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The Essential Boomer Album Collection - Part 10

Blonde on Blonde – Bob Dylan

What if you had been able to tell your 13-year old self that Bob Dylan would one day win the Nobel Prize for Literature? Do you think then your English teacher would have let you do your book report on Dylan’s latest album?

Maybe not. But there’s no question that Dylan was on an incredible hot streak in the mid-sixties, one that saw him release 3 albums that cemented his transition from folk to rock and put him in the very forefront of the contemporary music scene.

That trio of albums began with Bringing It All Back Home, continued with Highway 61 Revisited, and reached the pinnacle with the 1966 release of one of the first double albums in rock history, Blonde on Blonde.

While the album peaked at #9 on the Billboard album chart (not too shabby), it has since gone to be recognized as one of the greatest rock albums of all time.

Dylan started to record this record with his back-up band, then known as the Hawks, now known as the Band. But they were only able to crank out one track (“One of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later)”) that made it onto the final album.

So producer Bob Johnston suggested they take super session player Al Kooper, Robbie Robertson of the Hawks and head to Nashville. It was there, using Robertson, Kooper and an all-star line-up of Nashville’s finest session players, that Dylan finished the rest of the album.

According to Kooper the name of the album as well as most of the song titles were invented by Dylan on the spur of the moment when they were doing the final mix down.

In any event, the album yielded 2 more hit singles for Dylan, “Rainy Day Women # 12 & 35” and “I Want You,” while “Just Like a Woman” and “Visions of Johanna” are also regarded among the very best of Dylan’s compositions. The fact that side 4 was entirely taken up with just one song “Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands” was also a musical breakthrough for rock.

It was said that Blonde on Blonde influenced countless rock composers from Paul McCartney and John Lennon on down. If any Baby Boomer’s record collection had only one Dylan album and it wasn't Dylan’s Greatest Hits, it was more than likely Blonde on Blonde.

A half century has not dimmed its brilliance in the slightest.


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