Bob Dylan – Blonde on Blonde Review

Written by on 11th October 2021

Image Credit – Columbia

As innovative and spectacular a musician Bob Dylan may be, it is hard to decide on his greatest album, for he offered so many. There are those that champion John Wesley Harding, others may back the dark horse of Desire, but most would agree that Blonde on Blonde is one of the best. If not the best, then what would it be? It has a density far greater than his previous works, and a tightly wound structure that exceeds the albums that followed it. Should it be considered the peak? Perhaps. When you have so many great tracks on one album, you approach levels of inspiring, intense brilliance. Every track is a golden opportunity to observe Dylan at the peak of his powers. 

But the jewel of the crown is its lengthy, closing track. Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands flows far faster, far better than it has any right to. A whole side of vinyl dedicated to 11 minutes of pitch-perfect songwriting. Slow-moving but packed full of love and bitterness for Sara Lownds, Dylan’s at-the-time wife. There are the envious tones and parables found deeper in his lyrics, comparing that of his moral crusade to that of his wife. His frequency with rhetoric and lists make for a continually flowing monologue that questions not just his abilities as a husband but as a songwriter. Pretentious notions are never far away for a track this long, a song this thick and fast with its lyrical musings and experienced tones. It is the best song on the album, though. Dylan edges each preceding song out of the top spot by improving and improving as the tracks march on.  

There is a reason for that. His ability to write on the up and up over and over is impressive, but necessary too. He outdoes himself over and over, continuing the trend of strong writing founded on earlier albums Highway 61 and Bringing it All Back Home. It is here, on Blonde on Blonde, that Dylan does bring it all back home. He returns to his acoustic roots, cements himself there and drags the electric tones with him. Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat is the best recount of that, an inspired song of electric blues mythology and mystifying lyrics. It is that notable ability, presented over every track of this album, that ties it together so well. A starting point for those ears untouched by Dylan, but also his best and most dependable album. Rich with meaning and deep with tones of misery and vibrancy, Blonde on Blonde  

It is, as Dylan said: “The closest I got to the sound I hear in my mind,” and it certainly shows. Blonde on Blonde is as intense and incredible an influence as it was all those decades ago. Its reappraisal was inevitable, but its lyrical consistencies and the beauty of the craft is showcased with perfection. Dylan outshines his earlier work and pushes forth as one of the greatest lyricists of his, or any time. That is the impact Blonde on Blonde has, but beyond that, it is simply a good album. One of the best. No amount of critique or discussion over the meaning of the words or music can steal the spotlight from Dylan’s natural ability as a songwriter. These are the closest we get to hearing the sound in his mind, and it certainly shows on Blonde on Blonde.  

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