It is no secret that Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone magazine have a rather biased appreciation of Bob Dylan. As I joked with my son, I estimated that 97 of the Top 100 Albums on their list were Bob Dylan albums. Now, now… I know that’s an exaggeration, particularly with their most recent list which added eight years of music and took a much more diverse look at the music across all genres than on previous versions of that list. All of that being said, we look at the highest rated album to date, the #18 album on the list, “Highway 61 Revisited”.
In terms of advance and progress, this album was a controversial landmark for Dylan as he performed with a backing band, including electric guitars, organ, and a full rhythm section. Mike Bloomfield played electric guitar and Al Kooper played organ, among others. The hallmark song of this album kicks it off, the legendary “Like a Rolling Stone”. This has always been my favorite Dylan song, coming from one who hasn’t always been a big fan, but I just love the mix of organ and the main chord progression of this song. Having never listened to this album in its entirety before, it was great to see the theme and sound of this song proliferate through the entire album. It really is a great album and worthy of the high praise.
“Tombstone Blues”, “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry”, “From a Buick 6”, “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues”, and particularly “Queen Jane Approximately” really build on the lead song to deliver an album that exudes warmth, soul and good vibrations. This album is a huge departure from his acoustic folk roots, but it really works and I’m glad I finally discovered what all the hype was about. I can now appreciate both sides of Bob Dylan, and understand his brilliance as a songwriter. Backing band or not, he rates as one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, and this album underscores that fact from beginning to end.