The History of the Albums – n°256
[I invite you to read my previous reviews on Bob Dylan, you'll find them below, to better understand his life and this one]. Released in 1965, Bringing It All Back Home is one of the emblematic albums of his discography, and not for nothing. Not only is Bringing It All Back Home one of the intermediate albums between two significant periods of his career, the evolution between contemporary Folk and Folk Rock, but on top of that he manages to capture all the essence of Dylan as he had never transcribed it so well before. For good reason, Bringing It All Back Home is probably one of the most complex Dylan's albums to understand at first glance, because it is of an incredible richness and a masterful technicality. That is to say that if for example you compare it to The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan or even to the one after Highway 61 Revisited, there may be a debate on which one is the best, but in any case Bringing It All Back Home is clearly the one that deserves the most. For those who need a little flashback, at that time the Dylan walked on water. He was one of the most influential artists, if not the most influential artist in the world, even more so than the Beatles. It's so impressive, that Folk was vampirized in almost every way, for many musical genres/styles, so much so that it became as popular as ever and Dylan himself became a "pop star" in his own way.
If young Dylan's early days were marked by a fist of honor for writing his songs, the modern and protestant way of doing folk, while keeping a folk and traditional acoustic aesthetic, his 4th album Another Side of Bob Dylan was actually the work that ended his first period of his career. 1965 is the symbol of renewal for him. It is the beginning of the controversial but innovative era of the electrification of his music. It all started at the end of 1964 when Dylan, who was basically opposed or at least not interested in pop music and these rock movements, blaming them for not having enough depth of writing and interpretation, changed his mind thanks to 2 key factors : the first one is the meeting with the Beatles in New York where Dylan made him see things differently and the second one is when Dylan was stunned (in the good sense of the word) by the Animals' single The House of the Rising Sun (which he himself had interpreted before). Not only did he understand that you could do folk music with electric guitars, but he also understood that pop artists were starting to write better and better. So Dylan decided to take the plunge and embark on this new adventure when he went into the studio in January 1965 for a 3-day session that would give birth to Bringing It All Back Home. Yet despite the impulse to innovate, create and differentiate, the album and this new period as a whole will divide opinions towards him. Many saw his new direction negatively, including those around him and a lot of folk artists, the public too who were almost hateful towards him. For me, this is still one of the biggest jokes of all time, you can't get any dumber than that. Loving an artist and hating him the next day because he evolves. And it's not like he committed a crime. We're only talking about an artistic progression. I dream today to have such talented artists who dare to make their music evolve. So I won't stray on this path any further.
Bringing It All Back Home is an album that has 2 parts. The first one, which is the symbol of his new period, has an electric sound and for the very first time in his career, Dylan is supported by musicians. The second part is a return to the source, tackling the acoustic as we used to hear. Although he received a lot of negative feedback and criticism about it, the album logically became his first work to land in the Billboard top 10, as it reached a wider audience with its Folk Rock. Although it had been a few months since Dylan and his producer Tom Wilson had started experimenting with electrification, it wasn't until the recording sessions in January 1965 that the album was released. Dylan as a true conductor led the direction of this album from beginning to end, leaving no one to make decisions for him. The fracture between the electric and acoustic parts was therefore deliberate and rightly put forward. It's with this kind of album that we notice how much work everyone did was monstrous. Before going into the details of the album, it must first be said that Bringing It All Back Home moves away a little from political and protest themes and messages, it is much more access to satire, complex humor, philosophy and surrealist questioning, sometimes abstract. That's also what makes this album different from the previous ones, which were more engaged, which spoke much more to the people. This one is complex precisely because of the way it is understood and apprehended, because of its technicality of writing and poetry. It's true that it's a lot to digest at the beginning, because not only do you have to get used to Dylan's musical evolution and his experiments, but you also have to immerse yourself and understand the themes and the writing of this album. When we finally find our answers, it is at this precise moment that we understand why this album is considered one of the best of his discography and more generally one of the best in history.
Let's now move on to the in-depth study of some of the songs on this album. Bringing It All Back Home begins with a monumental classic, so influential that still has impact today. Other the fact that Subterranean Homesick Blues takes you straight into the album like a spy who breaks into a house, defining the Folk Rock and Bluesy colors of his new artistic direction, this song is probably one of the beautiful songs and complexes he wrote. Inspired by a novel of the same name, this song is a sketchy satire that demonstrates all the poetry that Dylan was capable of. With its atypical interpretation, many artists and specialists see in Subterranean Homesick Blues a first avant-gardist opening of Hip Hop, with this flow spoken and the way it tells the story. More generally it was called at the time the Talking Blues. In addition to being the precursor of many things that will come after his personal way or on other artists, Subterranean Homesick Blues is strongly recognized for its innovative clip for the time, using a method that would take over countless times thereafter. And you see, it's just the first 2 minutes and 21 seconds of the album. Even if they are real novelties, the 7 songs that make up the first "electric" part didn't need any more time and experience for Dylan to be able to offer a wonderful content without erasures. Between Folk and Blues ballads, Dylan draws attention to 2 other sublime songs. The first one is Maggie's Farm where we find this pronounced way of singing and talking about Dylan, with this nasal voice as if someone was constantly tapping you behind the back, saying "hey man, come on show us what you're really worth". If Dylan was known for his introspective writing, the striking Maggie's Farm also shows once again that his critical side was one of the major forces. The way he hits through his interpretation is simply amazing, maybe even stronger than on any of his previous albums until now. The last song of the first part, Bob Dylan's 115th Dream, also gets my full attention, so much so that I'm in admiration. This way of telling the story with introspection pushed to its paroxysm gives an immense feeling of authenticity. A master storyteller, Dylan manages to laugh at himself, using self-mockery as a symbol of his acquired evolution.
If the first part consists almost only of rather short songs (2 to 3 minutes, except the 7th track), the second acoustic part is composed of only 4 long songs. On this one, there are 2 songs which are essential to talk about it. Of course you have the cultissimo Mr. Tambourine Man who has the gift of making me wait for the acoustic organizer every time I listen to it. Never released as a single, this song is mainly known for the folk pop cover of the Byrds in the same year. However the 2 versions are so different, that it is unavoidable not to listen to both of them. If we go back to Dylan, Mr. Tambourine Man is not only a contemporary folk song that we were used to before, but it is so delicious that it was almost irresponsible not to put it on this album. By the way, the song was composed in early 1964 when he was still in his early period. It is therefore not insignificant. Finally, the outro of this album is just a treasure of inestimable value. It's All Over Now, Baby Blue is like Mr. Tambourine Man, one of the perfect folk ballads on this album, the apotheosis of this wonderful work. Those languorous guitar chords, the harmonica that comes to caress your eardrums, the melancholic voice of a deeply touched Dylan, everything is just perfect to make the song a great success. What is fascinating in this song is that nobody knows who this song is about, a mysterious farewell that offers a multitude of possibilities for the listeners to make up their own mind, another masterful way of Dylan's writing that showed how extraordinary his poetry was. Bye, Baby Blue