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Dylan’s double disc challenges Blonde on Blonde, 54 years later 

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After a few years of covering Tin Pan Alley standards, all Bob Dylan had to do to startle was to reach the emotional peaks of 1974’s Blood on the Tracks. But his new double-length Rough and Rowdy Ways (Columbia) aims for far more — the unseating of his last double masterpiece, Blonde on Blonde, from 1966. It’s all there, the provocative and sly blues numbers, the occasional self-aggrandizement. The 17-minute side-long “Murder Most Foul” is arguably a better song than 1966’s “Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands.”

But don’t think of this as the 79-year-old’s attempts to leave a legacy. Every track leans upon a past of Delta blues and juke joints while feeling completely 21st century, his voice both ragged and utterly melodic. One wonders why Dylan wasted so much time. Many works in the ’90s and 2000s were significant, but why would he dawdle in Christian or country realms when works like this are bubbling in his subconscious? But that’s always been Dylan’s low-down and mysterious way. We’re just lucky to be present for this part of the ride.

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