Sure it's not his greatest record, but what this album achieves is to mark the arrival of an otherworldly artist whom always existed beyond the establishment that loved to take credit for him, and it's tracks like 'Baby Let Me Follow You Down' that affirm this. There's something very personal about Dylan's delivery, and although this tune had been covered many times before his version, Bob approaches it with a unique take that manages to present a playful character who has the power to cut to the core of the lyric and make the melody his own.
The same could be said for Dylan's version of 'House Of The Rising Sun', although Dave Van Ronk might have something to say about that. But Van Ronk aside, 'Rising Sun' and 'Follow You Down' display the foundation of something that's central to the genius of Bob Dylan: his ability to be a vessel for the characters and lives going on around him. In the same way that Peter Sellers could inhabit a character to the point where his own personality was no longer discernible, Dylan possesses this ability as reflected in his music. The folk singer, the rebellious protest singer, the rock star, the wild surrealist, the funny kid – nothing has proven beyond his ability and this record represents the starting point from which the flood gates would open.
His debut also marks a transition from simply inhabiting the songs and characters of others, over to writing his own tunes and forming his own stories. It's very interesting to see how obviously important Woody Guthrie was for Dylan in pushing him into songwriting. The first of two originals on this album, 'Talkin' New York', is so heavily weighted with a Guthrieesque drawl that one could easily be forgiven for thinking that it was 'Pretty Boy Floyd' blasting from their stereo. However, it demonstrates Dylan's natural topical songwriting ability, and his unique way of resolving a verse.
It's 'Song To Woody' though that really signifies the arrival of Bob Dylan the songwriter, and really lives on as the lasting landmark from his debut record. Lyrically insightful and adoring of his hero, 'Song To Woody' seems to lament the diminished state that Guthrie was in at the time, while at the same time reassuring him that it's okay, someone has arrived to carry the dustbowl into a new world. That new world was indeed stumbling into existence in early 1962, and along with it was a man that would come to embody everything that the children of the revolution wanted from the 1960′s. Cometh the hour and cometh the boy from Minnesota on a freight train constructed in his own mind.
Gaslight Records is a way of reviving and reliving the music of 50 Years Ago. Unlike any other music site, everything you'll hear or read about on Gaslight Records will be sourced from music that is at least 50 years old.
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