Or: How I fill up 2 GB
(Being the continuing alphabetical series of the contents of my iPod)
Album: Bringing It All Back Home
Artist: Bob Dylan
1. Subterranean Homesick Blues
2. She Belongs to Me
3. Maggie’s Farm
4. Love Minus Zero/No Limit
5. Outlaw Blues
6. On the Road Again
7. Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream
8. Mr. Tambourine Man
9. Gates of Eden
10. It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)
11. It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue
With Another Side of Bob Dylan, Dylan had begun pushing past folk, and with Bringing It All Back Home, he exploded the boundaries, producing an album of boundless imagination and skill. And it's not just that he went electric, either, rocking hard on "Subterranean Homesick Blues," "Maggie's Farm," and "Outlaw Blues"; it's that he's exploding with imagination throughout the record. After all, the music on its second side — the nominal folk songs — derive from the same vantage point as the rockers, leaving traditional folk concerns behind and delving deep into the personal. And this isn't just introspection, either, since the surreal paranoia on "It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)" and the whimsical poetry of "Mr. Tambourine Man" are individual, yet not personal. And that's just the tip of the iceberg, really, as he writes uncommonly beautiful love songs ("She Belongs to Me," "Love Minus Zero/No Limit") that sit alongside uncommonly funny fantasias ("On the Road Again," "Bob Dylan's 115th Dream"). This is the point where Dylan eclipses any conventional sense of folk and rewrites the rules of rock, making it safe for personal expression and poetry, not only making words mean as much as the music, but making the music an extension of the words. A truly remarkable album.
Truth be told, if you don’t like Dylan, you probably wouldn’t like my iPod, as Bringing It All Back Home is the first (alphabetically, at least) of three Dylan albums currently loaded, and one of 13 that are readily available in my iTunes library. The beauty of having that many Dylan albums on tap is that his music is so wonderfully diverse: even on one album, Dylan can run the gamut from rock to folk, from mournful sorrow to jubilance, from twisted wordplay metaphors to stark realism.
And such is the case on Bringing It All Back Home. I wasn’t alive to hear “Subterranean Homesick Blues” when it first appeared on the radio, but I imagine it sounded just as jaggedly raw and purely rocking as it does today. From there, things never really slow down, even on the love songs like “She Belongs to Me” or “Love Minus Zero/No Limit.”
Really, I could spend this time talking about Dylan’s breaking-away that lies under the surface in so many of these songs, about how songs like “Baby Blue” and “Maggie’s Farm” seem to reflect his departure from the folk movement, but that context has been laid out many times before.
To me, Bringing It All Back Home is a collection of tremendous songs, with each one carrying its own weight, and I think the highlights lie in the weightiest of tunes, particularly the duo of “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” and “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue,” a pair of songs that close the album as strongly as any two songs have ever closed an album. Each is a complex and layered tapestry of images, emotions, and exquisite writing.
It’s no wonder Bringing It All Back Home is widely considered to be one of Dylan’s best works, if not the top overall.