40’s Insights – Blonde on Blonde

Preconceived Notions: Oh boy, where to start?  There have been times in my life-where I have hated any mention of this man and his “voice” to the point where I went about actively shutting him out of my life.  It didn’t help that Rainy Day woman was the anthem of every jock, hippie, or otherwise monosyllabic person I knew who’s entire life revolved around getting wasted (it was only about 60% of my life at the time to be fair). In college, when the roommates were about to go on a binge, I’d draw my line in the sand and pretty much forbid it (in as nice and nonviolent a manner as possible) he was “my nuke” for college. I just couldn’t take it…I’m not one to worry all that much about vocals in music (I listen to Death Metal and Tom Waits – who to some are divisive sounds) but when most of your musical arrangement is little more than 4 chords  the voice becomes an important instrument….I just put him in that can’t stand category and locked away the dismissive key. As the years have worn on though, and I have learned to appreciate to varying degrees the work of artists I used to completely hate like Neil Young (I only 70% hate him now) – I figure maybe I owe Dylan a real chance. And so I’m happy this is coming up – it’s not out of the realm of possibility I enjoy this album, even if the odds are against it.

PS: Typing in Blonde on Blonde in a google search for the playlist is not as fun as I thought it might be.

After Listening:     I wanted to like this, for this to be my surprise of this club.  I tried real hard to appreciate almost anything I could – rhythm, lyrical content, musical accompaniment, recording quality, mixing etc.  I was hoping to find something like “Hurricane”-which I actually kinda like, and see the value of….to find something like that on this album would make the whole thing worth it.  I just kept expecting to hear why so many people love this dude, and something just got slightly off in each case. On songs like “Visions of Johanna” I was ready to forgive the stroke-esque (body process-not band) vocal beginning, and actually got into the musical arrangement until he hit a lyrical section where he decides he’s going to rhyme “gall”, “all”, “wall”, and “hall” in that exaggerated stressing manner that make it seems like he thinks it’s profound-when it’s a terrible series….thus taking me right out of the song, and I get like another 3 mins to be almost happy with it.

All was almost lost until I hit “Stuck inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues” – and I touch on this more below…it’s not quite something I’d put into any playlist I create, but it is a solid song, a nice effort.

I have heard, and have almost come to like “Just Like a Woman”, but again that’s Dylan’s exaggerated vocal delivery cutting an otherwise nice effort to pieces.  It’ like ok…you like the flow of this? Let me f’ it up with no clear pattern or reason.

Some have called Dylan a lyrical master and a poet – I don’t know if I’m onboard with that,  but if I was- I think I might enjoy it better read as spoken word. Probably read by someone else.

Favorite Tracks: “Stuck inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues again” – A pretty good piece, interesting guitar work – mixed really well (which I think as we are talking about the recordings themselves here we ought to do more discussion on), and at 7mins it feels shorter than some of these 3-4min debacles.

“4th Time around” – was a nice surprise, good pace, – Beatlesque. I suppose I appreciate it, b/c it doesn’t sound like Dylan too much.

Least Favorite Tracks: “Rainy Day Woman” – why is this so popular outside of the chorus?  Why does it have to be 4 and a half minutes?  It’s repetitive and grating.

“One of us must know” – it pretty much sounds like drunk rambling, which is fun to do, but not much fun to listen to.

“Temporary Like Achilles” –  It’s like they said we’re gonna slow things down a bit, and draw things out more, so the voice really shines through” – gross.

“Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands” –everything I hate about Dylan in an 11min package? Awesome…no wait, not awesome, not awesome at all.  Mainly b/c of the sheer length of this thing-this might be the single most difficult track  I’ve had to get through in this thing.  I say only “might be” because if you take out the length (or leave the length in – without having to listen to the rest of the album 1st), it’s slighty better than the other 3 songs I put here.

Overall – 1.75  Mainly for “Stuck inside of Memphis” and respect for this artist’s longevity and influence.   But when you listen to an album and come away with never really wanting to listen to any of it again….that’s about the highest I can go.  I realize I might just not “get” Dylan – rationally I can think maybe not being a stoner, or a product of the times has a lot to do with it,  maybe I’m just uber sensitive to his voice-which is less about tone(although it’s a part) and more about his stressing and rhythm.  He just always sounds like a caricature with wandering pieces of music that go nowhere.  Even if he’s the 1st one to do it – it don’t make it right.  Not to me.

40 (45 Posts)

40 has had training enough in classical theory to know roughly what he's talking about. As for talent, he considers himself a crappy guitar player. He has a BA in Audio & Sound Recording BA, so not only does music creation intrigue him, but also music production. He believes that expression takes all forms, and it has to be remembered that music is an art form and is ultimately about connection, communication, experimentation, creativity, freedom, emotion, and 100’s of other things.


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