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100 Greatest Albums of All Time

From ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ to ‘The Doors’ make it to the ROLLING STONE list

Rolling Stone
Rolling Stone Sep 29, 2012
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9. Blonde on Blonde, Bob Dylan, Columbia, 1966

Released on May 16th, 1966, rock’s first studio double LP by a major artist was, as Dylan declared in 1978, “the closest I ever got to the sound I hear in my mind . . . that thin, that wildmercury sound.” There is no better description of the album’s manic brilliance. After several false-start sessions in New York in the fall of 1965 and January 1966 with his killer road band the Hawks ”“ “One of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later)” was the only keeper ”“ Dylan blazed through the rest of Blonde on Blonde’s 14 tracks in one four-day run and one three-day run at Columbia’s Nashville studios in February and March 1966.

The pace of recording echoed the amphetamine velocity of Dylan’s songwriting and touring schedule at the time. But the combined presence of trusted hands like organist Al Kooper and Hawks guitarist Robbie Robertson with expert local sessionmen including drummer Kenneth Buttrey and pianist Hargus “Pig” Robbins created an almost contradictory magnificence: a tightly wound tension around Dylan’s quicksilver language and incisive singing in barrel house surrealism such as “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” and “Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again,” the hilarious Chicago- style blues “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat” and the scornful, fragile “Just Like a Woman,” still his greatest ballad.

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Amid the frenzy, Dylan delivered some of his finest, clearest songs of comfort and desire: the sidelong beauty of the 11- minute “Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands,” recorded in just one take at four in the morning after an eight-hour session, and “I Want You,” the title of which Dylan almost used for the album.

 

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