Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Bringing it all Back Home

LBJ... Beatlemania. . . Woody Guthrie . . . Chuck Berry . . . Fallout Shelters . . .Welcome the Rolling Stones . . . Ed Sullivan.. . Another Side of Bob Dylan. . . Jean Harlow . . . Time Magazine . . .  Recorded over a couple days in January 1965, Bringing it All Back Home launched Dylan's own brand of revolution.  For his new LP had a side of all "electric" tracks and a side of acoustic tunes.  But they were nothing like his old protest songs about war and social justice, but songs of deep personal expressions of anger still radiating through the vinyl after nearly a half century.  "Subterranean Homesick Blues" sets the tone with Chuck Berry riffs accompanied by Dylan's own brand of jukebox poetry.  Set in a basement . . Or a back alley . .  The characters are out of a Beckett play and speak the language of James Dean. For this began Dylan's fascination with freaks and outcasts as inspirations behind some of his most adventurous songwriting. With Bruce Langhorne, "the original Mr. Tambourine Man"  on guitar "She Belongs To Me" hums along nicely. "Maggie's Farm" sounds similar to Subterranean Homesick Blues" only it's much funnier with absurd lyrics about bedroom windows made of brick and the National Guard standing around the door.  More splendid folk rock follows with Love Minus Zero/No Limit with images of ravens with broken wings. "Outlaw Blues" offers another jam with Dylan declaring I look like Robert Ford but feel like Jesse James"  Another hilarious epic follows with "On the Road Again" with about a girl's family of Gothic stereotypes. The first side ends on the hip absurdity of "Bob Dylan's 115th Dream" offers a phantasmagorical version of American history with appearances by Captain Ahab (Arab?), Christopher Columbus, some girl from France, telephones with foots coming through the line, ultra-violent patriots, and many, many, more. The false opening on the acoustic guitar which segue ways into a rock pastiche accompanied by producer Tom Wilson's chuckle is one of those magical moments one gets on transcendent albums.   Then the first acoustic number "Mr. Tambourine Man" evokes the dreamlike state of the creative process. OR maybe the mystical experience of falling asleep. Or inspiration. oR the magic of nighttime. or maybe some substances were involved.  One critic said "Gates of Eden" opened up "new philosophical frontiers."  I don't know about that but the imagery's magnetic with grey flanneled dwarves and Miltonic overtones of a flawed, but not entirely hopeless paradise.  We get an even blunter version of America with "It's All Right Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)  with its tirade against a rising empire destined to crash and join the other debris of history.  Despair everywhere here.  For Operation Rolling Thunder (the bombing campaign on North Vietnam) begins the same month Bringing It All Back Home was released.  All bent out of shape of society's pliers.  And, in yet another farewell song to end an LP, we get an unforgettably bitter sermon against something or someone which has wronged us.  "It's All Over Now Baby Blue" has Dylan singing in a higher register with terrifying lyrics like "yonder stands your orphan with his gun."  The song does end with the promise of renewal, "forget the dead you've left they will not follow you."  And we go into the jingle jangle morning.

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