Friday, June 8, 2007

No. 9: Blonde on Blonde

Band: Bob Dylan
Album: Blonde on Blonde
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: Dylan writes smart, literate songs (a phrase I use here a lot) and this one has a few of his smartest ("Visions of Johanna" being a big one). His band was just coming together, as the early version of the Hawks (aka The Band) played on this one. Also, Al Kooper, who is amazing, contributed. Musically, it's one of Dylan's best. There is enough stylistic variation to really love it.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: It's not all that accessible and, as a double album, there's a lot of inaccesible material on there. Eleven minute songs just don't always work. Also, it's still Dylan singing and his voice isn't good. You can call it tortured or "human" or whatever, but it's not good.
Best song: Probably "Visions of Johanna" or "Just Like a Woman." "Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat" is delightfully dirty, if you extrapolate that he's talking about a vagina.
Worst song: None are really bad, to be honest. Just not really accessible.
Is it awesome?: Sure, but it's not very poppy.

"Blonde on Blonde" is the kind of record you really need to sit down with. Most Dylan records are like this -- though mostly because we know so many of the songs -- but "Blonde on Blonde" is particularly lyrical. Of course, you wouldn't know it on the surface reading (OK, the chorus) of "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35," but, apparently, a lot of the references are largely geared towards the civil rights movement ("They'll stone you when you try and leave your seat" being the operative one.

Still, the love/sex songs are pretty great. "I Want You" is lighter, while "Just Like a Woman" is pretty and "Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat" is, um, fun.

I defer to the greats on this one, mainly George Harrison. While in India, Harrison only brought one record: This one. Now, Harrison was friends with Dylan -- they co-write a few songs together, including "I'll Have You Anytime" -- but that doesn't change my respect for this record.

I don't always get Dylan. I think his music needs more time to sit down and deconstruct. I don't have the time for that (especially with some Elvis -- music with which I'm not familiar -- coming up), nor am I smart enough to do so. (The weakest things I write will probably be about Dylan. Please comment if you have more to say about "Blonde on Blonde.")

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