Monday, June 25, 2007

No. 31: Bringing It All Back Home

Band: Bob Dylan
Album: Bringing It All Back Home
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: My favorite Dylan song is on here (“Subterranean Homesick Blues”), and that's just one of the classic Dylan tracks on here. The class struggle of “Maggie's Farm,” the love songery of “She Belongs to Me” and the trippy “Mr. Tambourine Man” all came from this record.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: Again, I get it. It's Dylan. He's a great songwriter. Stop it, Rolling Stone. I'm tired of writing about Bob fucking Dylan.
Best song: As I mentioned above, “Subterranean Homesick Blues” is my favorite Dylan track actually by Dylan (Like every single person on the planet, Hendrix' version of “Watchtower” and the Byrds' “Mr. Tambourine Man” are my favorite versions of Dylan songs).
Worst song: “Bob Dylan's 115th Dream” isn't particularly good.
Is it awesome?: It has its highs and lows, but I'd probably call “Bringing It All Back Home” my second-favorite Dylan album. It may not be awesome, but it's close.

Considered the first real folk-rock album, “Bringing It All Back Home” was Dylan's first attempt at bringing some uptempo rock elements to his normal folky styling. Instead of the usual troubadour with a guitar, Dylan added some more elements and really expanded his sound.

Two things are important about the recording of “Bringing It All Back Home.” The first is that Dylan wrote (mostly) and recorded the thing in Woodstock, NY, as he was holed up there for nearly all of 1964. This produced a pretty pointed record and one that certainly kept up a different sound (electric blues meets folk rock). Dylan also met the Beatles between the previous record (“Another Side of Bob Dylan”) and this one, which has led some to speculate that Dylan was influenced, music-wise, finally by the Beatles. Certainly, the Beatles were influenced by Dylan.

Dylan's early work is incredibly leftist in its lyrical content. “Subterranean Homesick Blues” wasn't directly calling for revolution, but later hippie groups took their names from the song (The Weathermen, for example). “Outlaw Blues” itself has the lyric “She's a brown-skinned woman, but I love her just the same.” It sounds condescending now, but in 1964, a lyric like that sung by a Jewish kid from Minnesota living in New York was very important at the time. “I ain't going to work on Maggie's Farm no more” was a direct jab at capitalism's exploitation of the working class (something Dylan knew from his childhood on the Mesabi Iron Range).

The second side is more of a return to Dylan's folk-rock beginnings, but the first side is more of what matters. This is Dylan going electric (though, not in concert) and that's important. “Highway 61 Revisited” is the better album, but the seeds are here. To use the old SAT analogy, “Bringing It All Back Home”is to “Rubber Soul” as “Highway 61 Revisited” is to “Revolver.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Maggie's Farm is actually about Dylan's departure from the folk-music scene.