Bob Dylan

I’ve had Bob Dylan’s music recommended to me countless times, from many people I really respect. But up until now, I’ve never owned any of his stuff. I’ve decided that’s going to change this week, and I’d like your help.

For those of you who are more familiar with Dylan’s music, what’s a good “starter” album to get into Dylan?

8 thoughts on “Bob Dylan

  1. I’m no Dylan guru and up till a month ago didn’t own any of his stuff either. I did however, during the week of the PBS Documentary, purchase the double CD, “The Essentials: Bob Dylan” and then the CD “The Times They Are A-Changin’ (Remastered)”

    The Essentials is a nice collection that cover a good range of Dylan’s work. Personally I prefer his folk stuff a little more and thus listen to Times more often.

    I wish I could be more helpful. The iTunes collection in particular is a little overwhelming to even sample. Good luck.

  2. This is probably going to get me in trouble, but I recomend finding recordings of other people covering Dylan instead. Dylan is a good songwriter, but he just can’t perform IMO.

  3. Yeah, the Essentials is a pretty good place to start: that’ll give you a good mix of his stuff, and most of his hits are on there. You can decide from there if you want to go beyond that to specific eras in his career or what.

    Ummmm, I’ll have to check when I’m around my iPod/iTunes again, but the two songs of his on the High Fidelity soundtrack are good.

    And Gos, the guy can write and perform. You just have to like his style of performance. I won’t ever say he has an amazing voice, but it’s characteristic and fits his music just fine. My Dad’s a huge Dylan fan, though he acknowledges the voice issue. Doesn’t mean he isn’t worth listening to.

  4. The problem with Dylan is that he completely resists the concept of a “starter” album. If you want the Christian Dylan go with “Slow Train Coming,” if you want the recent bluesy Dylan go with “Love and Theft,” if you want his surrealism go with “Highway 61 Revisited,” if you want his folksy ballads go with “John Wesley Harding,” and for a great live album showcasing his shift from acoustic to electric I’d say “Bob Dylan Live 1966-The ‘Royal Albert Hall’ Concert.” Wherever you start there’s always a couple more facets to uncover.

  5. It looks like you’ve received some solid advice here already, but I’ll put my two cents in: start with the early folk stuff. “The Times they are a’ Changin” is a lyrical masterpiece.

    His very first album, which is self-titled, is folky too, but it’s lighter and more fun, with lots of covers of old folk songs.

    “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” is definitely solid as well. Most people consider it his best folk album, but I disagree.

    If you must rock (and sometimes you must) I really enjoy “Bringing it all back home.” It’s a nice mix of faster and slower numbers.

    Lastly, don’t feel bad if you just can’t get past Dylan’s voice. I can, but I recognize that some people like singers who are actually good at singing (go figure). I think Barney showed me Dylan at a young enough age so I just accepted it. Glad he did.

  6. Great question! One of my favorite nights in college was attending a roundtable discussion by 5 or 6 professors discussing this very thing.

    I agree that “The Times They Are A-Changin” is the best place to start.

    His best rock album is “Highway 61 Revisted” or “Bringing It All Back Home.”

    His best live album is “Live 1966 (Royal Albert Hall Concert).” If you saw the documentary “No Direction Home,” you’ve got a good feel for what “Live 1966” is about.

    A lot of people (wrongly) dismiss his Christian stuff, but many of the lyrics in “Saved” and “Slow Train Coming” are still heads and shoulders above anything in Christian music today.

    My personal favorite is “Blood on the Tracks” with its dark, reflective, love-I-lost edge.

    I’ll leave it there. I loved Dylan’s lyrics (and voice!) the first time I heard him in high school. Paul Simon once said that no one sings Dylan’s music better than Dylan himself.

  7. Wow! What an incredible response, guys. Thank you so much! (Good to see you on, Kevin B!)

    I purchased the 30-song “The Essentials: Bob Dylan” set, and I’m really loving it. More than I thought I would, actually. His song “Subterranean Homesick Blues” is my current favorite, although several more are growing on me very quickly. I’m so glad I picked this up. And I’m sure I’ll be getting more quite soon.

    Regarding his voice… I like it. It just fits. I know he’s not a vocal master, but somehow I get the sense that for many of the songs, the vocals somehow need to sound that way. There are a couple songs (I think Lay, Lady, Lay is one) that don’t sound right to me, but the others are totally awesome.

  8. Oh, J, don’t do it! Go out to Itunes and throw a few of his oldest, oldest, oldest on your IPOD and don’t look back. I also have had a bunch of recommendations, and being of open mind, I figured maybe he can’t sing now because he’s old. So I tried stuff from throughout his career and cranked it on the stereo. The five-year-old-critic-of-all-things in the house said after three songs, “Why does that guy keep whining the same thing over and over again?”
    I rest my case. If a five year old can see it, why can’t so many others. Just get the sheet music and you sing it, then send me the mp3’s from that, now that I’d pay a dollar for!

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