jane Approximately, and Desolation Row rank among my top 5, the subsequent being my all time desired lyrical content. For the first time in history, I have decided to attach a wonderful sample of Desolation Row, the 11 minute bummed out closer to the album. Let this be my unofficial ending to this review, and on a brighter note, tell you that some of pop music's greatest songs are found on here.
They're selling postcards of the hanging.
They're painting the passports brown.
The beauty parlor is filled with sailors.
The circus is in town.
Here comes the blind commissioner.
They've got him in a trance.
One hand is tied to the tight-rope walker.
The other is in his pants.
And the riot squad they're restless.
They need somewhere to go
As Lady and I look out tonight,
From Desolation Row.
Hmm I found it a little bit odd you didn't even mention Like A Rolling Stone, that is one of Bob's greatest accomplishments. Amazing lyrics, great melody, its an epic. From A Buck 6 has a great bass line! And Desolation Row is the second epic on this album, the lyrics blow me away.