Bob Dylan - Highway 61 Revisited (Throwback Review)

When looking back at the history of music, there may be no one more influential than Bob Dylan. Dylan came to define rock music and the power of songwriting for generations to come, and by looking at his work it’s clear to see how. Bob Dylan began a new era for music starting with his 1965 effort Highway 61 Revisited, daring to change music through the quickly expanding world of rock.

Highway 61 Revisited is critically acclaimed for its influence, yet it’s a daring record from start to finish. Dylan threw absolutely everything against the window in this record: instrumentation, song length, lyrics… There’s nothing that Highway 61 Revisited doesn’t reinvent. Opening track ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ — widely considered one of the best songs ever recorded — brings the record to a punchy start, the six-minute track combining elements of rock and roll, electric rock, folk, pop, and more. The song tells the story of a woman who loses it all, tackling loneliness in a changing world. Dylan’s attitude, confidence, and energy in this one song alone is what solidified himself as a musical legend: it was never about the quality of his voice, but about what he was using his voice to say. It's a snapshot of a changing world back then, but still paints a startlingly real portrait of life today.

While ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ is a powerful song in its own right, Highway 61 Revisited still has a lot left to offer. Dylan continues dishing out long, experimental tracks throughout the record, like the eleven-minute conclusion 'Desolation Row.’ Even while the track is the only one to wholly take on Dylan's acoustic folk vibe, the track is a long jam featuring random instrumentation and a bluesy tale told through the lyrics. ‘Tombstone Blues’ has a more Wild-Western vibe, Dylan providing a snapshot of a different America amidst the Vietnam War.

Despite Dylan effectively entering uncharted territory with this record, he keeps things fresh throughout. Dylan tackles everything from the bluesy, hopeful vibes of ‘It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry’ to the fun, free-living title track ‘Highway 61 Revisited.’ The dark and slow ‘Ballad Of A Thin Man’ brings more drama to the table, and so does ‘Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues’ which sees him sound more fed up. ‘Queen Jane Approximately’ brings a more anthemic presence to the table, even if it stays more low-key. The chill but big atmosphere provides some great energy to a record that really never stops giving.

Anyone who knows music knows that Bob Dylan, whether you like him or not, influenced the way music evolved. Highway 61 Revisited was daring, experimental, and even still isn’t so easily accessible, yet Bob Dylan’s musicianship is what makes it such a classic. He dared to do what hadn’t been done before, and he succeeded in ways he never could imagine.

Favorite Track: Ballad Of A Thin Man

Least Favorite Track: From A Buick 6

Rating: 80 / 100

Stream or buy Highway 61 Revisited on Apple Music, and follow our Throwback Playlist on Spotify: