I have no idea what Dylan's talking about - I recognize that he writes great stream-of-consciousness poetry - the words sound really cool - but as for any deeper meaning, I just can't see it.
When I listen to "Ballad of a Thin Man" for example, I might think 'Heh heh, he said You're a cow' but definitely not 'Wow, what a biting condemnation of the squares of the world'.
I'm not saying there's no meaning in Dylan's lyrics, only that it's not apparent to me. I also have my pet theory that lots of people simply pretend to understand Dylan - after all, I'm a mildly bright guy, yet I don't. Maybe I'm just bitter about things.
One thing I can't deny though, is Dylan's massive intelligence - these songs sound smart, and no matter what he's really
saying, they do deserve the giant onus of 'importance' that everyone slaps on them.
Also, I was blown away by the melodies on this album. They range from the gripping "Tombstone Blues" to the wistful "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues", to the haunting "Desolation Row", and his fantastic imagery always adds to the mood.
And although the instrumentation is rambling and disjointed, it's in a charming western-saloon way, and Dylan's vocal delivery is direct and heartfelt, even if he does hate everything in the world.
As for the songs, a few of them are slight or unmemorable, but they all have their good points, and at least half are full-fledged classics, especially the two epics that bookend the album. And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention "Queen Jane Approximately" - my favorite song on the record - it's usually considered one of the weaker tracks, so maybe I'm just falling for the sappy melody, but it gets me every time.
In sum, this is a solid example of why the 60's giants were that good. Or maybe I'm just a sucker for the word 'cow'!
by Reviewer: Cosmic Ben
(blogging at Cosmic Ben [Defunct]