REVIEW: Bob Dylan’s “Rough and Rowdy Ways” Never Stop Searching


Kinshasa, the fight, hear the lion will roar

But the greatest has faded, can’t dance anymore

The monster, Foreman, has fists filled with lead

first round, maybe 2, he’ll hand Ali his head

Look away, I can’t watch, he can’t get off the ropes

But you know now, all about that dope

Look quick, do you see, Floreman’s on the floor

And the greatest, the greatest is the champion once more

In “Murder Most Foul,” the first single off Rough & Rowdy Ways that also became Dylan’s first number 1 song, oh and it’s 16 minutes and 54 seconds long, he sings:

Where we ask no quarter, and no quarter do we give

We’re right down the street from the street where you live

They mutilated his body, and they took out his brain

What more could they do?

They piled on the pain

But his soul’s not there where it was supposed to be at

For the last fifty years they’ve been searchin’ for that

I should stop there, because what else can you write about an album like this. The songs are not about what you think they are about. Put every stanza in a hopper and draw one at random. Put the 10 best song writers alive today in a room and start the bidding. “My immortal soul,” will be the opening bid.

And the best blues guys playing today would trade all their elite skills for these riffs. You don’t need to “play guitar behind your head” to tap into the force.

“I Contain Multitudes” is the greatest non-memory song ever written by someone in his 70s. “My Own Version of You” is “Positively 4th Street,” only better. “I’ve Made Up My Mind to Give Myself to You” is “What is a Sweetheart Like You Doing in a Place Like This,” only better. “Mother of Muses,” is what “Mr. Tambourine Man” has become. It’s not better because that’s impossible. It’s after the Man has done all those things. He’s “danced beneath open skies with one-hand waving free, silhouetted by the trees, waiting only for [his] boot heels to go wandering.” He’s not waiting anymore. He’s done it. “Crossing the Rubicon” is the statement that makes it true. And “Key West (Philosopher Pirate) is – listen closely to that opening organ chord – “Like a Rolling Stone” who knows how it feels. Doesn’t have to ask. Rough and Rowdy Ways may well be the history of the Baby Boom generation. Still searching for its soul.



Bob Dylan – vocals, guitar, production

Bob Britt – guitar

Matt Chamberlain – drums

Tony Garnier – bass guitar

Donnie Herron – steel guitar, violin, accordion

Charlie Sexton – guitar

Additional musicians

Fiona Apple – vocals

Blake Mills

Alan Pasqua

Tommy Rhodes

Benmont Tench


Greg Calbi – mastering

Joseph Lorge – assistant engineering

Chris Shaw – engineering, mixing


Ian Berry – front cover photo

Josh Cheuse – album design

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