on October 18, 2003
We all know about this album as being a classic. The great musicianship of Al kooper and Robbie Robertson coupled with Dylan's songwriting make this and Highway 61 among Dylan's best albums. A majority of buyers doubtless own this already and are pondering jumping on the reissue wagon again. The packaging of the reissue is well done compared to the barebones earlier issue. I am probably in the minority, but I always thought the previous cd issue of this particular album (though not some of the other dylan discs) sounded pretty good. I have grown so used to it that the reissue somehow does'nt sound right in comparison. I got the re-release partly based on the recommendations posted here. I use a cd player only, and as a cd I found the reissue not as enjoyable to listen to. True there are a few more details on the new mix, from an analytical standpoint it may be "better". I put on the reissue and did'nt really find myself enjoying the music. I then played the original disc and found it to be more relaxed and enjoyable. One thing I noticed is Al Koopers organ on "Visions of Johanna" is underneath the mix on the reissue, coming through thin and faintly. Kooper's musicianship is more readily appreciated on the original disc. The vocals on all the tunes sound a bit warmer and natural on the original disc too, though they might not be as "clear" as the reissue. The guitars, especially Dylan's acoustic, sound better with less clarity on the original disc, the reissue brings them out a little more, while this initially may seem "better", eventually it is not, bringing out more of a tin sound. I'm not sure that greater clarity and resolution always make old rock recordings more enjoyable. I did find "Blood on the Tracks" to be superior to the previous cd version, being consistantly more musical. Overall I can't say the same for the "Blonde on Blonde" reissue, which is more ambiguous... neither version is anything to write home about from a strictly sonic standpoint- collector's may want this one for the variation of content though. If you want to hear the best recording available from this period of Dylan's voice, guitar, and harmonica in emotionally moving performances, play the acoustic set disc one of "live 1966".
on July 8, 2003
What would you need to be to be the greatest album of all-time?
1.You'd need to have a classic opening salvo that sets the tone - and the quality - for what is to follow...
'Rainy Day Women' exudes a good-time feel with its Salvation Army band vibe and its party atmosphere with the whoops and hollers of the session musicians, the interjections of "Yeah!" and "Tell 'em, Bob!" and that harmonica crescendo. This track never fails to whip up the excitement. Especially when you know what is in store on the rest of the album...
'Pledging My Time' has a laid-back feel and a relaxed-sounding Dylan which then leads into 'Visions Of Johanna'. I can't think of a better start to an album.
2.You'd need to have at least one stand-out track that ranks with the very best ever written...
This album has two.
'Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands' was, as I'm sure everyone knows, the entirety of side 4 on this album's initial vinyl release and also the first track laid down by Dylan and his band of the finest Nashville session musicians. By the time it had reached its eighth minute the session men were looking at each other as if to say 'How long is this going to last? What is going on?' This is Dylan's beautifully controlled declaration of love to the woman who would become his wife. "With your mercury mouth in the missionary times/And your eyes like smoke and your prayers like rhymes..." and the question which clearly needs no answer : "Who among them do you think could resist you?" Dylan took some flack later for claiming to have stayed up for days in the Chelsea Hotel writing this for Sara Lowndes when it was easily established that he'd kept the band waiting in the studio through the night whilst he was writing in the basement downstairs before the recording. See, in particular, Lester Bangs' review of 'Desire. But what no one seems to have put forward is this : yes, maybe he did write in the studio but it's possible he had spent delirious days and nights writing the basis for the song which he then edited in the studio, honing the lines to perfection before recording it. That's my theory, anyway. For what it's worth.
'Visions Of Johanna'. This tale of thwarted idealism in love is possibly Dylan's finest moment. The music gives the voice of Dylan room to breathe as he contemplates the absolute unattainability of perfection in love compared to the ordinariness of the attainable everyday. " Louise, she's alright, she's just near..."
3.You'd need to have a bit of controversy. Well, maybe. Can't do any harm...
Leaving aside the drug-innuendo of 'Rainy Day Women', possibly shocking in its day but not any more, there is 'Just Like A Woman' where arguments still rage. Dylan ; misogynist or misunderstood? Well, clearly, it's not his nastiest lyric but that's hardly a defence. My own view is that it's not misoginistic; it's a lyric that seemingly goes to the heart of a person and would have made as much sense to read 'You fake like a man/You take like a man/But you break just like a little boy...'. It's the discrepancy between the inner fragility of the individual in contrast to their projected and, to Dylan at least, false self. Plus there's the poetry where Dylan lays himself on the line to the same person : "When we meet again/ Introduced as friends/Please don't let on that you knew me when/I was hungry and it was your world..."
4.You should perhaps have songs that aren't necessarily celebrated within the artist's canon but still leave you astounded and in awe whenever you hear them...
'One Of Us Must Know (Sooner Or Later) is a case in point. The hammond organ swirls, those spiteful lyrics and great vocals from the man himself. This album is the best Dylan ever sounded. The voice is old-beyond-its-years and yet beautiful at the same time. And at least one word in each line is sung as if it's in italics. Genius.
5.You'd need to have the arrogance of the Gods...
From the iconic cover shot to the Lennon-baiting 'Fourth Time Around' the album projects this like nothing else. The dig at Lennon was playful : Dylan suggesting that as John had ripped him off for three earlier Beatles songs ('You've Got To Hide Your Love Away', 'I'm A Loser' and 'Norwegian Wood'), Dylan may as well write the fourth one for him there and then...The similarity to 'Norwegian Wood' is absolutely intentional.
6.You'd need to fit together perfectly, both artistically and stylistically...
Easy. Bob Dylan's musical vision is perfectly realised here.
What would you have to be to be the best album of all-time...
Well, you'd have to have lines like "the ghost of 'lectricity howls in the bones of her face...". You'd have to be "that thin, that wild mercury sound". And? Well, obviously, it's a wholly subjective thing. But you'd have to be an album to last forever, to constantly sound fresh and exciting, to provide more defining moments in music than any other...In short, you'd have to be 'Blonde On Blonde'. By Bob Dylan.
on February 25, 2001
I'm getting pretty sick and tired of people prattling on about Dylan the lyricist as though the sounds within which those lyrics were wrapped are of little account. Yes, it's quite true that Dylan works inside traditional musical forms and styles, but it's this very adherence to the familiar that makes a masterpiece like "Blonde on Blonde" all the more shocking in its impact. Here Dylan explores the full gamut of rock'n'roll's formal structures and themes up to 1966 and explodes them in messy, inspired ways. You get everything from potent three-minute pop classics ("I Want You") to over-the-top rockers ("Obviously 5 Believers," "Most Likely You Go Your Way") to various explorations into the blues, balladry, and even an epic elegy or two ("Sad Eyed Lady..."). Yes, the lyrics are brilliant, memorable, crackpot, obscure, maddening....but this is an album of SONGS, not mere words. Admittedly, coming to terms with Dylan's mid-'60s achievement is kind of tough because the soul and sensibility of his albums from this period were so influential that hardly anything that followed them escapes their impact. Perhaps the only real way to get a sense of how Dylan changed our "pop consciousness" is to listen to what came before him. Only then can you really recognize the divide for what it is. This is a painfully beautiful record, and it sounds as fresh and joyous to my ears as it must have sounded to all those stunned by it in 1966. There's no reason you shouldn't treat yourself to the pleasures of "Blonde on Blonde" - what are you waiting for?
on December 8, 2004
Everyone of a certain age remembers the double album with its gatefold sleeve of a slightly blurred Dylan in double-buttoned winter coat and scarf, and side 4 exclusively devoted to the marvellously melancholic Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands, perfect on repeat-play for hung-over Sunday mornings, unhurried and timeless, ending with a harmonica solo that slowly and statuesquely faded away.
The CD version was disappointingly butchered with many of the running times noticeably truncated to fit onto a single disc. Just Like A Woman unbelievably faded out instead of ending, and Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands sacrilegiously lost a vital 30 seconds at its conclusion.
When the Bob Dylan Reissue Series reached Blonde On Blonde these anomalies were thankfully minimized, and the total playing time on this edition is upped to 73.03 (compared to 71.31 on the earlier edition), and the overall sound has been significantly upgraded, making this finally worthy of replacing the rather worn vinyl copy in your collection.
This album, recorded between January and March 1966 in Nashville, is after all one of Bob Dylan's most vital, the one about which he said, "The closest I ever got to the sound I hear in my mind was on individual bands in the Blonde On Blonde album. It's that thin, that wild mercury sound. It's metallic and bright gold, with whatever that conjures up. That's my particular sound."
on September 24, 2005
For me, Blonde On Blonde is the essential, ultimate Bob Dylan album. Not necessarily his greatest, that would be Blood on the Tracks, but Blonde On Blonde is the album that really sums up who Bob Dylan is as a singer, songwriter and musician. With this one, he laid it all out for everyone to see, then went in a completely different direction for his next album, John Wesley Harding. Fans were shocked, but really that's the only thing he could have done. How could he have topped an album like Blonde On Blonde? Over 70 minutes of musical bliss. This is the album that I would recommend most to Dylan newcomers to become acquainted with the master at the peak of his powers. However, it's a long rambling record. Newcomers might be intimidated by the length of the record.
Perhaps I'm so in love with Blonde On Blonde because it was my first Dylan album, and the one that made me fall in love with his music. Listening to it, I'm reminded of years ago when I first heard it and every song was a revelation to me. I'd never heard anything like it. Most of the record is a raucous, rocking good time. The music is great, electric guitars and organ everywhere. It's probably not Dylan's finest musically. In fact, in a lot of the songs seem to sound kind of the same, but the music always compliments the lyrics and singing very well.
1. Rainy Day Women #12 And 35 - Definitely my least favorite song on the album. I don't hate it, but it just doesn't compare to what follows. It makes me think of high school stoners who only know Bob Dylan as the guy who sings "Everybody must get stoned".
2. Pledging My Time - A fine blues track. I always enjoy Dylan's forays into blues and this is a great example of Dylan's mastery of the blues.
3. Visions Of Johanna - The best song on the album and one of Dylan's best songs ever. This song just blows me away. Some of Dylan's greatest and most memorable lines are here in this excellent song. "Name me someone that's not a parasite and I'll go out and say a prayer for him".
4. One Of Us Must Know (Sooner Or Later) - A change of pace. A slower, almost confessional song. Not nearly as extravagant lyrically as the rest of the album.
5. I Want You - A pseudo-love-song. More surrealist imagery which has little to do with the romantic longing of the chorus. Great song, though.
6. Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again - One of my favorite songs on the album. Some of Dylan's best lyrics, which would have fit right in on Highway 61 Revisited.
7. Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat - Bluesy rocker with quite humorous lyrics. One of the more memorable songs from the album.
8. Just Like A Woman - One of the album's hits. This is a wonderful song that has been covered many times by many different artists.
9. Most Likely You Go Your Way And I'll Go Mine - A bitter kiss off to a friend or lover turns into this upbeat, lively song. Not one of the best, but very listenable.
10. Temporary Like Achilles - Dylan slows things down with this countryish ballad. Probably the only country song ever to contain "Achilles" in the title.
11. Absolutely Sweet Marie - Another upbeat rocker with prominent organ and guitar. Very nice.
12. 4th Time Around - One of my favorites on the album. Supposedly a parody of John Lennon's "Norwegian Wood". I love the lyrics and the melody is nice too.
13. Obviously 5 Believers - Another blues song. Pretty simple lyrically, but quite good. Great harmonica and guitar.
14. Sad-Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands - Epic ballad devoted to Dylan's girlfriend/wife, Sara. It's very long, but it's an amazing song. One of his best.
That sums it up. If you're new to Dylan, you need this album. Your Dylan education begins right here. Dig in and enjoy.
By the way, excellent live versions of some of these songs can be found on the Bootleg Series, Volume 4 - Live 1966 CD. Great performances of Visions of Johanna, 4th Time Around, Just Like A Woman, and Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat are featured on that landmark concert recording, which is also recommended.
on November 12, 2003
There is no denying that this is one of the greatest albums ever released in the history of popular music. The brilliant Sad Eyed Lady Of the Lowlands is worth the price of admission alone. I will not go into any detail with regards to the individual songs on this album, as others have said all that needs to be said and also much more eloquently than I ever could. The fault with this double disc lies not with the music but with the remastering. I do not have the luxury of owning SACD or 5.1 Surround Sound so I am unable to comment on these particular layers, but I can say that the CD layer is just awful. It sounds as if it has been recorded in a tin can. Be sure to have a pair of earplugs close at hand as those harmonica breaks are piercing! And where is Al Kooper's lovely organ work? It has been buried so far in the mix that it is barely audible on some tracks. Let the buyer beware!
on November 19, 1999
I first heard Blonde on Blonde the week it appeared. I was 18. I put one of the two records on my cruddy little Decca record player, turned the volume up, and the lid of my head blew off! Since then, I've listened to it what must be thousands of times. I've listened to it while making love, while suffering depression, while partying, while meditating. And there is no end to that great album's impact and beauty. It has become more than any album the soundtrack of my life. Nothing else can touch it. It's got everything in it. And after thousands of listenings in all moods, all ages, all weathers, I still get chills. It's the one musical work that every time I hear it makes me so glad to be alive and so grateful that this strange, wonderful singer-poet came along to share his all-encompassing vision with us. Words fail me. Those who tell me they hate this album, well...I'll put it bluntly: They're not to be trusted.
on September 13, 2001
Trying to describe this album is difficult; there really is nothing like it in the field of popular music, certainly not these days when the charts are dominated by money-making machines like NSYNC. The most striking characteristic of the album is what Dylan called the "thin, wild mercury sound" so evidenced in tracks like "Stuck Inside of Mobile", "Most Likely You'll Go Your Way", and "Rainy Day Women". RDW is an interesting song in that it has gone on to be the most recognizable song on the album, while being far from the best. It's very similar to the situation Pink Floyd has with "Another Brick in the Wall Pt. 2" (We Don't Need No Eduacation). They are good songs, but far overshadowed by other material on their respective albums. Another interesting trait of this album is that while the uniform sound is a definite highlight, the two best songs don't fit the sound at all. Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands is a mellow, slow, achingly beautiful love song, and Visions of Johanna, arguably the greatest song Dylan wrote, is impossible to describe, really. "The ghost of electricity howls in the bones of her face." My God, that's incredible. And to those who say, "Sure he writes good songs, but his singing is awful," I challenge you to listen to Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands and find a song by anyone that is sung better. Listen to his voice. The pain comes through the speakers, dripping off his voice. It, like the rest of the album, completely changes the way a person looks at music.
on May 4, 2000
Not only my first Dylan album,but my first real experience of the mans magic.Even though I've listened to his other great albums(BABH,65,JWH,BOTT)this remains my favorite,featuring a warmth and sense of humor that hasn't been seen before or since.Visions Of Johanna and Stuck Inside Of Mobile...,although long,never loses the listeners attention.I Want You and Just Like A Woman looks at both ends of the spectrum of love.4th Time Around and You Go Your Way...are hidden musical jems that should be accorded the same respect as ..Rolling Stone or Tamborine Man.Rainy Day Woman #12 & 35 shows Dylan's sense of humor at a peak that would only be heard again on The Basement Tapes(wonders how did it become a massive hit back in 66 dispite the "stoned"references).After this album,Dylan's albums would be hit(John Wesley Harding,Blood On The Tracks,Time Out Of Mind)or miss(Self Portrait,Under A Red Sky),But Blonde On Blonde reminds us all why we love ol Mr Zimmerman.
on April 1, 1999
Blonde is Blonde is one of those few albums that actually bring you to another place while you listen to it. Dylan was at his peak during the mid-late 60's, and this is his some of his best material ever. I can only think of Van Morrison's "Astral Weeks", John Lennon's "Plastic Ono Band", and maybe a few other albums that can even begin to compare to what Bob Dylan achieved on this album. The way the lyrics drift over the music is indescribable. "Visions of Johanna" may very well be the most beautiful song Bob has ever written. Lines like "The ghost of electricity howls in the bones of her face" create images and feelings beyond words. The last song, "sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands", is an 11 minute sweeping epic that takes you away to somewhere near heaven and doesn't being you back until the album is over. Every song on this album is essential. It stands as a work of art as a complete album.
"Well, early in the morning / 'Till late at night / I've got a poison headache / But I feel all right"
- Bob Dylan "Pledging my Time"