The guy with the fro and the harmonica.
Suggested first purchase/album: The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan
Suggested best of: The Essential Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan (1962) -- Man, who's this kid? Here's one of those guys you want to get to know if you ever saw him. A pretty magic, powerful, fun, punky, folky, happiness-inspiring album. Highlights include "You're No Good," "Talkin' New York," and "Pretty Peggy-O."
The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan (1963) -- Losing a bit (but not all) of the pure fun of the previous album, this one has all the great protest songs that made Bob Dylan folkily famous. Features "Blowin' in the Wind," the beautiful "Girl from the North Country," "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall," and "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right."
The Times They Are A-Changin' (1964) -- Not as good as the previous (this one has lost all the fun), but -- hey -- it's got title title song, so isn't that enough? Actually, the album is very good (when not compared to his previous efforts) and very pretty, even while being angry at the war.
Another Side of Bob Dylan (1964) -- Kind of a combination of what's come before. Some of the goofy fun is here, the seriousness, a bit of the protest, and throughout most, the really good music. Dylan's lyrics to me are okay, but it's when he's playing pretty memorable tunes that he does his best work. Highlights include "All I Really Want To Do," "I Shall Be Free, No. 10," "My Back Pages," "I Don't Believe You," and "It Ain't Me, Babe."
Bringing It All Back Home (1965) -- The opening tune "Subterranean Homesick Blues" shows that the times are a-changin' for Dylan, since this is one of his more rocking numbers. "She Belongs To Me" also shows that he's gone past folk, and it's an even better song than the first. "Maggie's Farm," "Outlaw Blues," and some others do the same kind of stuff as his older material, just with electric. The pretty tunes come out in "Love Minus Zero/No Limit." "Mr. Tambourine Man" brings back some of the folk, but I actually prefer the remakes of this song to the original. A lot of ideas on this album, and I can tell how it was very different at the time, though most of it doesn't exactly punch me in any real way, even the widely popular "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue." Agreeable stuff.
Highway 61 Revisited (1965) -- "Like a Rolling Stone" is the best song on this album and one of the best Dylan songs to this point, something that doesn't just rely on his folky delivery and interesting lyrics but gives us some actual grooveable music with a full band. The rest of the album, however, doesn't do as much for me and the full band actually works against the songs. Not sure how that happened. "Ballad of a Thin Man" is one of the standouts and the album is more or less enjoyable, but not as cool as some of the previous works.
Blonde on Blonde (1966) -- The one where the typical Bob Dylan nasal impression comes from (and one of my favorite of his voices, actually). The full band of this album works to Dylan's advantage and he seems to find a nice balance between what he's done and what he's capable of doing with more musicality. Of course, things do linger a bit (this is a double album) and you can see how, even at this early age, some of the old fartiness of jamming with a band and dulling things up are present. Three of the songs are over seven minutes long and the music and lyrics almost seem to be coming too easy, and almost none of the rough nature of the early records are here. But all of this is more a foretelling than what's currently here, since this is probably the most enjoyable album since Freewheelin'. Some of the many highlights include "Visions of Johanna," "One of Us Must Know," "I Want You" (one of his best songs to date), "Stuck Inside of Mobile," "Just Like a Woman" (though, as a woman, this song annoys me). A pinnacle of sorts.
John Wesley Harding (1967) -- There's nothing wrong with this album, but its straightforward western-ness doesn't do anything for me, not even "All Along the Watchtower." It's okay as country Dylan background music, but nothing I'd put in often.
Nashville Skyline (1969) -- It will still take me a while to get used to Dylan's voice here. It's not exactly the one that people do impressions of. There's a lot of good little tunes on here. "Lady Lady Lay" is nice, and Dylan was smart enough to get Johnny Cash to appear on "Girl from the North Country" (the best song on the album). The rest of the songs are unmemorable, even if pleasant, and the album is very short.
Planet Waves (1974) -- Four albums came between the last review and this one, including a soundtrack and a couple that were dismissed as crap. Planet Waves shows Dylan in a place where it seems like he's just, you know, making music now. Ten years is a century in rock and roll years, and it would be fine if his groundbreaking moments were over since he's in his old age (he's over 30, after all). Time told that he didn't become an oldies act after all, but this album shows that he could have. "On a Night Like This" rises above a bit, and "Forever Young" at least shows you that it was better than the Rod Steward version.
Blood on the Tracks (1975) -- An okay album featuring "Tangled Up in Blue" and my favorite "Idiot Wind."
Copyright (c) Oct 2002 - May 2007 by Rusty Likes Music