Released in 1965, Bringing It All Back Home is this beautiful articulation between being a stream of consciousness-based writing from Dylan and is a complete step away from his folk origins. While this split the lines on his previous fans and new fans alike, Dylan becomes a visionary to sound here and over 11 tracks are compelling even nearly 60 years later.
Opening with “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” Dylan bases most of Bringing It All Back Home around these grooves of folk that introduce electric guitar and keys. While Dylan covers the acoustic and electric guitar, harmonica, keyboards, and quite obviously vocals, he also recruits a plethora of instrumentalists to orchestrate in this marching army.
Musicians like Steve Boone on the bass guitar and Bobby Gregg on the percussion. Alongside follows Paul Griffin on the pianos with Frank Owens. Layering comes from John P. Hammond and Bruce Langhorne who also assist on guitars.
Moments where these other instrumentalists shine through come from the first seconds on “Subterranean Homesick Blues” where a triumphant display resembles what sounds like a jamboree where every element both traces Dylan and also is able to live within their own merit.
Dylan, who is more outward and experimental in his lyrical themes here is a key component to why Bringing It All Back Home is so drastically different than his previous work. Pieces like “Outlaw Blues” where Dylan features this rumbling instrumental of strumming guitars and stomping percussion.
Dylan describes, “Ain’t it hard to stumble and land in some funny lagoon? Ain’t it hard to stumble and land in some muddy lagoon? Especially when it’s nine below zero and three o’clock in the afternoon.” As the second verse enters, Dylan ramps the instrumental with these break sections that bridge each piece together. The instrumental will cut as he says the last line of the verse.
He pushes on to illustrate, “Ain’t gonna hang no picture, ain’t gonna hang no picture frame. Ain’t gonna hang no picture, or hang no picture frame. Well, I might look like Robert Ford, but I feel just like a’ Jesse James.”
Other pieces like “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream” are a comedic take on the adventure to America from colonists and pilgrims. He illustrates, “I was riding on the Mayflower when I thought I spied some land. I yelled for Captain Arab I have you understand. Who came running to the deck, said, ‘Boys, forget the whale. Look on over yonder.’”
This track in particular is where Dylan starts to lose consciousness of reality and decides to start to dig his heels into the strange and almost ambiguous style of writing. Most of “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream” can be dissected by each verse as Dylan packs so much writing into one track.
One final look into the mirrored gaze comes in “Gates Of Eden” where the entirely acoustic playing from Dylan is one of the last instrumentals heard by the audience. Not entirely complex, but the writing is more of a descriptive storybook that turns pages like verse.
Dylan describes, “Of war and peace, the truth just twists. It’s curfew gull it glides upon four-legged forest clouds, the cowboy angel rides.”
Like one last desperado tale before the whiskey is finished, Dylan continues on “With his candle lit into the sun though its glow is waxed in black. All except when ‘neath the trees of Eden.”
One line in particular sticks out through each listen which describes, “To those condemned to act accordingly and wait for succeeding kings. And I try to harmonize with songs the lonesome sparrow sings. There are no kings inside the Gates of Eden.”
And it may come as no shocking matter, but Bringing It All Back Home constructs in this nostalgic beauty but also in the same stance becomes timeless. The subject matter while oftentimes difficult to directly relate to, has moments where intense emotional writing shines through and cuts into the mind like a serrated scalpel.