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This album now seems as remarkable as his mid-'60s breakthroughs. Like Presley's Sun Sessions, it is both the remnant of a lost rural America and the seed of rock culture. The music is primarily Dylan, with acoustic guitar, barking traditional folk, and blues. He was 20, a Northern hick who came to New York to be the next Woody Guthrie. It's amazing that at 20 he sings "In My Time of Dying" and "See That My Grave is Kept Clean", not as traditional songs, but making their doom and resignation sound personal. --Steve Tignor
The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan
Dylan's outstanding second album is a tremendous jump from its predecessor. Whereas the debut established him as a peerless interpreter of folk and country-blues classics, and a singer like none before, this followup features some of the most pungent original songs of the '60s. "Blowin' in the Wind," "Masters of War," "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall," "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right," "I Shall Be Free": if this sounds like the lineup for a greatest-hits collection, you've got the idea. Nat Hentoff's liner notes are charmingly dated, but Dylan's idiosyncratic singing, unexpected lyrics, and inimitable guitar and harmonica playing are as immediate and relevant as whatever you heard on the radio today. (As great as this is, there's much more: a handful of top-rank outtakes from Freewheelin' appear on the Bootleg Series box set.) --Jimmy Guterman
The Times They Are a-Changin'
This is the re-released, remastered version. One of the darkest of Dylan albums, Times... is the work of a 22-year-old who sounds no less sick of it all than the ailing 55-year-old who made Time out of Mind. There's a place here for rousing protests such as the title track and "When the Ship Comes In", but those songs are outnumbered by the equally powerful, drainingly pessimistic likes of "Only a Pawn in Their Game", "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll", and "The Ballad of Hollis Brown". It's as if Dylan had to deliver his grimmest topical material before moving on to Another Side's liberation and laughs. --Rickey Wright
Highway 61 Revisited
From 1965, his first all-electric album with such classics as Like a Rolling Stone; It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry; Ballad of a Thin Man; Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues , and Desolation Row .
Dylan was virtually gushing great songs when this masterpiece arrived in the summer of 1965. From the epochal opening of "Like a Rolling Stone" through the absurdly apocalyptic closer, "Desolation Row," his command of surrealistic language was daring and amazing. As a vocalist, he was rewriting the rules of the game. Jimi Hendrix made note of Mr. Z's technically suspect pitch and decided that he too was a singer. And the backing, though ragged, is precisely right. Is this the essential Dylan album? It's certainly one of them. --Steven Stolder
Blonde On Blonde
Rock's first great double-album and home to many of Dylan's finest songs: Rainy Day Women #12 & 35; Visions of Johanna; I Want You; Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again; Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat; Just Like a Woman; Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I'll Go Mine ), and the side-long epic Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands .
The Essential Bob Dylan
Two discs of music don't exactly provide for a thorough overview of four decades of recording, particularly if the subject of the retrospective is one of the most important and prolific performers of his time. So The Essential Bob Dylan definitely skates over the leagues-deep oeuvre of Dylan, summarizing his monumental first half-dozen years in disc one and skirting over the following 34 years in disc two. Delving into Columbia's three Dylan greatest-hits packages (though curiously purging "I Want You," a genuine hit single in its day), Essential offers only a few surprises, opting for The Basement Tapes version of "Quinn the Eskimo" over the Self Portrait remake that made it onto Greatest Hits Volume II and tossing in "Things Have Changed" from the Wonder Boys soundtrack for completists. But this 30-track overview is designed with newcomers, not Dylanologists, in mind. --Steven Stolder
No Direction Home DVD
The first documentary about the groundbreaking songwriter to be made with his full co-operation. Martin Scorsese directs this biography of one of the most important figures in the history of popular music, covering his arrival in New York in the early 1960s and his dominance of the counter-cultural folk scene in the years that followed. The documentary features exclusive archive footage of Dylan on the road and at home, as well as previously unreleased interviews conducted with Dylan and with other important figures of the time.
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