Category Archives: Bob Dylan albums

August 30: Bob Dylan released Highway 61 Revisited in 1965

Bob_Dylan_-_Highway_61_Revisited

 

August 30: Bob Dylan released Highway 61 Revisited in 1965

“I never wanted to write topical songs, have you heard my last two records, Bringing It All Back Home and Highway 61? It’s all there. That’s the real Dylan.”
~Bob Dylan (Frances Taylor Interview, Aug 1965)

[Highway 61] Oh yes, it goes from where I used to live… I used to live related to that highway. It ran right through my home town in Minnesota. I traveled it for a long period of time
actually. It goes down the middle of the country, sort of southwest…. lot of famous people came off that highway.
~Bob Dylan (John Cohen And Happy Traum Interview, June/July 1968)

Dylan’s sixth album and his first fully fledged eagle-flight into rock. Revolutionary and stunning, not just for its energy, freshness and panache but in its vision: fusing radical electric music—electric music as the
embodiment of our whole out-of-control, nervouenergy-fuelled, chaotic civilization—with lyrics that were light-years ahead of anyone else’s, Dylan here unites the force of blues-based rock’n’roll with the power of poetry.
~Michael Gray (Bob Dylan Encyclopedia)

Like a Rolling Stone:

How does it feel
How does it feel
To be without a home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone?

From Wikipedia:

Released August 30, 1965
Recorded Columbia Studio A, 799 Seventh Avenue, New York, June 15 – August 4, 1965
Genre Rock, folk rock
Length 51:26
Label Columbia
Producer Bob Johnston, Tom Wilson on “Like a Rolling Stone”

Highway 61 Revisited is the sixth studio album by singer-songwriter Bob Dylan. It was released in August 1965 by Columbia Records. On his previous album, Bringing It All Back Home, Dylan devoted Side One of the album to songs accompanied by an electric rock band, and Side Two to solo acoustic numbers. For Highway 61 Revisited, Dylan used rock backing on every track, except for the closing 11-minute acoustic song, “Desolation Row”. Critics have written that Dylan’s ability to combine driving, complex, blues-based rock music with the power of poetry made Highway 61 Revisited one of the most influential albums ever recorded.

bob dylan highway 61 album

Leading off with his hit single of that summer, “Like a Rolling Stone”, the album features many songs that have been acclaimed as classics and that Dylan has continued to perform live over his long career, including “Highway 61 Revisited”, “Ballad of a Thin Man”, and “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues”. Dylan named the album after one of the great North American arteries, which connected his birthplace in Minnesota to southern cities famed for their musical heritage, including St. Louis, Memphis, and New Orleans.

Highway 61 Revisited peaked at number three in the United States charts and number four in the United Kingdom. The album has received multiple accolades and was ranked number four on Rolling Stone‘s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. The single “Like a Rolling Stone” reached number two in the US charts and number four in the UK. It has been described by critics as Dylan’s magnum opus and was number one on Rolling Stone‘s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list. Two further songs, “Desolation Row”, and “Highway 61 Revisited”, were listed at number 185 and number 364 respectively.

bob dylan 1965 highway 61

Ballad of a Thin Man:

Because something is happening here
But you don’t know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones?

Background:

In May 1965, Dylan returned from his tour of England feeling tired and dissatisfied with his material. “I was going to quit singing. I was very drained… I was playing a lot of songs I didn’t want to play,” Dylan told Nat Hentoff in 1966.

“It’s very tiring having other people tell you how much they dig you if you yourself don’t dig you.”

Out of this dissatisfaction, Dylan wrote an extended piece of verse which Dylan described as a “long piece of vomit”. He refined this long poem into a song consisting of four verses and a chorus—”Like a Rolling Stone”. 

Dylan told Hentoff that the process of writing and recording “Like a Rolling Stone” washed away this dissatisfaction, and renewed his enthusiasm for creating music. Speaking of the breakthrough of writing that song, forty years later, Dylan told Robert Hilburn in 2004,

“It’s like a ghost is writing a song like that… You don’t know what it means except the ghost picked me to write the song.”

Highway 61 Revisited was recorded in two blocks of recording sessions, which took place in Studio A of Columbia Records in New York City, located at 799 Seventh Avenue, just north of West 52nd Street. The first session, June 15 and June 16, was produced by Tom Wilson and resulted in the single, “Like a Rolling Stone”. On July 25, Dylan performed his controversial electric set at the Newport Folk Festival, where some sections of the crowd booed his performance. Four days after Newport, Dylan returned to the recording studio. From July 29 to August 4, Dylan and his band completed recording Highway 61 Revisited, but under the supervision of a new producer, Bob Johnston.

bob dylan highway 61 studio

Track listing:

Side one
1. “Like a Rolling Stone” 6:09
2. “Tombstone Blues” 5:58
3. “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry” 4:09
4. “From a Buick 6” 3:19
5. “Ballad of a Thin Man” 5:58

Side two
6. “Queen Jane Approximately” 5:31
7. “Highway 61 Revisited” 3:30
8. “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” 5:31
9. “Desolation Row”

—-

My ratings (0-10):

Bob_Dylan studio 1965

Reception:

  • Singer-songwriter Phil Ochs told Broadside magazine, immediately after the record’s release, that Dylan had “produced the most important and revolutionary album ever made”. Speaking to Anthony Scaduto five years later, Ochs said, “I put on Highway 61 and I laughed and said it’s so ridiculous. It’s impossibly good, it just can’t be that good. How can a human mind do this?
  • The album cemented Dylan’s mastery of a new genre—combining verbal complexity with a hard rock sound. One 1965 reviewer wrote: “Bob Dylan used to sound like a lung cancer victim singing Woody Guthrie. Now he sounds like a Rolling Stone singing Immanuel Kant“.
  • The album was a hit, peaking at number 3 on the Billboard 200 chart of top albums. In August 1967, Highway 61 was certificated as a gold record.
  • Highway 61 Revisited has remained among the most highly acclaimed of Dylan’s works. Scaduto, Dylan’s first serious biographer, wrote that it may be “one of the most brilliant pop records ever made. As rock, it cuts through to the core of the music—a hard driving beat without frills, without self-consciousness.” Commenting on Dylan’s imagery, Scaduto wrote: “Not since Rimbaud has a poet used all the language of the street to expose the horrors of the streets, to describe a state of the union that is ugly and absurd.”
  • Dylan critic Michael Gray called Highway 61 “revolutionary and stunning, not just for its energy and panache but in its vision: fusing radical, electrical music … with lyrics that were light years ahead of anyone else’s; Dylan here unites the force of blues-based rock’n’roll with the power of poetry. Rock culture, in an important sense, the 1960s, started here.”
  • In 1995 Highway 61 Revisited was named the fifth greatest album of all time in a poll conducted by Mojo magazine. 
  • In 2001, the TV network VH1 placed it at number 22. 
  • In 2003, Rolling Stone magazine, describing Highway 61 as “one of those albums that, quite simply, changed everything”, placed it at number four in its list of the greatest albums of all time. 
  • The Rolling Stone list of the 500 greatest songs of all time ranked “Highway 61 Revisited”, “Desolation Row” and “Like a Rolling Stone” at #364, #185 and #1, respectively.

…. The whole rock culture, the whole post-BEATLE pop-rock world, and so in an important sense the 1960s, started here. It isn’t only ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ and the unprecedentedly long Armageddon epic ‘Desolation Row’: it’s every song. It’s the carving out of a new emotional correspondence with a new chaos-reality. There it all was in one bombshell of an album, for a generation who only recognized what world they were living in when Dylan illuminated it so piercingly.
~Michael Gray (Bob Dylan Encyclopedia)

Desolation Row:

And the riot squad they’re restless
They need somewhere to go
As Lady and I look out tonight
From Desolation Row

Personnel:

  • Bob Dylan – guitar, harmonica, piano, vocals, liner notes, police siren
Additional musicians
  • Mike Bloomfield – guitar
  • Harvey Brooks – bass guitar
  • Bobby Gregg – drums
  • Paul Griffin – organ, piano
  • Al Kooper – organ, piano (Hohner pianet)
  • Sam Lay – drums
  • Charlie McCoy – guitar
  • Frank Owens – piano
  • Russ Savakus – bass guitar
Technical personnel
  • Bob Johnston – production
  • Daniel Kramer – cover photographer
  • Tom Wilson – production on “Like a Rolling Stone”

Album of the day – Highway 61 Revisited (1965):

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Today: Bob Dylan released Shot of Love in 1981 – 32 years ago

Bob_Dylan-Shot_Of_Love

I hear the ancient footsteps like the motion of the sea
Sometimes I turn, there’s someone there, other times it’s only me
I am hanging in the balance of the reality of man
Like every sparrow falling, like every grain of sand

Shot of Love is Bob Dylan’s 21st studio album, it was released by Columbia Records in August 1981.

It is generally considered to be Dylan’s last of a trilogy of overtly religious, Christian albums. Also, it was his first since becoming born-again to focus on secular themes, from straight-ahead love songs to an ode to the deceased comedian Lenny Bruce. Arrangements are rooted more in rock’n’roll, less in gospel than on Dylan’s previous two albums. So maybe it is more of a new start than a gospel-tinged end?

At the time of its release, Shot of Love received mixed reviews; Paul Nelson of Rolling Stone in particular savaged the album, though he did single out the last track, “Every Grain of Sand,” as a stand-out. Shot of Love, while reaching UK #6, continued Dylan’s US commercial decline, reaching #33 during a brief chart stay. By contrast, Bono of Irish band U2 described Shot of Love as one of his favourites, particularly due to Dylan’s singing ability.

“To those who care where Bob Dylan is at, they should listen to “Shot of Love.” It’s my most perfect song. It defines where I am spiritually, musically, romantically and whatever else. It shows where my sympathies lie. It’s all there in that one song.”
– Bob Dylan (NME 1983)

Shot of Love (Avignon 1981, audio) one of my favorite versions of the song, and it is so much better than the album track:

Don’t need a shot of heroin to kill my disease

Don’t need a shot of turpentine, only bring me to my knees

Don’t need a shot of codeine to help me to repent

Don’t need a shot of whiskey, help me be president

I need a shot of love.

Heart of Mine (live, Avignon, 1981), a wonderful rendition:

The song is a roller coaster of expression due to the way Dylan sings it, and due to a host of often hilarious couplets throughout the song. The musicians seem similarly inspired and give the song a feel comparable to something from Highway 61 Revisited.
– Thomas Ward (allmusic)

 

A large number of songs recorded during the Shot of Love sessions were ultimately omitted from the final album, but several outtakes later found their way into private circulation.

Best of the outtakes is Caribbean WindAngelina…follow the links to listen to some fantastic versions and read about those two gems!

A number of critics had already turned on Dylan for the evangelism of his last two albums, but the reception for Shot of Love was particularly harsh. Despite lavish praise of “Every Grain Of Sand,” Paul Nelson of Rolling Stone savaged the rest of the album. Nick Kent of New Musical Express called it “Dylan’s worst album to date.” Despite heavy touring in Europe and North America (in which all but two songs were performed), sales of Shot of Love were below CBS’s expectations. Still, in an interview taken in 1983, Dylan would describe Shot of Love as a personal favorite.

Great live version of Every Grain of Sand – Paris 84 (audio, with Mick Taylor on lead guitar):

Shot of Love finds Dylan still in born-again mode, but he’s starting to come alive again — which isn’t as much a value judgment as it is an observation that he no longer seems beholden to repeating dogma, loosening up and crafting songs again. And it’s not just that his writing is looser, the music is, too, as he lets himself — and his backing band — rock a little harder, a little more convincingly. Shot of Love still isn’t a great album, but it once again has flashes of brilliance, such as “Every Grain of Sand,” which point the way to the rebirth of Infidels.

– Stephen Thomas Erwine (allmusic)

Now here is a real gem! – The Grooms Still Waiting At The Altar – live (probably Nov 1980):

I still believe it is an underrated album, yes I know that it has been somewhat reassessed, but the new reviews normally says: “It’s not as bad as they said…”. I think that is wrong, it is in fact a very good album. Put in on, play it loud and marvel at yet another great Bob Dylan record!  And check out all these fantastic versions of Every Grain of Sand!

Album of the day:

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Today: Bob Dylan released Down In The Groove 25 years ago

Bob_Dylan_Down_In_The_Groove

“Bob’s bad stuff is better than other musicians’ best”

Down in the Groove is singer-songwriter Bob Dylan‘s 25th studio album, released by Columbia Records 30 May 1988. Egil here at Johannasvisions rate it as maybe Dylan’s lowest point. Me? I’m not so sure anymore…

It got pretty terrible reviews upon it’s release. Many reviewers compared it to his previous album, Knocked Out Loaded, and not in a favourable way.

Wikipedia:
“A highly collaborative effort, it was Dylan’s second consecutive album to receive almost unanimous negative reviews. Released during a period when his recording career was experiencing a slump, sales were disappointing, reaching only #61 in the US and #32 in the UK.”

How is it in hindsight? Was it unfairly slated? I think it’s better than reported and as usual Dylan’s standards were expected to be higher than anybody else’s. We cannot expect a masterpiece every time. Can we?

The album was delayed for more than six months and the track listing changed at least three times. The tracks that made the final album come from many different recording sessions spread out over a long time (six years?).

Rick Griffin Down in the Groove
Rick Griffin was asked by Dylan’s management to come up with a cover design for what was to be the ‘Down In The Groove’ album. Rick produced many designs and, apparently, became somewhat exasperated as his ideas were rejected and changed. This seems to have reflected the overall situation surrounding the album at the time (bonhams)

I’ve always thought of it as a strangely confusing album, but it gets less confusing with each listen session. It has some very good cover songs. Let’s Stick together opens the record in an energetic way, I would love to hear it live!

The comes the song I think is not very good at all, the cover When did you leave heaven. Very eighties drum sound, strange production, it just sounds a bit off, I don’t think the song suits Dylan, and it ends kind of funny.

Sally Sue Brown, the third track is another rockn’roll/soul standard that gets a good run through. I prefer Arthur Alexanders classic, but it is not bad at all.

The last three songs on the album are also cover songs (Ninety Miles an Hour (Down a dead end street), Shenandoah and Rank Strangers To Me, and they are all quite good actually.

I like Rank Strangers To Me best (the closing track). Dylan sings beautifully.

Let’s also include a fine live version from Wembley 1997:

Continue reading Today: Bob Dylan released Down In The Groove 25 years ago

Today: It is 50 years since Bob Dylan released The Freewheelin Bob Dylan

 

” I think it was the first time I ever heard Dylan at all… And for the rest of our three weeks in Paris, we didn’t stop playing it.” 
– John Lennon

Dylan had already moved on to other songs when his first masterpiece was released. Contrary to his first album, this album mostly has songs penned by the man himself.  With songs like Blowin’ in the Wind, Girl From The North Country, Masters Of War,  and  Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right  that are still a big part of Dylan’s concerts half a century later,  Freewheelin’ is an album whose music will live long after anyone who is  reading this post is gone.

Facts from Wikipedia: 

Studio album by Bob Dylan
Released May 27, 1963
Recorded April 24–25, July 9, October 26, November 1 and 15, December 6, 1962, and April 24, 1963 at Columbia Records Studio A, 799 Seventh Avenue, New York City
Genre Folk
Length 50:04
Label Columbia
Producer John Hammond, Tom Wilson

The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan is the second studio album by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, released in May 1963 by Columbia Records. Whereas his debut album Bob Dylan had contained only two original songs, Freewheelin’ initiated the process of writing contemporary words to traditional melodies. Eleven of the thirteen songs on the album are original compositions by Dylan. The album kicks off with “Blowin’ in the Wind”, which would become one of the anthems of the 1960s, and an international hit for folk trio Peter, Paul & Mary soon after the release of Freewheelin’. The album featured several other songs which came to be regarded as amongst Dylan’s best compositions and classics of the 1960s folk scene: “Girl from the North Country”, “Masters of War”, “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall” and “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right”.

A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall:

Dylan’s lyrics embraced stories ripped from the headlines about civil rights and he articulated anxieties about the fear of nuclear warfare. Balancing this political material were love songs, sometimes bitter and accusatory, and material that features surreal humor. Freewheelin’ showcased Dylan’s songwriting talent for the first time, propelling him to national and international fame. The success of the album and Dylan’s subsequent recognition led to his being named as “Spokesman of a Generation”, a label Dylan came to resent.

The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan reached number 22 in the US (eventually going platinum), and later became a number one hit in the UK in 1964. In 2003, the album was ranked number 97 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. In 2002, Freewheelin’ was one of the first 50 recordings chosen by the Library of Congress to be added to the National Recording Registry.

Girl from the North Country:

Even if you were among the handful of people who bought Bob Dylan’s 1962 self-titled debut, you couldn’t have predicted The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, the 1963 folkie touchstone where Dylan transformed American songwriting and blew the minds of everyone from his coffeehouse compatriots to the Beatles.

– The Rolling Stone Magazine

Album of the day @ JV:

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Today: Bob Dylan released Together Through Life in 2009 – 4 years ago

bob dylan Together Through Life

…Sure, I try to stick to the rules. Sometimes I might shift paradigms within the same song, but then that structure also has its own rules. And I combine them both, see what works and what doesn’t. My range is limited. Some formulas are too complex and I don’t want anything to do with them.
~Bob Dylan (to Bill Flanagan, in 2009)

“Dylan, who turns 68 in May, has never sounded as ravaged, pissed off and lusty”
~David Fricke (rollingstone.com)

bob dylan Together Through Life back

Together Through Life is an album that gets its hooks in early and refuses to let go. It’s dark yet comforting, with a big tough sound, booming slightly like a band grooving at a soundcheck in an empty theatre. And at its heart there is a haunting refrain. Because above everything this is a record about love, its absence and its remembrance.
~Danny Eccleston (mojo4music.com)

Beyond Here Lies Nothin’

I’m listening to Billy Joe Shaver
And I’m reading James Joyce
Some people they tell me
I got the blood of the land in my voice
~Bob Dylan (I Feel A Change Comin’ On)

Wikipedia:

Released April 28, 2009
Recorded December 2008
Genre Folk rock, blues rock, Americana
Length 45:33
Language English
Label Columbia
Producer Jack Frost (Bob Dylan pseudonym)

Together Through Life is the thirty-third studio album by singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, released in April 2009 by Columbia Records. The album debuted at number one in several countries, including the U.S.  and the UK. It is Dylan’s first number one in Britain since New Morning in 1970.

Dylan wrote all but one of the album’s songs with Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter, with whom he had previously co-written two songs on his 1988 album Down in the Groove. In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Dylan commented on the collaboration:

“Hunter is an old buddy, we could probably write a hundred songs together if we thought it was important or the right reasons were there… He’s got a way with words and I do too. We both write a different type of song than what passes today for songwriting.”

The only other writer Dylan has ever collaborated with to such a degree is Jacques Levy, with whom he wrote most of the songs on Desire (1976).

bob dylan Together Through Life inlay

Rumors of the album, reported in Rolling Stone magazine, came as a surprise, with no official press release until March 16, 2009 — less than two months before the album’s release date. Dylan produced the record under his pseudonym of Jack Frost, which he used for his previous two studio albums, “Love and Theft” and Modern Times. The album was rumored to contain “struggling love songs” and have little similarity to Modern Times.

In a conversation with music journalist Bill Flanagan, published on Bob Dylan’s official website, Flanagan suggested a similarity of the new record to the sound of Chess Records and Sun Records, which Dylan acknowledged as an effect of “the way the instruments were played.” He said that the genesis of the record was when French film director Olivier Dahan asked him to supply a song for his new road movie, My Own Love Song, which became “Life is Hard” – indeed, ‘according to Dylan, Dahan was keen to get a whole soundtrack’s worth of songs from the man’ – and “then the record sort of took its own direction.” 

Beyond Here Lies Nothin’ live 2011 Tucson, AZ:

Dylan is backed on the album by his regular touring band, plus David Hidalgo of Los Lobos and Mike Campbell of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Dylan commented on Campbell’s guitar work in his interview with Flanagan: “He’s good with me. He’s been playing with Tom for so long that he hears everything from a songwriter’s point of view and he can play most any style.”

In the interview with Bill Flanagan, Dylan discusses the only known outtake to “Together Through Life”, “Chicago After Dark”. Apparently, this song was in the running to be on the album but was left off the final version, as Flanagan talks about the song as if it is on the album. The song is not circulating among collectors.

“Bill Flanagan: In that song CHICAGO AFTER DARK, were you thinking about the new President?

Bob: Not really. It’s more about State Street and the wind off Lake Michigan and how sometimes we know people and we are no longer what we used to be to them. I was trying to go with some old time feeling that I had.”

Described at length in a 2009 interview to promote the album Together Through Life, according to Dylan, it’s about “how sometimes we know people and we are no longer what we used to be to them”. In fact, this song never existed.He made it all up. How fitting.
~Clinton Heylin (telegraph.co.uk)

Forgetful Heart, Memphis, 2011:

  • The album received two Grammy Award nominations in Best Americana Album category and “Best Solo Rock Vocal Performance” category for “Beyond Here Lies Nothin'”.
  • The album also is significant as the only album by Dylan to top the US and UK charts consecutively.
  • The album’s cover photo is the same as that on the cover of American author Larry Brown’s short story collection, Big Bad Love.

Track listing:

  1. “Beyond Here Lies Nothin'” 3:51
  2. “Life Is Hard” 3:39
  3. “My Wife’s Home Town” (Willie Dixon, Dylan, Hunter) 4:15
  4. “If You Ever Go to Houston” 5:49
  5. “Forgetful Heart” 3:42
  6. “Jolene” 3:51
  7. “This Dream of You” (Dylan) 5:54
  8. “Shake Shake Mama” 3:37
  9. “I Feel a Change Comin’ On” 5:25
  10. “It’s All Good” 5:28

My ratings (0-10):

  • I Feel a Change Comin’ On – 9
  • Beyond Here Lies Nothin’ – 8,5
  • Shake Shake Mama – 8
  • My Wife’s Home Town – 7
  • If You Ever Go to Houston – 7
  • Forgetful Heart- 7
  • This Dream of You – 7
  • It’s All Good – 6,5
  • Life is Hard – 6,5
  • Jolene – 6

Personnel:

  • Bob Dylan – guitar, keyboards, vocals, production
Additional musicians
  • Mike Campbell – guitar, mandolin
  • Tony Garnier – bass guitar
  • Donnie Herron – steel guitar, banjo, mandolin, trumpet
  • David Hidalgo – accordion, guitar
  • George Recile – drums
Technical personnel
  • David Bianco – recording, mixing
  • Eddy Schreyer – mastering
  • Bill Lane – assistant engineering
  • Rafael Serrano – engineering
  • David Spreng – engineering
  • Rich Tosti – assistant engineering

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