Welcome to the latest edition of ‘Golden Vault’, where we delve into the annals of music to bring you a classic album. You’ll know some like the back of your hand and nothing of others. We hope to get you reacquainted with old friends and create new favourites. The album to be taken out of the Golden Vault for reappraisal this week is 'Blonde on Blonde' by American folk legend Bob Dylan.

If 'Bringing It All Back Home' was an emancipation proclamation from the folk-music scene and 'Highway 61 Revisited' was a bitter finger-pointing authoritarian masterpiece, further proof that there was only one way to go and it was electric, then 'Blonde on Blonde' is Bob Dylan exploding into the stratosphere. Confident and unbridled, it's a squalling mash of sound in which Dylan's own voice combats with the screaming harmonica and howling guitars that tear through your speakers like ravenous lions through a petting zoo, made all the more impressive when you recall that this was the man's seventh album (and eighth if you count the second disc) in four years with the three above-mentioned released over the course of fourteen months. On top of all that are the tonnes of songs he recorded in this period that never made it onto albums. If Dylan's early career moved like a ballistic missile then this is him having reached free-flight.

But whence this rabid energy, this seemingly bottomless well of inspiration and creativity from which the album took form? The muses must have been kind to this one. Or perhaps they weren't. In fact what becomes conspicuously obvious very quickly with 'Blonde On Blonde' is that hardly a song goes by without reference to a lady or a woman or a girl or a her or a she or a mama or a honey or a Louise or a Ruthie or a Marie. Out of fourteen songs only one does not contain lyrics referencing a female of the species and that song is called Rainy Day Women #12 & 35.

With this in mind the album could have become a celebration of one's own bravado or libido or popularity, but the songs traverse such a complex range of emotions and themes that this ends up not being the case. These are not songs of sexual conquest, they are songs of vulnerability, insecurity, rejection, jealousy, confusion, disappointment and separation. If there is a key to Dylan's creativity it is his refusal to be satisfied. His career has been a constant struggle away from being pigeon-holed and this same dissatisfaction is evident in the lyrics of his songs with the women he writes about and it creates this irresistible tension that may go a long way towards explaining the album's continuing appeal.

Let's not forget that Dylan had just become a husband and a father before the album began recording, so in a way what we're looking at here is the man's last fling; a series of reminiscences written at the threshold of a new life of monogamy. He digs quite deep into his lyrical arsenal, rehashing methods used on previous songs such as the surrealist blues number Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again which has a similar ethos to Bob Dylan's 115th Dream, or the innocent feelings of rejection on I Want You echoing I Don't Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met).

But the album has new directions, lyrically and musically, and in terms of fusing the two no song stands taller than Visions of Johanna. Structured very much like one of Dylan's earlier folk songs, the subtle use of drums and organ gives the recording a huge musical lift above those older numbers. But what's most noteworthy here is the song's lyric. It is a unique meditation on love-sicknesses, the all-encompassing feeling of missing someone who isn't there in which we follow the narrator through romantic entanglements, walks down the street, trips to museums and accusatory encounters with another man, while the vision of a woman imposes itself everywhere he goes. Everything in the song is distant - lights flicker from opposite lofts, heat pipes cough, country music stations play soft, all night girls whisper, voices echo - as if the world itself has become the background to a greater feeling, one of love and of loss.

In the opening verse alone Dylan's protagonist, the love-sick one, is identified in the first-, second- and third-person. His own existence is called into question when faced with the real presence of Louise, "the ghost of 'lectricity/howls in the bones of her face/where these visions/of Johanna/have now taken my place." His trademark surrealist humour pops up in the museum as in reference to a painting: "hear the one with the moustache say jeez/I can't find my knees", only to be suppressed again: "these visions/of Johanna/make it all seem so cruel." Few songs have managed to capture the inner workings of the mind, particularly these visions over which we have no control, so effectively and with such an understanding of the mental process.

Musically the album is another middle-finger to the folk world, as if Maggie's Farm didn't get the point across sufficiently at the start of his electric adventure. The mad marching band sound of the opening track is as far from Blowin' In The Wind as a song can get. While this may be one big joke at the expense of the purists Dylan shows why the lone guitar is insufficient for what he's trying to do repeatedly on the album, but never more effectively than on One of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later). As the only recording from the troubled New York sessions that made it onto the album (the rest recorded with a mostly different set of musicians in Nashville) it's arguably as close as Dylan ever got to what he later described as the sound in his head. The song tears through an intense crescendo that swells into each chorus until finally that trademark harmonica launches from beneath the circus of sound straight through your spine and into the blue. How the naysayers could look at themselves in the mirror after hearing that is a mystery.

Like James Joyce's short-story collection 'Dubliners', 'Blonde On Blonde' finishes with a single work that is much longer than everything that came before. For Joyce it's a sixteen-thousand word tale of the disconnect between the minds of a married couple, and for Dylan an eleven and a half-minute hymn of intangible, inexplicable love. Joyce's The Dead culminates in the protagonist Gabriel Conroy realising that while he was burning with desire for his wife he had misread her detachment as coyness, that she was thinking about a boy who loved her and died when she was young. The result is that he finds he will never understand his wife completely, a similar conclusion reached in Dylan's Sad-Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands. Images and associations are dragged into the song in an attempt to reconstruct this woman from impressions, but it's a futile act and his trademark frustration dominates the tone.

However the song is more than an epiphany. It is a message to his wife, within which is the implicit idea that complete understanding between two people is impossible, therefore irrelevant. It is also a message specifically designed to not be understood by us, the listeners. The lyrics are opaque, but they don't seem random. They seem like references to the kinds of moments shared by couples that nobody outside that relationship can understand. You could try to interpret "with your childhood flames/on your midnight rug", but what could it be except for some story she may have told him about almost setting a carpet on fire when she was a child, and what satisfaction will an ordinary listener get from understanding that? Lines like "and your streetcar visions/which you place on the grass" and "with the child of a hoodlum/wrapped up in your arms" could only have similar anecdotal relevance that only the muse of the song could possibly understand.

And so what we have is another Dylan innovation, an attempt to evoke stronger emotions than he ever has before. But it's an emotion only one human on earth could ever experience, and the average listener for his troubles is cast (like a stone) out of 'Blonde on Blonde' before it finishes. We are left to understand that we are listening to the carnal embrace of two lovers but that we are not invited to share in whatever their memories and feelings together are, as if they'd be sullied by becoming known. It is the complete antithesis to the voyeurism of the typical "I think about you night and day"/"I can't live without you" love song, abstractly attempting to replicate love itself by becoming what love is; a complex emotion experienced by two people, which inherently must exclude everyone else on earth.

Dylan's marriage to the woman who inspired this song would not last, and it would lead to an even greater work of art in his 1974 album 'Blood On The Tracks', often lamely referred to as the greatest break-up album of all time. But with 'Blonde On Blonde' Dylan really did shoot for the stars, and with the final track he got about as close to that intangible notion of love as any singer ever has. Not long after the album was released Dylan suffered a serious motorcycle accident that instigated a serious rethink of his own situation and culminated in some less commercially-inclined works in the form of John Wesley Harding and Nashville Skyline. The man still had an impressive career ahead that goes up to the present day, but 'Blonde On Blonde' marked the end of not just that man's first period of music-making, but also one of the most prolific and artistically significant eras for any artist in music history.

Did you enjoy this weeks edition of Golden Vault? Get involved, comment below and join us next week in the Golden Vault where we’ll be discussing 'Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)' by pioneering hip hop act Wu-Tang Clan.