To revisit Highway 61 Revisited is to track Bob Dylan back to his golden age. His long and winding career led to a rough blur of blues and rock. Highway 61 Revisited is a fantastic offering that sees Dylan experiment with the heights of his powers. Tracks that explore the desire of the times, the anger of a generation and the need to improve and innovate. That is something Dylan has no trouble doing, and on this 1965 classic, his contemporary folk, blues rock blur is intelligent, experimental and unifies the quality with the consistency of this artist. Lengthy tracks, broad and debatable meanings, all of it gives way to the desire for storytelling and the innovations Dylan pressed for.
Where Highway 61 Revisited peaks is on its opening track, Like a Rolling Stone. It is one of the all-time greats. Not just from Dylan, but any musician. That resentment rings stronger than ever, and a rare turn of negativity from the man on this album. It is one of his finest songs, with light and fluttering lyrics cutting through as witty and remarkable marks of culture. It is a story of having it all and losing it soon after. Dylan never had that experience, but there was fear. That fear underlined all his tracks of self-reflection and pontificated misery. A sudden burst opens Like a Rolling Stone and it feeds into the horror of seeing someone so high and mighty scrounge their next meal and drift, as Dylan repeats: “like a rolling stone.”
Other tracks on the album are just as strong. While it may open with a rancorous song of venomous intent, it is the rest of the album that provides tonal differences, an acceptance of the past and a desire to look forward to the future. It is this that Dylan relies on so well, and it is here that the music springs to life as more than fragments of his life. Highway 61 Revisited is a passionate piece, one that exhibits all the strong qualities Dylan would rely on over his decades in the business. His harmonica-clad tracks exude the same stylish consistencies as his earliest works, the lyrics still bleed with emotion, as do his later works. Tombstone Blues takes the acoustics on a faster track of social critique and a slap back at the powers that be.
It is an album that exudes conflict. Highway 61 may be revisited, but it is the crossroads of an artist that spurs on ever clearer. Dylan here realises and accepts that his work is autobiographical, even though he may transfer the guilt, trauma and good times to a different entity. It is not just this realisation Highway 61 Revisited brings, but the affirmation as Dylan as a higher power. He is an authority now, and it is the public backlash of an unreleased Like a Rolling Stone that spurred him on to a higher peak than ever before. It is on a revisit of Highway 61 Revisited that the lyrics cut through greater than before, that they provide a sense of place and time. It is fine, fine work. Albums like this, songs as strong as this, they are reminders of why Dylan is still the Voice of a Generation.