VA - Blonde On Blonde Revisited (2016)

VA - Blonde On Blonde Revisited (2016)

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CD Rip | FLAC (tracks, cue, log) - 397 MB | MP3 CBR 320 kbps - 176 MB
1:03:55 | Folk Rock | Label: Mojo Magazine

One of the most famous Dylanisms arose from a conversation with director Sam Peckinpah on the set of the 1973 movie Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. “Just be yourself,” Peckinpah suggested to a 32-year-old Bob Dylan who, by this point, had already been everything from folk messiah to rock Judas, who had received glowing reviews and miserable ones, who once stood as a pillar of New York authenticity and was now struggling to play the role of a mysterious stranger in a Western movie filmed in Durango, Mexico. Fittingly, Dylan snapped back to Peckinpah: “Which one?”

If Dylan’s 1966 double album Blonde on Blonde is generally viewed among his most iconic, it’s because it was his first album to show all the different Dylans in their best light, with appearances from the freewheeling folk singer from the early ‘60s all the way up to the weirdo bluesman he would later become. It’s not Dylan’s only album that plays genre and mood the way other artists use backup guitars, but it’s the one that made them all feel the most coherent, attractive, and maniacally unstoppable.

For the album’s fiftieth birthday, an impressive array of acts have gathered to pay homage to its thin, wild, multiple personality disorder. Blonde on Blonde Revisited is a worthy tribute, maintaining the album's original track order and flow while also showcasing the wide-ranging talents of the artists collected. Unfortunately, things don’t start off so hot. Malcolm Middleton’s monotonous Matrix-soundtrack-meets-hotel-lobby remake of “Rainy Day Woman #12 & 35” at once drains all the brainless fun out of the original while making it sound even more brainless in the process (maybe not everybody must get stoned). Better is Thomas Cohen’s subtle, Britpop remake of “Most Likely You Go Your Way And I’ll Go Mine,” refitting Dylan's bluesy kiss-off with a jazzy, laid-back groove. As evidenced by last year’s fascinating Bootleg Series, however, most of the songs from this era had already been reinvented and torn apart multiple times before being released: the arrangements that Dylan landed on feel definitive for a reason. For the most part, despite the daring, experimental nature of the album proper, the songs that fare best here are also the ones that take the fewest obvious risks.

Steve Gunn’s thoughtful vocal performance in “Visions of Johanna” and Michael Chapman’s intricate guitar work in “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat” are highlights: examples of artists paying homage to Dylan’s songs not through reinvention but through total reverence. Similarly, after contributing some of the most surprising performances on last month’s Day of the Dead, Phosphorescent shows up with a refreshingly stripped back take on “I Want You,” recalling the early Oldham-isms of Pride more than the underwater country of Muchacho. Elsewhere, Marissa Nadler’s austere (even for her) take on “Absolutely Sweet Marie” and Ryley Walker’s stunning “4th Time Around” both make strong cases for each artist’s particular style, illustrating how influential Dylan’s music was for a generation of folk artists hellbent on sounding more like themselves. Like the best of Dylan’s work, these performance sound like timeless standards and unanswerable riddles.

The real revelation here, though, is the closing number. As was the case on the original Blonde on Blonde, Jim O’Rourke’s “Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands” takes up the entirety of Side D (and even outlasts Dylan’s by two minutes). O’Rourke refines Dylan’s epic waltz into a gorgeous acoustic ballad– his hushed, emotive vocal recalling The Wild, The Innocent-era Springsteen in its quiet intensity. Calling back to the initial recording of the song, when Dylan’s band treated every chorus like a climax, assured that this must be the last one, O’Rourke inserts a series of found recordings of city streets, ringing phones, and passing cars between the verses. The opposite effect to the original’s eleven-minute runner’s high, these passages find the artist pausing to look out the window, overwhelmed by the task at hand and threatening to quit before coming back with more to say. It’s a fitting tribute to Dylan at a point in his career when he couldn’t even stand still for the duration of a photo shoot, when “being yourself” wasn’t an instruction to follow but an intuitive instinct. Blonde on Blonde Revisited, then, serves an album-length response to Dylan’s comeback. Why just be yourself when you can be all of yourselves, all at once?

By Sam Sodomsky

01. Malcolm Middleton - Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 5:06
02. My Darling Clementine - Pledging My Time 3:19
04. Chip Taylor - One Of Us Must Know (Sooner Or Later) 6:23
05. Phosphorescent - I Want You 3:56
07. Michael Chapman - Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat 4:52
08. Peter Bruntnell - Just Like A Women 5:43
09. Thomas Cohen - Most Likely You Go Your Way And I'll Go Mine 3:49
10. Kevin Morby - Temporary Like Achilles 4:20
11. Marissa Nadler - Absolutely Sweet Marie 4:43
12. Ryley Walker - 4th Time Around 4:19
13. Night Beats - Obviously 5 Believers 3:57
14. Jim O'Rourke - Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands 13:26

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