"The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan" 1963: The album that introduces Dylan to the world at large(really, more so than his first album), and creates him as an American musical icon. The album that put Dylan on the Folky map. The stirring "Blowin' in the Wind", hard bitten and throughly angry "Master of War" the homeric "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall", the sad and lost "Girl From The North Country" all masterful Dylan classics, and set the stage for all of the great things to come. Honestly, the jump of musical abitlity and breadth of his lyrics, from this album, compared to his first, is breath taking. With this album Bob Dylan made the lyrics of the songs in popular music as important than the way it's played. It was only 1963 and he's already on his way.
"The Times They Are A-Changin'" 1964: Dylan's most powerful pre-electric album, and establishes himself and the #1 folk artist of the time(much to the annoyance of other folk artists, reason being it took Woody Guthrie, Cisco Houston, Pete Seeger decades to achieve the status Dylan now has in just his third album). "The Ballad Of Hollis Brown", "With God On Our Side", "Boots Of Spanish Leather", "Only A Pawn In Their Game", When The Ship Comes In", "The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll", and the title song. Folk classics, Dylan classics. Classic album.
"Another Side Of Bob Dylan" 1964: An album containing some of Dylan's best songs, yet there is a feeling of restlessness in the whole sound. Yes, "All I Really Want To Do", "My Back Pages", "It Ain't Me Babe" are classic Dylan tunes, but where the hell did "Motorpsycho Nitemare" and "Ballad In Plain B" come from? Not bad songs, just strange(?), and "I Don't Believe You" sounds like it needs a backup band bad. Dylan sounds like he should have a backup band. And so he shall have one, very, very soon.
"Bringing It Back Home Again" 1965: Mr. Robert Zimmerman, AKA Bob Dylan, sometime in the calendar year of 1965 decided to pick up and electric guitar, and popular music has never been the same since. This album did not give Dylan God-Head status just yet, but, like the light of a train at night in the distance, man, you would think, the world in 1965 could have, most certainly should have, seen it coming. By combining Dylan's lyrics and his musical disposition, along with the accompaniment of an electric back up band gave Dylan sound and words a wider audience than he, the folk world, the rock world, the musical world, could have imagined. The first song of the album jams right off the bat, with the classic "Subterranean Homesick Blues". With a single song Dylan has truly left the old folk music world behind, as if he was defiantly saying, "I got bigger game to catch". The whole first side of the album is Electric Dylan, with "Maggie's Farm", "Love Minus Zero/No Limit" "Outlaw Blues", and the brilliantly silly "Bob Dylan's 115th Dream". Side two has Dylan returning to his acoustic sound, but on his own terms. With "Mr. Tambourine Man", "Gates Of Eden", and "It's Alrigtht Ma, (I'm Only Bleeding), Dylan presents some of his most surreal, imaginative, and apocalyptic lyrics to date. Maybe he was stoned, maybe he was seeing visions, who knows? The album ends with his nihilistic valentine "It's All Over Now Baby Blue". This album was a signpost to Dylan's next album, done a scant six to eight months later. With his next album, the man places himself, defiant, annoyed and angry, on the pinacle of the rock and roll pantheon
. RATING: ****=
"Highway 61 Revisited" 1965: The genius of this album cannot be understated, nor it's impact minimized, on popular music, from it's release to the present day. Every rock musician in the biz has been influenced by this album, and it's hard to imagine, that when Dylan left Duluth, Minnesota for New York City, on a cold winter day in 1960, that this album would be a product of his journey. The album begins with the epic, towering masterpiece of rock music, "Like A Rolling Stone", maybe(I am getting a little excited here) the finest song in rock and roll history. This song sets the tone for an entire album, the rage, the urgency, the raw freedom this song imposes on the listener, crashes threw the rest of the album like a meteor.
Following "Rolling Stone" is "Tombstone Blues", with Dylan's morbid cavalcade of lost characters, each figure with their own story, and landscape. Then it's "It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry", a slow waltz like a wail. "From A Buick 6" comes back to the rage and anger of "Like A Rolling Stone". "Ballad Of A Thin Man" slows the album down to surrealistic crawl, ending side one. "Queen Jane Approximately" starts side two, appearing to be a melodic love song, yet one gets the impression that no one may wish to be the enigmatic "Queen Jane". The title song, "Highway 61 Revisited" reminds you of the horrific characters of "Tombstone Blues", sort of like "Clockwork Orange" meets the scriptures. "Just Like Tom Thumb Blues" is Dylan's sarcastic ode to New York.
The album ends with a somewhat controversial song, at least controversial amongst the Dylanites. There are those who do not find "Desolation Row" a very good song. But the song has stood the test of time, as one of Dylan's most ephemeral, the lyrics both winding and abrupt, yet another morbid display of lost figures and stories. "Highway 61 Revisited" is the album that establishes Dylan in the rock and roll pantheon with Elvis and Lennon, and rightly so.
There is no other album in rock and roll history as imaginative, and daring, and it most certainly ushered in the Golden Age of 60's rock(the high-water mark of that age is seen two years later with the release of The Beatles "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely heart's Club Band). From the sheer power of it's anger, to the demanding force of it's artistic urgency, it made Dylan what he still is today, a living legend, and an artistic genius.
RATING: ****** SIX stars, I can do that, I'm making the list