Here's where Dylan the surrealistic hippie hurling beatnik poetry against the bourgeois makes his appearance, and also where Dylan the Rocker steps out for the first time.
It's a tentative step to be sure - only the first side contains electric rock performances, and unfortunately the nondescript band Dylan corralled deliver the definition of sloppy, generic bar-blues rock. In a word, boring.
Despite the shoddy performances, the songs Dylan wrote for the first side are genius, with four of them classic in every sense of the word.
"Subterranean Homesick Blues" is the second rap song (the first was the song from which Dylan got inspiration, Chuck Berry's "Too Much Monkey Business"). "She Belongs To Me" and "Love Minus Zero/No Limit" are protest songs of a sort, about his deteriorating relationship with Joan Baez, though they're cleverly disguised as love songs.
Really, "Maggie's Farm" is protest rock, though Dylan universalizes the setting and is symbolically non-specific enough to make the song not the least bit dated.
The flip side is all acoustic, and while two of these songs are dull groaners - the original "Mr. Tambourine Man", possessing not an ounce of energy and only a vague trace of melody (and no hooks whatsoever - those flew in with The Byrds - not every performance the man delivered was flawless, sometimes other performers actually did his songs better than him).
As for "Gates of Eden", that's as entertaining as listening to a Bible thumper telling you that you're going to hell (I'm from the Bible Belt, so I know of of what I speak).
The other two tracks on Side Two are classics. "It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)" pokes fun at blue-veined Victorian ladies and contains one of my favorite Dylan lines Money doesn't talk, it swears
. And "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" is more than likely about Baez again, and was done definitively by Van Morrison (I don't think even Dylan purists are going to argue with that), but it's nice to hear the original.
by Reviewer: Creative Noise
(blogging at Creative Noise