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Old 06-27-2014, 07:33 PM   #61
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I have been working through Dylan's albums over the past three months or so and think I'm finally able to offer some thoughts, for anyone who might care.

I was surprised at the strength of the debut. Dylan gives these blues standards faithful treatments, but also infuses them with a good deal of personality. I appreciate the warts-and-all treatment on many of these tracks, as it stays true to the blues tradition. This will likely come off as a wildly unpopular opinion, but as a pure listening experience I would take the debut over Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, which despite its obvious and justified importance, hasn't aged terribly well. The lyrics are astoundingly well-developed, but the instrumentation starts to run together by about the half-way point, which is a similar issue that I have with Times They Are A-Changin' and Another Side.

Bringing It All Back Home is where things really start to come together for me, the point where the visionary lyrics are supported by exciting, varied song structures. Subterranean Homesick Blues would easily make my top three Dylan songs; the rapid-fire delivery suits Dylan's voice perfectly. The track also seems a kind of mission statement for the album as a whole, putting tracks like It's Alright Ma in a kind of cynical perspective. Then Highway 61 and Blonde on Blonde: what can be said about these that hasn't already been said? Put simply, they live up to the lofty hype. What most surprised me about these two is that my favorite tracks were not the ones strewn across his many best-of compilations: Ballad of a Thin Man and Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat especially stand out on a pair of albums laden with highlights. Thin Man in particular is probably the most brilliantly caustic lyric I've ever heard. Fascinating how disillusioned Dylan already seemed with the culture for which he had been appointed the icon.

John Wesley Harding might crack my top three Dylan albums, if only because it is so damn cohesive. I also like the mysticism that underlies a lot of these tracks, especially on something like I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine. Nashville Skyline and Self-Portrait suffer a bit from lacking that spiritual quality, in spite of keeping the general country-folk sound of Harding. The next three are a grab-bag. Where they are great, they are really great, as on The Man in Me and Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door. None of them, though, have the coherence of John Wesley Harding or the fucking sublime Blood on the Tracks.


Blood stands quite firmly as my favorite Dylan album. Everything for which he is celebrated is there in one astounding package: the cynical yet reflective lyrics, the timeless melodies, the raw wisdom. This is probably my favorite vocal performance from Dylan as well: his voice is rich yet still a bit off-kilter. Desire reaches the same individual heights as Blood, but doesn’t share the sustained brilliance. One More Cup of Coffee is my favorite Dylan song: the violin and haunting backing vocals complement the ambiguously lyrics superbly. Oh Sister is another standout from this album; Joey is most certainly not.

Now things get weird. Everything from Street Legal through Under the Red Sky has flashes of the classic Dylan wit and melody but also patches of almost incomprehensible laziness. Street Legal is a perfect example: New Pony rocks with the best Dylan songs, but it sits alongside dreck like Baby Stop Crying. Even the much-celebrated Oh Mercy strikes me as terribly uneven (though I love Man in the Long Black Coat). I suppose a “comeback” wasn’t a very tall order after something like Down in the Groove, but the worst was yet to come: Under the Red Sky is the only Dylan album I find totally irredeemable. Wiggle Wiggle: case closed.

Two solid but ultimately unremarkable covers albums somehow gave way to Time out of Mind, probably the best argument ever made that veteran musicians can remain creatively vital. It and Love and Theft are both superb ruminations on experience, regret, and ultimately mortality. Not Dark Yet is a case in point. I wouldn’t group Modern Times among those two in terms of quality the way many reviewers have, though it certainly is a worthy addition to his canon. Closer to them thematically and in mood is Tempest, which in my opinion is far superior to Together Through Life. Pay in Blood stands among his best tracks of the 21st century.

I need to dig back through many of these albums more thoroughly, but after a few listens to each, it’s quite easy to see why this guy is a titan of modern music.
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Old 06-27-2014, 07:38 PM   #62
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Guess I'm alone here in thinking Freewheelin' is one of the best albums of all time. It's so charming, well-written and the melodies are just fantastic. It's no secret that I'm an avid lover of folk, so it's not really surprising that I love that album as much as I do. It's one of the most important albums in the folk canon.

Another unpopular opinion: John Wesley Harding is really boring. I've tried multiple times and I find the instrumentation uninspired, the production flat and the songwriting well below the level of the preceding few records. By a lesser artist, it would be a solid record with some awesome standouts. But Bob Dylan can do and has done much better. Another Side of Bob Dylan is another one from the classic period that I've never cared much for. Otherwise, 1963-1967 is basically perfect.

I just bought New Morning on vinyl for a buck. Never have heard it.
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Old 06-27-2014, 07:44 PM   #63
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Damn, Iyup, that's some classy font-work, there.
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Old 06-27-2014, 08:01 PM   #64
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I had to write it in Word because the reply page was dragging really bad. Then I wasn't able to change the font.
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Old 06-27-2014, 09:29 PM   #65
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Originally Posted by iron yuppie View Post
Now things get weird. Everything from Street Legal through Under the Red Sky has flashes of the classic Dylan wit and melody but also patches of almost incomprehensible laziness. Street Legal is a perfect example: New Pony rocks with the best Dylan songs, but it sits alongside dreck like Baby Stop Crying. Even the much-celebrated Oh Mercy strikes me as terribly uneven (though I love Man in the Long Black Coat). I suppose a “comeback” wasn’t a very tall order after something like Down in the Groove, but the worst was yet to come: Under the Red Sky is the only Dylan album I find totally irredeemable. Wiggle Wiggle: case closed.
I think it's odd to lump all that stuff together. Oh Mercy has a distinct atmosphere that separates it from everything else in that decade, and the resurgence in his confidence as a singer (eschewing the female backup singers) as well as his songwriting is something to behold.

I actually had never heard Under The Red Sky all the way through up until about a week ago. I've listened to it a few times, and I'll take it over Saved, Knocked Out Loaded, Down In The Groove, and Empire Burlesque. And as far as I'm concerned, To Make You Feel My Love is just as embarrassing as Wiggle Wiggle.


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I just bought New Morning on vinyl for a buck. Never have heard it.

Enjoy. I wouldn't objectively call it one of Dylan's better albums, but it's one I come back to more than most of them, particularly because of Dylan's vocals and how much piano is on the album. I suggest checking out Self Portrait and Another Self Portrait in tandem with New Morning because they're all part of a 2-3 year period of work.

I won't comment on the early acoustic Dylan stuff because I get bored pretty quickly with all of it.
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Old 06-28-2014, 11:37 AM   #66
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I think it's odd to lump all that stuff together. Oh Mercy has a distinct atmosphere that separates it from everything else in that decade, and the resurgence in his confidence as a singer (eschewing the female backup singers) as well as his songwriting is something to behold.
Point taken. For the sake of brevity, I didn't want to talk about all of those albums separately. I will say I was underwhelmed with Oh Mercy given its critical standing. It is good enough but not in the same league as some of the albums that had come before it, or even something like Love and Theft.
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Old 06-28-2014, 12:05 PM   #67
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Oh Mercy has a distinct atmosphere that separates it from everything else in that decade, and the resurgence in his confidence as a singer (eschewing the female backup singers) as well as his songwriting is something to behold.
And the impetus for all of this was Bono Vox of O'Connell Street.
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Old 07-23-2014, 09:47 PM   #68
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I was just reading up a bit on The Basement Tapes and was surprised at how much the authenticity, for lack of a better term, of those Woodstock sessions is compromised on the official release. Seems like a great addition to the Bootleg Series would be a complete issue of those sessions, without the Band demos etc.
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Old 08-11-2014, 02:33 PM   #69
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It wasn't available on YouTube, but I finally found a link for my favorite track on Another Self Portrait. The stream is at the bottom of the page.

Song of the Day #1,888: ‘This Evening So Soon’ – Bob Dylan | Meet Me In Montauk

Enjoy.
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Old 08-26-2014, 02:24 PM   #70
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OH
FUCK
YES

Bob Dylan Announces The Basement Tapes Complete: The Bootleg Series Vol. 11 | News | Pitchfork

A shame there's not a version between the 2-disc "selections" for $20 and the giant set with the book for $150. I would really just like all 6 discs without the bells and whistles.
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Old 08-26-2014, 03:05 PM   #71
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I was just reading up a bit on The Basement Tapes and was surprised at how much the authenticity, for lack of a better term, of those Woodstock sessions is compromised on the official release. Seems like a great addition to the Bootleg Series would be a complete issue of those sessions, without the Band demos etc.
Looks like they were thinking the same thing.
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Old 08-26-2014, 03:41 PM   #72
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I mean , Dylan fans have been clamoring for this set since the Bootleg Series was initiated.
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Old 08-26-2014, 03:44 PM   #73
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Yeah, it's certainly overdue. I'm with you, though, in that I don't know if I want to spring for the six-disc set.
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Old 08-27-2014, 12:04 AM   #74
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And fuck, $100 for the three LP set? Looks like old Bob is taking a page from Neil Young and charging double for vinyl.
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Old 08-27-2014, 09:29 AM   #75
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Just wait a while and you'll find somewhere to cop it for much less. I swear I saw Witmark for sale online somewhere in the $40 range. I'm dying to get this new one, but $100 is way too steep.
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