With tracks such as ‘Like a Rolling Stone’, ‘Ballad of a Thin Man’, ‘Highway 61 Revisited’ and ‘Desolation Row’, Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited is indeed his best album.
Bruce Springsteen once described the start of the track ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ as a snare shot that often sounded like somebody has just kicked open the door to its listener’s mind. Even more rhapsodic, folk singer Phil Ochs described the LP as being impossibly good. In fact, he wondered how a human mind could manage to do that!
The album, which is named after Dylan’s home state of Minnesota’s highway that connects through to the Mississippi Delta, was recorded in a staggering six days. And it became one of those track albums that went on to change everything.
In its track listing, Highway 61 Revisited also includes other songs such as Tombstone Blues; It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry; From a Buick 6; Queen Jane Approximately; as well as Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues.
Like a Rolling Stone, which is rumored to be a song about Andy Warhol’s acolyte Edie Sedgwick, did alter the landscape of popular music forever. Its "vomitiï¬c" flow (in Dylan's own words), its literary ambition, as well as its sheer length of 6 min 13 sec shattered limitations of all kinds.
Then came ‘Ballad of a Thin Man’, which delivered the definitive ‘60s comment on the then splintering hip-straight fault line: "Something’s happening here, but you don't know what it’s. Do you, Mr. Jones?" If anyone had questioned whether or not Bob Dylan had truly gone electric, the tremendously roaring rock & roll of later tracks likeâ’From a Buick 6’ and ‘Tombstone Blues’ left no doubt.
Highway 61 Revisited ends with the track ‘Desolation Row’. This is a surrealist night journey that goes on for 11 minutes, with Dylan evoking a Hieronymus Bosch-like season in hell that appears to foretell all the ‘60s cataclysms to come. That this last track is an all-acoustic song is one final stroke of genius on Dylan’s part. It’s a spell-binding new vision for the future of folk music.
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