Sound: He's been called the greatest musician of our time by some, while others have deemed him a prophet. And if you were to poll many of today's rock artists on who have been their biggest musical influences, the name Bob Dylan would veritably pop up again and again. Everyone from Jack White to Michael Stipe to Jimi Hendrix (who performed his own unforgettable cover of All Along The Watchtower) have sung Dylan's praises, and the latest compilation of the folk singer's hits, appropriately titled Dylan, will likely introduce his music to an entirely new generation as well. There are 2 versions available: a more succinct 1-disk package with 18 tracks, and a deluxe edition containing 3 disks of 51 songs and several bonus features for diehard fans. Ultimate Guitar received the single disk version, which although not as in-depth, does indeed cover pretty much every song that could possibly come to mind when you think of Bob Dylan.
For younger listeners, it may take some adjustment getting used to Dylan's dry, imperfect delivery or the multiple times that a chorus is repeated in the course of a song. But when you sit back and truly listen to what's being sung, Dylan's masterful storytelling is just as pertinent as ever. Each track echoes the period of time from which it was taken, and for many a baby boomer it will hit very deep. What could be considered the quintessential songs of the 1960s, Blowin' In The Wind and Like A Rolling Stone, are listed on the playlist early and rightfully so given their historic significance. The first disk if jam-packed with songs that essentially made up the soundtrack of Vietnam War generation, and it's impossible not to be affected by the message in songs like The Times They Are A-Changin.'
Then you've got the pure iconic value of the song Rainy Day Woman #12 & 35, otherwise known as the Everybody Must Get Stoned Song. It's a completely different slice of Dylan's songwriting genius. You can almost see the smirk on Dylan's face as he repeats the word stoned over and over again. After the heavy topics covered over the first 5 tracks, you almost forget that Dylan is capable of a witty, fun number like Rainy Day Woman #12 & 35. It's that kind of versatility in both the music and lyrics that resonates throughout the compilation. // 9
Lyrics: Almost every track tells a descriptive, elaborate story on Dylan, with multiple verses that are all essential to the song. Subterranean Homesick Blues is an infectious bluesy number with lyrics that are thrown at you in such a manner that you don't immediately realize the cleverness behind it all. Dylan sings, Maggie comes fleet foot; Face full of black soot; Talkin' that the heat put Plants in the bed but; The phone's tapped anyway; Maggie says that many say; They must bust in early May; Orders from the D. A. Dylan doesn't waste one line on tedious filler material, and that's probably the most incredible aspect about the lyrics.
His later material has more of a weathered, hardened feel to it, and it's interesting to hear Dylan's thoughts past the age of 50. Things Have Changed is told through the perspective of an aging, cynical man, and considering all of his past legendary songs, it still stands solidly on it's own. He sings, I've been walking forty miles of bad road; If the Bible is right, the world will explode; I've been trying to get as far away from myself as I can. After all the songs about the changing world and governmental conflict in the 1960s, it's nice to get a more personal, introspective song. // 10
Overall Impression: The 1-disk CD is a great buy for someone who is hoping to get a fairly complete overview of Dylan's most notable songs. It covers a lot of ground and it's hard to be dissatisfied with the body of work that Dylan has created for almost 50 years. Other notable songs featured are Maggie's Farm, Lay, Lady, Lay, Knockin' On Heaven's Door, Forever Young, and Just Like A Woman.
If you're wanting a little more than Dylan's commercial hits, definitely invest in either the 3-CD Digipak or the 3-CD box set. Both include 51 tracks, but the box set also includes an extended booklet, artwork, and 10 limited edition postcards. If you're truly a fan, the 1-disk CD that we received will probably feel incomplete, considering you might already own all of the songs in some capacity already. While newcomers might have a hard time adjusting to Dylan's distinct style, give it a little time and you'll likely learn where a lot of your favorite contemporary performers got their ideas in the first place. // 9