Sound — 10
Dylan's first eight albums in a box set. In Mono. Do we need that? The answer is a definite Yes. I admire Dylan a lot. His "Oh Mercy" (1989) is one of my favourite records ever. But I always thought his work in the 60s - as influential as it is - suffered from too much harmonica and missed serious production work. I was sure, I knew enough of this period from the greatest hits compilations I owned. But this collection of Dylan's first eight album releases (from Bob Dylan to John Wesley Harding) proved me wrong! In their original context everything makes sense. The albums have a great flow and many of the lesser known tracks are nothing short of fantastic. The mono sound is great - very direct and warm. To me, the stereo separation of signals that originally came from one source had always seemed artificial and distracting. One person is playing these instruments and he is standing in one spot. So why does the guitar come from the left and the harmonica from the right? In this case mono definitely is the real thing.
Lyrics — 10
"I'm a poet / And I know it / Hope I don't blow it" No, he doesn't blow it. What is left to say about an artist who is generally considered to be one of the most influential lyricist in folk and rock music? This collection contains some of his best work - protest songs, songs of love found and (more often) lost, commentaries on the state of the world in general and very personal statements from an open-minded individual who tries to cope with it. There is so much to discover here. Everytime I listen to these recordings there is a new line jumping at me with an urgency that is irresistable.
Overall Impression — 10
Great packaging, too: every record comes in an album cover replica, Blonde on Blonde in its original double album sleeve. The CDs are protected by inner sleeves, again replicas of the original. Greil Marcus' essay in the accompanying booklet does not contain anything new but still provides essential information about the man and the albums. The photos are great. You get a download code, too, enabling you to download all of the tracks as 320kBit/s high-quality mp3s including the non-album track "Positively 4th Street", so you don't have to buy "The Best of the Original Mono Recordings" just for this track. This is absolutely essential!