1001 Albums: Blonde on Blonde

#64

Album_64_Original

Artist: Bob Dylan

Album: Blonde on Blonde

Year: 1966

Length: 72:57

Genre: Folk Rock

“Well, Shakespeare, he’s in the alley
With his pointed shoes and his bells
Speaking to some French girl
Who says she knows me well
And I would send a message
To find out if she’s talked
But the post office has been stolen
And the mailbox is locked
Oh, Mama, can this really be the end
To be stuck inside of Mobile
With the Memphis blues again”

Remember in my last post how I talked about my Birthday always being disappointing? I honestly went into it this year with zero expectations. Removed any sign it was my birthday so I didn’t have to worry about people wishing me a Happy Birthday and just had the attitude that it was just another regular, average day. Somehow it still managed to disappoint me. All I wanted to do that night was sit back and watch a movie. That’s it. But of course, there had to be something.

The most insane thing happened right that evening. I had sat down to play with my keyboard. Right when I hit the opening chord of The Final Countdown, the power went out. Ok, I thought, no big deal, it’ll probably be back on soon. I go upstairs and find my cousins in a panic and looking outside. I go to see what’s up.

It seems there was a power surge in the power lines that made it’s way to the transformer. It wasn’t able to handle it so it blew up, cracked the pole in half and plummeted to the ground, fire burning on both ends of the cracked pole. Fire truck pulled up, police blocked the street, Hydro came to check it out. Wouldn’t be fixed until the next morning. That was it. All I wanted was to do the simplest task of watching one god damn movie and I couldn’t even been given that for my Birthday. Since I turned 19 the world was out to make sure I was disappointed on my Birthday (with the exception of my 21st Birthday which was arguably my best). I had zero expectations and I still managed to receive a surprise that would just bring that down. On top of all that, because there was no power, I managed to have some of the worst sleep ever. Already I found myself in bed at 10 pm, which is early for me and was met with non-stop waking up, tossing and turning and not one, not two, but three solid nightmares just to add the icing on the cake of what was otherwise a really lackluster Birthday.

I know in the grand scheme of things, this really isn’t a big deal. But when all you want for your Birthday is to have a good day and you can’y even get that, for just one freaking day, it really gets to you. It’s an accumulation of small annoying things that usually hit you harder than one big thing and when all you want to do is just watch a movie and can’t even be given the joy of doing that one simple thing… it’s not fun.

On a happier note, I spent the weekend on a film set, which was glorious for me. I haven’t been on one in a long time and it felt great to finally do it again. When it cam to film I had lost my confidence after a good friend of mine basically turned his back on me and made me feel like I was worthless and useless. It’s taken a lot for me to climb over that wall and move on from those negative feelings. I don’t think being on this set necessarily cured that, but it’s definitely the baby steps I need to regain that confidence back and as the weekend came to an end, I felt slightly better over all. thankfully there are many, many other shoot dates to get through, so by the end of it, I will hopefully be back to my old self.

Ok, enough about me. Let’s talk about my best friend in the whole world, Bob Dylan. I’ve really been on a good Dylan streak here, discovering the beauty and joy of his music with each of his albums I’ve stumbled upon on this list. I’ve said it before where I used to avoid his music almost like the Plague, but upon actually listening to it I realised I was so, so wrong all those years. I wish I had taken the chance on him sooner, but it’s never too late to get into it and there’s nothing wrong with having your opinions change over time, we’re only human afterall.

I was beyond excited to hear what Bob had ins tore for us this time around. What leaps and bounds had he made from his last effort? How has he evolved since Highway 61? What new things was he trying? What growth had he made?

The answer is… well, not really that much.

What? This… this was what he had for us? After the greatness that was Highway 61, I really wanted to see how he could possibly go even higher and… he didn’t really. He sort of made the same thing. Stylistically it’s really not far off from Highway 61, which was the first disappointment of the album I got. This doesn’t mean it’s bad at all, it’s still a fantastic album, just… when you’re building us up to something that should have been a major explosion and then are met with the same fireworks display you’ve already seen… it kind of feels anti-climactic. I went in expecting a piece of work that would possibly blow my mind and was met with an extension of his last album. Nothing really different. Sure, he added a few little new things here and there and his hardwork was still shining through, but… this is not what I expected from Bobby Dylan himself. But I guess that happens when you throw in too high of an expectation, you only leave room for disappointment.

There’s seems to be a pattern with me. Something I’m noticing as I go through these albums. It seems that every time I’m met with an album that’s considered the greatest of all time, I never seem to really be that into it or engaged. That was my second disappointment with this album, I wasn’t engaged at all. Except for maybe a handful of songs, I didn’t find myself really into it as much as his previous efforts. I can’t really explain why, it just didn’t really do anything for me that his last album didn’t already do. Critics have hailed this album as one of the greatest of all time and just like Revolver I find myself questioning that. Why is this one his greatest? What exactly is the criteria for deciding what makes a “One of the greatest albums of all time”?

This is the tough part. I thought the more music I listened to and the more I began to learn about it, it would become easier to understand it. If anything, the more I go into it the harder it’s becoming to understand what really makes something great. Music is heavily subjective, everyone gets engaged with different things. There’s so many different genres out there with different styles and different rules and different formulas that it makes it impossible to say what really makes great music great music. I mean, you really have to look at the music within it’s genre, kind of like movies. You can’t critique a horror film the same way you do a Drama. They’re vastly different genres with their own tropes that you can’t compare the two (which is primarily why Horror films usually get the short end of the stick because people look at them compared to Citizen Cane rather than their respective genre). Now for sure there’s a lot that goes into deciphering what makes an album great: The Musicianship, the performance, the emotion, the lyrical content, the arrangements (just to name a few). But even then you always meet exceptions that are praised for breaking the rules, for simplicity, for trying new weird things never seen before. Take all this into consideration, how do we know what truly is great? How do we tell when a critic is being genuine, pretentious, against the grain or just full of shit? When you see an album getting praised by one critic but despised by another… who is right?

See what I mean by this is getting way more complicated than it should be? I guess at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter whether you thought something was good or bad, what truly matters is why. The why is the most important. It’s so easy to go “I didn’t like it” but if you don’t give any reasons other than “I just didn’t like it so it must be bad” there’s really no weight to what you’re saying. The why is what draws the line between good criticism and bad criticism. Two people might disagree with each other but if they both have reasons they can explain than neither of them are wrong. Someone might like the an album for the exact same reasons that someone else didn’t like it. Who is wrong? Well, no one, because it honestly always comes down to opinion. The only factor here is can you back up your opinion and explain it?

That’s not always easy to do. Sometimes you just plain don’t like something and can’t put your finger on why. You struggle to find words to express you’re dislike and can’t seem to do it, which is beyond frustrating, especially when everyone else thinks it’s great.

So, here’s where I stand with Blonde on Blonde. I think it’s a damn good album, but I do think Highway 61 should have gotten the praise this one was getting instead. I didn’t really feel like Bob Dylan was making any jumps forward with this album and was just continuing what he started on his previous one. I mean, there’s definitely some cool things he was trying out here. Blonde on Blonde is one of the first double LP’s, which in itself is a feat, and he incorporated some carnivalesque, marching band stylings in some songs, which was definitely new for him (whether you liked it or not). He left New York and went down to Nashville to record, putting himself in a fish out of water circumstance. And whether it has any worth or not, this was Dylan’s perfect vision. This was exactly the album Dylan had wanted to make forever and it came out exactly how it was in his head. This, in some ways, can be considered THE Dylan album since it’s the music that has been playing in his head that he’s been trying to recreate forever.

However, just because it’s your perfect album as an artist, doesn’t mean you made a perfect album for the consumer. His vision was finally out there and to him, on a personal level, it will always be the perfect album.

If you’re not Dylan however, the opening song could be a huge turn-off. it does absolutely nothing to set the tone of the album and it feels almost as if it’s a false start or a cold open. Unrelated but still part of it. Once you get past the carnival music that is that song (Unless you like it and that’s your thing), you can finally understand the mood of the album hitting the next one. The first half of this album is truly the remarkable part. Here we’re met with the strongest songs on the album and the ones that will hit you emotionally in the strongest way. With One of Us Must Know, the upbeat yet sad I Want You (Classic Dylan), the angsty yet beautifully done Stuck Inside a Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again (Easily one of his strongest songs, ever), and even the satirical and humourous Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat, which isn’t his strongest but is definitely a ton of fun and comical enough to get you laughing. Critics praise Visions of Johanna as being his masterpiece to which I say, ” Sure, Ok. If you say so.” I have nothing to say or add about that one, so I’ll just go with it.

What really lost me was the second half, for the most part it felt like Dylan just going through the motions, doing what he does best and ultimately being relatively forgettable in the grand scheme of things. Especially when you have the rest of his catalogue running through your head. The final song on the album Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands, comes across as an impressive feat. Dylan created a song for his wedding and this was the result, 11 minutes of just pure feeling and beauty. Unfortunately, this would have hit a higher note for me if it didn’t come across as Dylan trying to create another Desolation Row. As much as this song can stand on it’s own as a great piece of work, it just feels too similar to Desolation Row. As it was playing, I kept thinking to myself that I should just put on Desolation Row instead if I wanted to listen to 11 minutes of Dylan just rambling on. He seemingly was just trying to rehash what made Highway 61 so great and even though this struck a chord with so many people, this is ultimately why it disappointed me.

So, is it his greatest? Not to me, but it definitely ranks up there as some of his best. Definitely a little overrated, but still deserves the praise it gets for being a good album. It was a solid end to a trilogy of Folk Rock that Dylan set out to make and concludes it all nicely. The three albums really do work as a whole and when put together I’m sure make for one hell of a journey. I shouldn’t have gone in with such high expectations, but then again, it is Bob Dylan, we shouldn’t expect any less from him.

Song of Choice: I Want You

-Bosco

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1001 Albums: Highway 61 Revisited

#58

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Artist: Bob Dylan

Album: Highway 61 Revisited

Year: 1965

Length: 51:26

Genre: Rock and Roll/Folk Rock

“How does it feel, how does it feel?
To have on your own, with no direction home
Like a complete unknown, like a rolling stone”

Driving down the highway.

Traffic stops to a crawl.

25 minute drive is now almost an hour long.

No sight of change in the conditions.

Google maps doesn’t have a quicker route.

It’s getting hot in the car.

Air conditioning blasting.

Was a looooong day, fatigue kicking in hard.

Want to get home and lie down now.

Only solace in this time of need: Bobby Dylan.

That’s right, as I was stuck in traffic after driving Sandra to the bus station, the only thing keeping me awake and sane was this album. Originally I just thought it’d be a great opportunity to continue listening to the albums on the list, for once I might actually get to sit through one in one sitting rather than multiple listens. So far, I’ve really liked Bob Dylan and have been pleasantly surprised with every album that has been thrown my way by him. Each one getting better and better. And when I thought “There’s no way he can top Bringin’ It All Back Home, along comes this one.

Is it safe to call Bob Dylan a musical genius at this point? I never use this term ever, and there was a point in my life where I avoided Bob Dylan because I thought I’d hate it so much. But I was wrong, very wrong indeed. He only seems to get better and better with time, which is an incredible feat considering he started with a high. How does he keep doing it?

One word: Evolution.

Bob Dylan doesn’t stay the same. He evolves drastically with every album, trying new things but still keeping his Bobby Dylan flair. This time he decided to take even more steps to distance himself from his folk sounding roots that made him famous and went with a full studio band to record this album. This, obviously, didn’t go well with his big fans. He was even famously booed at The Newport Folk Festival just for even daring to do something different and evolve his musical stylings. Fucking shocking, I know. I mean, how dare he try and become a better musician and do new and exciting things? He should just be stuck in one place and create the same album over and over again to please the crazy fans. I can’t imagine what would have happened to Bob Dylan if he kept producing folk albums with just him and an acoustic guitar, I feel it just wouldn’t have had the same impact. I’m sure it would have been great, but seeing how Bob Dylan was getting bored with himself, I doubt he would have gone any further if he was stuck in the same place.

Did you know that? He was actually getting fed up with himself. He was doing so many shows that he couldn’t stand listening to himself sing. He felt like he was in a sort of rut and was losing his passion for the music. Because of this he puked out a super long poem of sorts that just spewed all his feelings into words. Apparently this was enough to get him back to enjoying his music once again. He would reduce this vomit into a smaller form and it would become the first song on the album: Like a Rolling Stone. I knew I felt a sense of deeper sadness within the song that was hard to point out. At first I couldn’t tell if he was being sincere or mocking people who are feeling lost. But it seems sincere was the right mood (but I wouldn’t put it by him to make fun of himself while he’s at it).

 

It seems too that Dylan had a double meaning when he came up with the title for the album. It wasn’t just his own revisiting of the famous Highway that got him back in the mood to make music but was also his way of creating a throwback to the classic Blues musicians of older days. You see, Highway 61 actually passed by the birthplaces of many famous and influential musicians including Muddy Waters, Son House, Elvis Presley and Charley Patton. It was also, famously, where Bessie Smith died in a car crash and where Robert Johnson was believed to selling his soul to the devil at the crossroads of route 49 and Highway 61. To Dylan, this was more than just revisiting a place that he felt one with and that he described as being a part of him and running through his veins, this was an ode to those musicians and their music.

That’s what he does best on this album, he blends good old blues styling with his poetic nuances and lyrical cynicism of the modern day america. This is really what sets this album apart from his previous efforts. He’s continuously trying to distance himself form his folk roots, which has alienated his fan base increasingly. But what’s great about him is he doesn’t care. He’s in it for the love of the music and doesn’t cater to what the fans want but what he feels will make him happiest. That being said, he still retains his dark sense of humour and cynical look of America as he continues to speak as the voice of the troubled youth (even if at this point he’ll never admit that’s what he’s doing). The themes of fear and anxiety of society are even grander in this album and he even gets a little more personal with it. Songs like Like A Rolling Stone, which captured his feelings of being lost at that point in time musically, and Ballad of a Thin Man, which was his response to the media’s expectations of him and not understanding who he was and what he was doing musically. Whereas before he would capture a moment in America and ramble on about the issues at hand, here we see him mixing in personal conflict in a more direct way, which not only adds an extra layer to his lyrics but also creates a sense that he is being more vulnerable than before and opening up in a bigger way. This creates music that is still protesting but a much more pure and innocent type of protest compared to his more punk attitude of earlier works.

We also find Dylan at his most incomprehensible so far. Here is the voice I knew him to have. The typical Dylan drawl that doesn’t sing but just sort of speaks with weird intonations and with a slur that makes it hard to actually understand what he’s saying half the time. The biggest show of this Dylan characteristic was most definitely his final song on the album, Desolation Row. 11 minutes of pure Bob Dylan rambling, where he stripped away the rest of the band and went for his old school-sound of pure folk. Just him and his guitar, riffing away and rambling on and on, creating a portrait of 1960’s america. Upon first listen this sounds like the most incomprehensible and non-nonsensical song ever. It’s constant references to famous figures, political and pop culture, and strung together with non-linear storytelling and often times pure non-sequiters. In the hands of anyone else this would have been terrible, random for the sake of being random, but in Bob Dylan’s hands he creates a somewhat non-sequiter masterpiece that definitely requires multiple listenings before you can even grasp what he’s getting at with it. I’m sure if I took the time to sit and really look at the lyrics, I mean take a long, hard look at them, I can take something away from it.

That’s really what’s remarkable about this album. It’s not a one-time listening album. It’s one you have to listen to multiple times to truly enjoy and get the most out of it. That’s always the sign of a great piece of art, one that gets better the more you experience it. It’s fine if you didn’t get something the first time around, you might notice something new the next time and the next and the next and hey maybe even the 20th time! That’s always a fun experience, when there’s something you’ve experienced so many damn times and you’re still experiencing new things, it’s really a magical sort of feeling. We all like that feeling of discovery, and I’m sure the next time I listen to this album (If I ever do… probably… maybe) I’m sure I’ll experience that as well.

 

Song of Choice: Tombstone Blues

-Bosco

 

1001 Albums: Bringing It All Back Home

#50

Album_50_Original

Artist: Bob Dylan

Album: Bringing It All Back Home

Year: 1965

Length: 47:14

Genre: Folk Rock

 

“Oh, get born, keep warm
Short pants, romance
Learn to dance, get dressed, get blessed
Try to be a success
Please her, please him, buy gifts
Don’t steal, don’t lift
Twenty years of schoolin’
And they put you on the day shift
Look out kid
They keep it all hid”

 

Big changes are happening in my life. I’ve recently made some big decisions that will change everything as I know it. It was a long time coming, but it’s something I knew I had to do and am happy I decided to do. You see, for awhile I feel I’ve been stuck in some sort of rut. Things just haven’t been going well in general and I feel it’s for a variety of reasons. I just felt stuck. Stuck where I am, stuck in progress and stuck in motion. I feel difficulty moving forward where I’m at these days and it gets tougher and tougher as I feel I’m digging myself into a deeper hole I can’t get out of. I’ve been in Montreal all my life and have lived with my parents this whole time, so I kind of got stuck in this routine and never really noticed that transition from child to adult. And now that I’m really starting to feel it I realise how stuck I really am and the only way to move forward is by making big changes in my life. So here it is: I’ve left my job and am moving to Toronto.

Big change I know. I’m not just moving out, I’m moving to a completely different city. Quitting of the job was more a result of that choice and not the other way around, but was something I still felt I had to do. It was time to stop being unhappy and start pursing the things I really wanted out of life. No more time wasting, It’s time for me to go and grab life by the balls and tug as hard as possible (that’s how the expression works right?). I love Montreal, I love it with all my heart and it will always be my home, but things have become to toxic for me here. It’s time to move on with a fresh start, a clean state, a new me (but still keeping the good stuff of the old me) with a new attitude. That’s what I have to do.

Friday was officially my last day of work and I decided to end it in style. I arrived for my last day in full Liederhosen garb. If you don’t believe me, here’s a picture to prove it:

bosco liederhosen

Let’s just say nobody expected to see what they saw and it was a great icebreaker for employees I never had the chance to talk to (a little too late, but whatever). It was a hit and brought smiles to people’s faces, which is really all I could have hoped for. There’s a story behind my decision to wear this specific outfit, but that’s for another time. My day ended with lots of beer and tears but I know I’m making a step forward to my personal future and I feel I’ve made the right decision.

It was incredibly fitting that the next album I would listen to was Bobby Dylan’s Bringing It All Back Home. It’s funny how I have encountered quite a few albums that were incredibly fitting to what I was going through at the time of listening to it. But isn’t that was life is all about? Happy coincidences that we can’t explain? I’d like to think so, definitely makes things way more interesting.

How was this album fitting exactly? Well, just like I am currently going through major changes in my life, this was the album where Bob Dylan made some big musical changes in his career. This was around the time when he famously went electric, which was his way of distancing himself from his protest songs and folk acoustic roots, but also alienated him from his hardcore fans who saw this as Dylan selling out. Understandably so, it seems a major part of this decision came from when he famously met with The Beatles for the first time. They had a chat, smoked some weed and apparently influenced each other in many ways. The Beatles would go on to explore more surreal lyrics and introspection while Dylan would start incorporating rock n roll sensibilities into his music, hiring an electric band to back him on this album. The fans were justifiably angry. Rock was against the ideals they had and saw in Dylan and they felt betrayed.

But fuck them, Dylan was doing his own thing and he did it pretty damn well. What we have on this album is a way more polished Dylan, musically, and we see him taking those steps to distance himself from the folk music that started it all for him. Lyrically he is straying away from his straight-forward narratives and delves into more poetic verses, incorporating metaphors and symbolic imagery weaved seamlessly with his storytelling. He still manages to keep a lot of the stylings that made him famous from Freewheelin’, especially on the acoustic side of the album on songs such as, Mr. Tambourine Man and It’s Alright Ma (Im Only Bleeding), but it’s really the electric side that dominates the album as not only the strongest material on the album but also marks the moment that Dylan made it clear that he was making a change.

Songs like Maggie’s Farm and Outlaw Blues outline this change with clear lyrics signalling that he’s putting down the protest signs and moving more to a bohemian lifestyle. Bohemian themes really seems to dominate this album, from She Belongs to Me to On the Road Again, it’s clear he has some sort of fascination with it. Listening to it it’s hard to tell if he’s praising the lifestyle or openly mocking it. Knowing Dylan, he’s probably combined the two to create songs that exude introspective self-mocking. I don’t know if that’s the case but it’s definitely the vibe he gives off. He manages to capture that bitter-sweet feeling that he mastered in Freewheelin’ again here and it’s clear that Dylan is definitely the master of combining sadness and happiness to create a single cohesive feeling.

This is shown damn perfectly in the opening song (and the famous one too) Subterranean Homesick Blues. Keeping in tune of what he’s best at, it’s another rambling diatribe about the system and how society is affected by it. He may have made attempts to distance himself from the protesting lifestyle, but I think he will always be a punk at heart whether he likes it or not. The real difference here compared to his past efforts is that he sounds more apathetic. Whereas he expressed fear and anger and voiced what was going through everyone’s minds during times of cold war, here he sounds way more cynical about it all and says it how it is rather than tries to create a viewpoint. He’s not trying to express his feelings but rather just speaking the harsh reality of it all in an almost matter-of-fact way, which, if anything, is what makes the song and this album so damn good. The apathy only strengthens what he is trying to say and doesn’t alienate the listener in any way (Unless you were one of his hardcore fans who felt betrayed that he would dare not be protester, rabble rabble rabble). But to the average listener who is not a total nutcase, he comes across as more personable in a strange way and I personally found myself connecting with him way more here (But maybe it’s because I’m more of a cynic, I’m definitely not a protester).

I do have to talk about one song that stood out for me (there always seems to be one with Dylan): Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream. This song was everything I could hope for with Bobby Dylan and it’s what I had originally understood him to be when I first heard of him. The song starts with a false start. Dylan begins his acoustic play but immediately stops, laughs and breaking the fourth wall, decides to restart again, but this time with the electric band backing him up. It was so absurd and yet so beautiful. Here it was, his official fuck you to his old ways. No words needed, he just had to stop the song and replace the acoustic guitar with an electric one. Simple, yet effective. What follows is an almost non-sensical, surreal, non-linear, completely broken rambling retelling of the discovery of America. It’s almost as if it’s being told through the lens of a dream, with bizarre occurrences and events stringing us along as he mumbles his way through in the way only Dylan himself can mumble through a song. This was the Dylan voice I had heard of in many parodies and homages to the man. This was it, right here. I found it and now understood everything.

It was amazing… Please, never change.

Song of Choice: Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream

-Bosco

 

 

 

 

1001 Albums: The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan

# 36

album_36_original

Artist: Bob Dylan

Album:The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan

Year: 1963

Length: 50:04

Genre: Folk

 

 

“Yes, how many times can a man turn his head
Pretending he just doesn’t see?
The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind”

From one musical icon to the next. Although, this time around I have much nicer words to share about Mr. Bobby Dylan than I did with The Beatles. Don’t worry, I won’t be making any ridiculous comparisons this time and I’ll keep Mr. Bobbity Bobby Boo Dylan in tact. I actually had finished this album a few days ago, but took awhile to getting around to writing this post (for reasons I’ll get to soon). The main reason was the length of the album, which I was surprised to see was about 50 minutes long, sure as hell didn’t feel that way, felt like I zoomed through it (which is funny because it took me multiple listenings to finally get through it).

The first instance, which got me through about three songs, was followed up with some channel surfing. We stumbled upon Forrest Gump and it was the scene in the bar where Jenny sings Blowin’ in the Wind, basically naked, with only her guitar covering her. The coincidence of this was too much for me and I figured this was a sign. A sign for what? I’m really not sure, hard to tell exactly what the universe was trying to tell me. I kept talking about how naked she was and Sandra was having none of it.

“If you want to see her naked that bad, go on the Internet, I’m sure you can find her naked somewhere. Come on, Jonathan”

I’m a simple man, what can I say, but a greater power was not really telling me anything other than damn, what a coincidence. Maybe it was Bobbylini Dylan’s philosophical nature that rubbed off on me from that song and I was looking way too much into it all, but I can guarantee I immediately forgot about it after we stumbled upon Lumberjack Olympics (Basically muscly, sweaty men wielding axes and chopping wood in competitive style) and that just intrigued me way more than any coincidence could.

It’s funny, the opposite effect actually occured when entering this album than The Beatles one. For the most part, everyone knows my relationship with Folk music. I respect it, but I don’t like it, never did. I could never get into folk music and for the most part I always find myself bored listening to it. It’s purely a personal taste. I can definitely see why people love it and get into, I just, for whatever reason, never could.

I, obviously, knew of Bobby Booby Dylan and for the longest time always made an effort to sort of avoid him. I’ll be honest I was very judgemental when it came to it and I did have an ex who loved him a ton (which didn’t help since our musical preferences clashed horribly, so it made me associate Bobilobba Ding Dong Dylan with that). My initial feeling was, I was not going to enjoy it and went in with that.

I was wrong, so terribly and happily wrong. Whereas The Beatles I went in with the attitude that I’m listening to the greatest band in the world and being disappointed, this time I went in thinking I won’t enjoy it and found myself loving it. Yes, believe it or not, I loved a folk album. I was engaged and stuck the whole way through, Bobbity boopity boppity Dylan’s cynical lyrics and cheerful guitar playing resonating with me more than I expected to. I didn’t think I’d be immersed as much I was in a Bob Bob the Bob Dylan’s music, but I was, I really was. Shocking I know (for those who know me, for those who don’t… be shocked for the sake of it).

So, I’m going to have a moment of honesty and, I guess, Vulnerability right here. Remember when I said it took me awhile to get myself to write this post? Well, the main reason for that was because I was actually scared to write it. Yeah. Every other post I was always ready to jump in and get it going, even when I was saying things I knew people would disagree with in the last post. This one, I just couldn’t get myself to sit and write it. It was strange, but I understood why (having grown to understand my fears and feelings and be able to pinpoint the root cause of it all). The main reason was because I felt I wouldn’t be able to give this album justice. I can’t really talk about folk music, which after the very underwhelming and pretty lackluster post I wrote on Joan Baez, I knew I would have a difficult time writing about this one, which sort of created a wall for me. It was odd because for the most part I was always able to crank something out, especially when I had no idea what I was talking about (most of the jazz albums), but this… Mr. BOB DYLAN made me nervous. Maybe because he’s such a big icon, I don’t know.

But the writing must go on, not going to give up because things get tough. This is not only for my readers but mostly for me, gotta just sit down and do it. So, I’ll do my best. here goes nothing….

This is a damn good album. If I could summon the perfect words to talk about it, I would, but for now I’ll have to go with my limited vocabulary. All these years I didn’t give Bobby Robby Dylan a chance and I’ll admit it was unfair of me to think so negatively of him when I didn’t even know him. It’s hard to make an album that at once is incredibly sad but still feels happy, but by-god he managed to do that. That’s really the vibe of the entire album, it’s bittersweet from start to finish. The cheerful guitar playing never distracts from the sadder, philosophical, cynical and at times political lyrics, but rather supports it in an incredibly beautiful way.

From what I gathered, this was the album that showed the world that Bobbin’ Dylan was a poet and it cemented him as a songwriter who wrote lyrics with substance and depth. It blew him up from young folk singer to Folk Icon and he even became recognised as the spokesperson for all the disaffected youth in America (even though he would go on to hate this title and try to stray away from it).

Whether he liked it or not, there was no denying he tapped into the minds of the young adults of his generation. His first intention may have been to write music that showed his feelings and fears of the world around him, but without realising he was actually voicing what everyone was feeling. He may not have wanted the title but his material managed to resonate with everyone around him. He was the voice they needed, even if he didn’t want it. It doesn’t end there either. His writing style was vague enough that it made the songs incredibly timeless. A lot of the songs on this album are arguably more relevant and poignant today than they were back in 1963.

Oxford Town came to mind, telling the story of a brown-faced boy and the discrimination he was facing. The ambiguous ending of a fight and two dead leaves a lot to the imagination to the fate of our protagonist and oddly still fits here today in 2017. With everything happening in the world, a story of a brown-faced boy facing dangerous discrimination in small town USA seems to be appropriate as a modern day “protest song”. With fears of the other being strong in North America and my best friend being a brown man (who I can guarantee is definitely some delicious milk chocolate to me) it struck a slight chord with me. My best friend isn’t muslim but with the rampant fear that’s growing and growing, it can easily happen that someone could judge him too quickly and who knows what could happen. It’s a scary world we’ve come to and I hope it will be kind to him.

Although, is life really ever kind to anyone? Not really.

I really don’t want to get political with this (especially since in general, I’m not a political person. I usually keep those ideas to myself and never get involved). But it’s hard not to with Bobbin’ For Apples Dylan. He basically popularized the protest song and brought it to the mainstream. There was no other man who could sit down at a concert, with a devil-may-care attitude, and spout political lyrics to a mass audience. At least not in those days. I feel it’s a safe bet to say that Bobber Robber Dylan was amongst the first punks to hit the music scene. Yeah, Punk way before punk was even a thing yet. If you think about it, he basically was. It doesn’t sound like the Punk we’ve grown to accept as the punk genre, but the ideology and attitude of one was definitely there and if you don’t believe me, just listen to Master of War and you definitely feel that biting commentary punks would adapt in their lyrics.

There’s so many highs in this album, I actually feel like I could write an article for each one. But I won’t… at least not anytime soon. Who knows, I might revisit this album one day to give each song a proper look at, but for now, I’ll keep it brief because I still have about 964 albums to get through.

I had forgotten that he was the mastermind behind Blowin’ in the Wind. If you also didn’t know that, it’s totally ok, because Peter, Paul and Mary were the ones that had the hit on their hand with it and it’s most often associated with them. Having heard the two I can say, their version was definitely more accessible, but it doesn’t hit that level of cycnicism that Bob’s Burgers Dylan delivers. Theirs may have sounded pretty, but Bob’s delivery of the lyrics has a much more genuine feel to it as if you can hear him actually contemplating these questions with no answers and sighing at the misery of the world, fed up yet still going because there isn’t really much he can do. It’s more powerful than you’d expect.

It doesn’t end there (of course not). His song Talkin’ World War III Blues leaves quite an impact and has the same effect that Oxford Town had. It’s funny how this song from 1963 feels way more relevant today as we seemingly inch closer and closer to the possibility of World War III. When Bob wrote this, it was during the Cold War and fear of nuclear war was damn strong. Everyone felt like the world would just blow up at any second. It never happened, thankfully, but damn is that fear just getting stronger and stronger as every day goes by. We all feel it to some extent and at one point or another we have all wondered what would happen if it did. The song was a ramblin’ style song, that he improvised and just sort of ranted about his feelings of it all, but once again, he managed to speak what everyone was thinking and I don’t think he ever thought his words would feel relevant to a young 24 year old 54 years later. When he sings about imagining what the world would be like as the lone survivor and asking others that he’ll put them in his dream if they put him in theirs couldn’t have been more relateable to me, even if it tried. We are all the main characters in each of our stories, and when the world goes down, we would all like to think we’re the ones who would survive and come out alive and well. Unfortunately, we don’t know what will happen, so we only hope that we’re still a part of it in the grand scheme of things. I know I do.

As I said before, Bob Xavier Dylan managed to capture a bittersweet vibe throughout the entire album. Like the song before where he was rambling on about his fears of nuclear war, he still managed to make it feel more upbeat than it really was. For me, the standout song that beautifully captured this vibe to perfection was Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right. One of the few love songs on the album, it was everything every love song should aspire to be. Love songs are tricky to write, they can easily enter the “Lovey gooey cheesy” territory and the “I’m whiny and sad, break-up” territory. Bob 2 Casale Dylan draws the line in the middle somewhere and walks it masterfully. This is one of the best love songs I have ever experienced and what really sets it apart is both Dylan’s lyrics and his delivery and tone. Lyrically the whole song has the singer wallowing ins elf-pity about his break-up. It goes through the regular points you’d expect, some pointing and blaming, some sad revelations, the whole “I’m like this because of you, we could have had it all” type of stuff, but it’s completely turned on it’s head when he utters the title: “But don’t think twice, It’s all right”. Simple, but packs a punch. It doesn’t matter how angry, sad, upset he is about the break-up. It doesn’t matter if he growls, spits, yells, cries the lyrics. He’s having a hard time with it, but he’s also accepted it. Telling his love that she has made her decision and shouldn’t look back on it is one hell of a thing to admit and accept, especially in heartbreak. You’d never see Adele and Taylor Swift sing something like that (especially since they’re always so hung up about their exes). This is an incredibly mature and adult break-up. He reminds us that break-ups are two-sided and the singer is not the only person going through it. We often forget that the person doing the breaking is also someone who has feelings and made the decision for a reason, but it’s easy tog et lost in our own emotions feeling our sadness is above theirs for being on the receiving end of the break-up. He takes her decision into consideration and basically tells her not to change her mind just because he’s feeling a certain way. What really brings the song to perfection is the cheery guitar playing that counter-acts the sad acceptance in the lyrics, bringing that bittersweet feeling that supports the theme of the song. Without it it may have been another sad song, but being bittersweet is exactly what the song was going for and he did it incredibly well.

I never thought I’d be this into Bob Dylan but I’m happy I finally got around to listening to him. I can admit that I was wrong all these years and it’s one of the few moments that I am happy to be wrong.

Does this change my feelings toward folk music in general? Not really, I still find folk music hard to sit through, but at least I have a taste of it that I could hold on my tongue.

Or ears… music, you know?

Song of Choice: Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right

-Bosco

P.s. If you’re wondering, the Bob Dylan nicknames wasn’t intentional, I just started doing them and couldn’t stop. I have no reason or explanation for them, it just came to me in the moment and I went with it. So there.