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Bob Dylan Highway 61 Revisited
"Highway 61 Revisited" resonates because of its enduring emotional appeal. Few songwriters before Dylan or since have combined so effectively the intensely personal with the spectacularly universal. In "Like a Rolling Stone", his gleeful excoriation of Miss Lonely (Edie Sedgwick? Joan Baez? A composite "type"?) fuses with the evocation of a hip new zeitgeist to produce a veritable anthem. In "Ballad of a Thin Man", the younger generation's confusion is thrown back in the establishment's face, even as Dylan vents his disgust with the critics who laboured to catalogue him. And in "Desolation Row", he reaches the zenith of his own brand of surrealist paranoia, that here attains the atmospheric intensity of a full-fledged nightmare. Between its many flourishes of gallows humour, this is one of the most immaculately frightful songs ever recorded, with its relentless imagery of communal executions, its parade of fallen giants and triumphant local losers, its epic length and even the mournful sweetness of Bloomfield's flamenco-inspired fills.
In this book, Mark Polizzotti examines just what makes the songs on "Highway 61 Revisited" so affecting, how they work together as a suite, and how lyrics, melody, and arrangements combine to create an unusually potent mix. He blends musical and literary analysis of the songs themselves, biography (where appropriate) and recording information (where helpful). And he focuses on Dylan's mythic presence in the mid-60s, when he emerged from his proletarian incarnation to become the American Rimbaud. The comparison has been made by others, including Dylan, and it illuminates much about his mid-sixties career, for in many respects "Highway 61" is rock 'n' roll's answer to "A Season in Hell".
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What Reviewers Are Saying
"A few pages into Mark Polizzotti's Highway 61 Revisited, I was amazed by how much he knew. A few pages after that, I was amazed by how much I didn't. The whole book is a marvel of research and insight, doled out in equal measure. Something was indeed happening in the grooves of this seminal Bob Dylan album-and after reading this compact yet loaded analysis, you will know what it is, Mr. Jones."-David Bianculli "I've been listening to Highway 61 Revisited for 41 years now, but Mark Polizzotti's 33 1/3 book sent me back to hear all the things I've missed. His thoughtful and knowledgeable appraisal both summarizes scholarship on the album and adds new ideas and details, contributing to a deeper sense of how this landmark Dylan album came to be." Ira Robbins, editor, www.Trouserpress.com--Sanford Lakoff "As one of the greatest albums in the history of recorded music, a turning point that forever grafted the depth and integrity of folk music into the flourishing tree of rock and roll, Bob Dylan's "Highway 61 Revisited "has long deserved the kind of focused treatment that Mark Polizzotti gives it with his examination for the always excellent 33 1/3 series....The sheer volume of annotated quotes and behind the scenes revelations that Polizzoti has dug up is mind numbing, but the material flows together well, and the studious nature of the examination is never less than enlightening. It's an essential read for anyone who wants to engage the mythology behind the man and the album."-"Under the Radar, "Fall 2006--Sanford Lakoff "Polizzotti's book does an excellent job gathering information from the cream of the Dylan books and coming up with his own conclusions as he examines what might be Dylan's finest hour ... While hardcore Dylanites might nitpick with some of his conclusions, Polizzotti's book offers an opinionated, engaging primer to a classic album that gave some new insight to this Dylan fan. It's often beautifully written, with the author's palpable awe for Dylan coming through." - Blogcritics--Sanford Lakoff "Polizzotti's illuminating new analysis of Dylan's landmark 1965 album...speculates on the genesis of the songs, examines their lyrical content and, more prosaically, outlines the recording process. With considerable insight, he places the great album in the context of what was happening in Dylan's world in the mid-1960s. This might seem like an oft-ploughed furrow but, armed with a formidable intellect, Polizzotti makes some telling original observations. He writes with intelligence and flair. And his text has a depth which would fully engage you over several slow, careful reads." - Dylan Daily--Sanford Lakoff "Polizzotti's key contribution is to return our attention to the music, to remind us that however much we scrutinize the lyrics, Dylan's musical contribution is just as important...[He] leads us into the studio, reviews the recording sessions, and analyzes the various takes. In doing so, he shows how a song develops musically much like looking at early drafts of a novel. Studied in this way, our understanding of each song is enriched." American Quarterly--Sanford Lakoff "For me, the most rewarding thing about the book was Polizzotti's personification of many of the people involved in making "Highway 61 Revisited"...Dylan's life during this period has been documented so thoroughly at this point, in films like "Don't Look Back" and "No Direction Home" and books like "Chronicles Vol. 1", but Polizzotti manages to stay focused and has delivered a book that is as insightful as it is concise." - "Being There" (beingtheremag.com)--Sanford Lakoff "This is a small book (only 161 pages) that punches well above its weight. The author, Mark Polizzotti, knows his stuff, and has researched in detail: the bibliography and endnotes demonstrate the depth of his reading, and the text itself is densely packed with minutiae about the recording of the album. He is especially strong on the dissection of the musical layers in each of the album's songs, examining what each musician brings to individual tracks, and I'm sure I won't be alone in coming away from many of his descriptions of the songs' evolutions in the studio with a new understanding of what actually went on...It is more than enough for me that Polizzotti writes calmly and insightfully, in an elegant and highly readable style that manages to be balanced, generous and enthusiastic all at the same time, no mean feat...As a monograph this book works extremely well in its concision, being timely proof that books about Dylan do not need to be able to double as doorstops to be worthwhile. If you prefer your writers on Dylan not to be long-winded or pompous (or continually belittling others), then this will be a book you will appreciate. It's a good read, first and foremost. It would also serve as an excellent introduction to "Highway 61" to any Dylan newcomer, who would be delighted, I'm sure, to find it in their Christmas stocking." - "bobdylanisis.com"--Sanford Lakoff "I can recommend Mark Polizzotti's short book "Highway 61 Revisited"...You might think everyone had written plenty about this album already... but the enviable achievement of this book as a whole is to say fresh things, and with a nicely clipped, energetic turn of phrase...[Some passages] fundamentally offer a truth I've never quite heard said before, even after more than 40 years of talk and writing." - Michael Gray, "bobdylanencyclopedia.blogspot.com"--Sanford Lakoff