Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter

Thursday, January 15, 2009

We make a point of telling clients that we will appear anywhere in New York, and that's been a good thing for us over the years, but some corners of the state are tougher itches to scratch than others. Rockland County (county seat: New City) is one of those. Strictly speaking it's a downstate county, and what I should do is fly down, rent a car, and drive up the Hudson. As a practical matter, however, the odds of my making a calendar call if I do that are not great, so what I do instead is rent a car, then leave Buffalo in the middle of the night. It's a 735 mile round trip, through Syracuse and the Catskills, and this time of year those are two places where I'm pretty much guaranteed some weather. Even in the more clement months it is a big schlep, up hill and down dale. Lately my rental cars have had satellite radio, which has made the trip considerably more tolerable, but yesterday I brought along an audio book on my iPod. Dreamtime had alerted me to the availability of Mark Polizzotti's "Highway 61 Revisited" -- part of the 33 1/3 series-- as a free download, and this was the perfect opportunity to listen to it.

This is exemplary Dylanology, and a perfect side for this terrific series. "Highway 61" came at a time in Dylan's career when his popularity, influence and creativity were at a peak. It's the sweet spot, right after "Bringing It All Back Home" and the events depicted in "Don't Look Back", right before "Blond on Blond" and the motorcycle accident-- right when Dylan was transforming rock'n'roll. Polizzotti covers everything. Although I find analysis of Dylan's lyrics tedious, he lays out the major theories. The discussions on who the songs might be addressed to, which are amusing, are probably irrelevant to our appreciation of the album today, but are cleverly worked out. (I hadn't realized that Joan Baez had recorded "The Death of Queen Jane" the year before-- I'd always figured "Queen Jane, Approximately" was just Dylan-code for "Joan/Jane, whatever.") Best of all, the book is full of details about who played what, and how the ultimate sound of the recording was achieved. Al Kooper's story about how the organ sound on "Like A Rolling Stone" came about is worn as smooth as a stone itself by now, but there's lots more of that kind of detail. Suze Rotolo's book (on which more anon) tells us that Kooper had a goofy sense of humor, but Polizzotti illustrates this by telling us that Kooper wore a siren whistle on a chain around his neck that he used to blow to freak out people he was partying with-- and that he gave to Dylan to play on the title track. There's over three hours of this sort of thing. The 33 1/3 books I've read have all been good, but this one is terrific.

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