I’m an unapologetic Bob Dylan fan. I’ll even listen to the crappy late ’70s/early ’80s born-again Christian albums that everyone agrees are absolute crap. But my favorite, the one that I could listen to over and over again for the rest of my days, the one that would be in my “Desert Island Discs” top ten, is Highway 61 Revisited.
Yeah, it’s kind of the obvious choice. With “Like a Rolling Stone,” it’s guaranteed to be one of the best-known of Dylan’s albums, standing alongside his earlier folk albums and Blonde on Blonde as the ones that all the casual fans know about and probably have.
But I’m not some hipster who thinks popularity makes something bad. There is, I think, a good reason that so many people like this record: it’s just really damn good. Peak Dylan, firing on all cylinders and writing with a passion and a fire that could barely be contained. From the first firecracker snare shot of “Like a Rolling Stone” to the plaintive harmonica wail that brings “Desolation Row” to an end, Highway 61 Revisited is everything I ever wanted in a rock and roll record. Dylan is by turns thoughtful, aggressive, playful, and mystical, tapping into a mythic America that seems somehow more real than the actual one.