Continuing my stomp through musical history in oversized muddy boots, I hereby declare Blonde On Blonde the greatest Dylan album EVER! Not much controversy there, but it’s still true.
Bob Dylan is the most important American songwriter of the last 50 years and, arguably, the greatest white blues singer of all time. Blonde On Blonde is his best album, recorded in Nashville in 1966 with a great electric band that included Jerry Kennedy, Joe South, Al Kooper and Robbie Robertson (as well as the rhythm section that would become Area Code 615).
It’s a deeply bluesy album that focuses on relationships more than the politics and social commentary of his previous work. It was a double album (now a single CD) with some of Dylan’s greatest songs: the rowdy “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35,” with it’s famous observation, “I would not feel so all alone, everybody must get stoned.” “I Want You” is a beautiful, gentle country-rock ballad. “Just Like a Woman” is equally lovely, revealing Dylan’s profound insight into the sexual maturity and emotional fragility of most adults. “Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again” and “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat” are also classics.
The album is being rereleased in a “hybrid Super Audio CD” (SACD) format in two weeks:
- On September 16, 2003, Columbia/Legacy will release fifteen classic albums by Bob Dylan in the hybrid Super Audio CD (SACD) format. These discs – the first recordings by any Sony Music artist to be issued in this format – will also feature restored artwork based on original album packaging.
Hybrid Super Audio CD discs feature a high-density layer which can provide high-resolution, multi-channel surround sound in addition to a separate two-channel stereo SACD version of the same music, and a layer with a CD version of the recording. The result is a hybrid disc whose full audio potential can be realized by the new generation of SACD players, and which is fully compatible with all other existing CD players on the market today.
These fifteen titles mark the start of a long-term program to enhance and upgrade the sonic quality and packaging elements of one of the most important album catalogs in popular music. Only one Bob Dylan album, Blonde on Blonde, has been released previously in the standard Super Audio CD format. Blonde on Blonde, along with five other titles – Another Side of Bob Dylan, Bringing It All Back Home, Blood On The Tracks, Slow Train Coming, and “Love and Theft” – will now be issued as 5.1 multi-channel releases with accompanying stereo mixes, in addition to their hybrid SACD versions.
Here are the fifteen hybrid Super Audio CD titles by Bob Dylan, in chronological order:
1) The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan (released May 1963) – Includes “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “Masters of War,” “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right,” and “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna fall.” Freewheelin’ was Dylan’s second Columbia album, but his first collection of all original songs. Produced by John Hammond.
2) Another Side of Bob Dylan (released August 1964) – Includes “All I Really Want to Do,” “Spanish Harlem Incident,” “Chimes of Freedom,” “My Back Pages.” “A rich, complex album” (Paul Williams, Crawdaddy). Produced by Tom Wilson.
3) Bringing It All Back Home (released March 1965) – Includes “Mr. Tambourine Man,” “Gates of Eden,” “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding),” “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue.” The first Dylan album to include accompaniment by an electric band, and his first Top Ten LP. Produced by Tom Wilson.
4) Highway 61 Revisited (released August 1965) – Includes the No. 2 hit single “Like a Rolling Stone,” “Ballad of a Thin Man,” “Highway 61 Revisited,” “Desolation Row.” Produced by Tom Wilson and Bob Johnston.
5) Blonde on Blonde (released May 1966) – Includes “Rainy Day Women # 12 & 35,” “Visions of Johanna,” “Just Like a Woman,” “I Want You.” This landmark double LP was the first Bob Dylan album recorded in Nashville. Produced by Bob Johnston.
6) John Wesley Harding (released December 1967) – Includes “John Wesley Harding,” “All Along the Watchtower,” and “Drifter’s Escape.” With the inclusion of “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight,” Dylan returned rock to its country roots. Produced by Bob Johnston.
7) Nashville Skyline (released April 1969) – Includes “Lay Lady Lay,” “To Be Alone With You,” “I Threw It All Away,” “Country Pie.” Produced by Bob Johnston.
8) Planet Waves (released January 1974) – Includes “On a Night Like This,” “Going, Going, Gone,” “Forever Young,” “You Angel You.” With instrumental backing by The Band, Planet Waves became Dylan’s first Number One album. Produced by Bob Dylan, Robbie Robertson, and Rob Fraboni.
9) Blood On The Tracks (released January 1975) – Includes “Tangled Up in Blue,” “Simple Twist of Fate,” “If You See Her, Say Hello,” “Shelter from the Storm.” “The writing is the source of the record’s power – There are times when he sounds closer, more intimate and more real than anyone else.” (Jon Landau, Rolling Stone) Produced by Bob Dylan.
10) Desire (released January 1976) – Includes “Hurricane,” “Black Diamond Bay,” “One More Cup of Coffee,” “Oh, Sister.” Desire features violinist Scarlett Rivera and songs co-written with Jacques Levy. Produced by Don Devito.
11) Street Legal (released June, 1978) – Includes “Señor (Tales of Yankee Power),” “Changing of the Guards,” “Baby, Stop Crying,” and “Is Your Love in Vain?” Produced by Don Devito.
12) Slow Train Coming (released August 1979) – Includes the Grammy Award-winning single “Gotta Serve Somebody,” “I Believe in You,” “Slow Train,” “When He Returns.” Produced by Jerry Wexler and Barry Beckett.
13) Infidels (released November 1983) – Includes “Jokerman,” “License to Kill,” “I and I,” “Sweetheart Like You.” Dylan’s sidemen include Mick Taylor (guitar), Mark Knopfler (guitar), Sly Dunbar (drums), and Robbie Shakespeare (bass). “Eight vigorous songs that teem with self-effacing introspection and wit” (Christopher Connelly, Rolling Stone). Produced by Bob Dylan and Mark Knopfler.
14) Oh Mercy (released September, 1989) – Includes “Political World,” “Everything Is Broken,” “Ring Them Bells,” “Man in the Long Black Coat.” Recorded in New Orleans with Louisiana musicians including Cyril Neville (percussion), Rockin’ Dopsie (accordion), Willie Green (drums), and Mason Ruffner (guitar). Produced by Daniel Lanois.
15) “Love and Theft” (September, 2001) – Includes “Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, “Mississippi,” “Summer Days,” “High Water (for Charley Patton).” “All pop music is love and theft, and in 40 years of records whose sources have inspired volumes of scholastic exegesis, Dylan has never embraced that truth so warmly. Jokes, riddles, aperçus, and revelations will surface for years… Grade: A Plus.” (Robert Christgau, The Village Voice)
“The release of these classic Bob Dylan albums on hybrid SACD will extend the benefits of this exciting format to a much wider audience,” says Jeff Jones, Senior Vice President, Legacy Recordings. “Each of these Dylan titles will be painstakingly remastered and reproduced to the highest quality standards.”
And hopefully for them drive sales of Sony SACD players.