Dyke And The Blazers
-- fucking amazing JB-styled funky soul. This CD
is a pure delight. I cannot recommend it more highly. Ian Dury & The Blockheads
-- I've got New Boots And Panties!!
, Do It Yourself
and a bunch of stray singles which fill most of a CD. So hard to pin this stuff down. It's pop-ska-new wave-disco-rock. Ian's "singing" is an acquired taste, I'd imagine, but I've loved him for so long it's hard to remember what I thought when I first heard him. Truly unique stuff, even from the Stiff stable. Champion Jack Dupree
-- the only album I have is Blues From The Gutter
from 1959 on Atlantic, which is pretty good, but it doesn't contain my fave song of his, "Shake Baby Shake", which he recorded several times for several labels over the years. This version
from 1967 is probably my favorite. Someone I would definitely like to explore more of, so any recommendations from other forons would be most welcome.Dungen
-- I have 4
, which is a solid-enough prog album from 2008, but prog's not really my thing generally. I picked it up on the strength of "Samtidigt 1"
, which I probably heard on Pandora. But little else on the album stuck with me the way that did. I know nothing else by this group.
Which brings me to Bob Dylan
It's been an interesting few days as I've plowed through his catalog.
Since he's so well-known and loved, going album by album in detail seems kinda pointless in this context, but I thought it might be interesting to assign some grades to them. Note that I'm grading these only in relation to each other (and also keep in mind that only those I have on CD are included):Bob Dylan
(1962) ****½The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan
(1963) ****The Times They Are A-Changin'
(1964) ***½Another Side Of Bob Dylan
(1964) ****½Gaslight Tapes
****The Witmark Demos: 1962-1964
I really love solo acoustic Bob a lot. Every one of these has a few songs I could do without, and the archival releases which have come out in the last few decades contain all sorts of great stuff I wish he'd included instead, but all of these albums do a nice job of mixing up his many facets. This is also the era when Bob's voice really shone, in my opinion. Guy did a lot within his limitations. The Gaslight Tapes
suffers from bootleg-quality sound and the over-reliance on other people's songs, but dude was just starting out, after all. "No More Auction Block" is the highlight here, which showed up in better fidelity on the first Bootleg Series
CD. The Live 1964
set is really fantastic. Bob's having a great time and the audience is eating it up. Disc One would rate 5 stars on its own, but I docked the set a star for Disc Two, 'cuz that's mostly Joan Baez duets. I am not a fan of Baez and her and Bob's voices do not blend well (Johnny and June they ain't.) Random note: "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" has always been one of my favorite Dylan songs, based on the version from Freewheelin'
. But he almost never sang it the way he does on the record, and all the other versions pale because he chooses to go up at the end of the each line, instead of deep down. It's his song and he can do whatever he wants with it, but I found it jarring every time I came across a different version. The Witmark Demos
suffers, I think, from my high expectations. One of the greatest things on Biograph
(and one of the greatest things he ever did, IMO) is the hauntingly gorgeous version of "Forever Young", which is just Bob singing into a publisher's tape recorder. I had hoped for more stuff as revelatory as that, but the Demos
CD isn't nearly so interesting, unfortunately. More interesting historically than sonically.Bringing It All Back Home
(1965) *****Highway 61 Revisited
(1965) *****Blonde On Blonde
(1966) *****Live 1966
What can I say about the trio of classics? Amazing shit still to this day. Surrounded by fantastic musicians all willing to follow him down some strange paths, with some of the greatest lyrical imagery ever conceived. Highway 61
, in particular, is as close to perfection as a rock album gets. I'm pretty ambivalent about the live album. Hailed by many as a major triumph, I find his rushing-to-get-to-the-second-set performances on Disc One mostly less-than-stellar and when The Band shows up on Disc Two, it takes them a few songs to really get cooking. When you read
about the show, everyone hails it as a triumph over adversity, where Bob and the Band angrily attack an unappreciative audience with their new rock sound. But listening to it doesn't quite bear this out. Yeah, somebody yells "Judas!" at him, but overall, the crowd seems quite enthused, and once the group finds their groove, rightfully so. The "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues" alone is worth the price of admission. Side note: "Rainy Day Women" is the absolute worst opening track on an otherwise perfect record I can think of. So many other great songs from that era which never found their way onto Dylan LPs. Why he chose that one to kick off Blonde On Blonde
will forever remain a mystery to me.The Basement Tapes
****½John Wesley Harding
(1967) ***Nashville Skyline
(1969) **New Morning
(1970) ****Pat Garret And Billy The Kid
(1970) **Greatest Hits Volume II
Obviously, not my favorite era for Dylan.
I know lots of folks think JWH
is some kind of masterpiece, but I find it really boring. There's some great lyrics on there, to be sure, but not many good songs
. Dylan doesn't get much credit for his exceptional melodies -- just compare these tracks to the stuff from his first 4 LPs and you'll see just how dull his songwriting had become. At least Skyline
tries to keep things interesting, although it's mostly a failure. Dylan trying out different vocal approaches (something he'd always done, to be fair) doesn't help these records. That said, I find New Morning
very listenable and full of pleasures. It's second-rate Dylan to be sure, but it's second-rate Dylan at the top of his game. And why I've never included "Winterlude" on any of my annual Christmas mixes is a mystery which will soon be rectified.The Basement Tapes
is fantastic, even in the cruddy-sounding non-remastered CD version I currently own. Dylan and The Band have never sounded better jamming together, and the songs run an emotional gamut matched only by his earliest work. Greatest Hits Volume II
is a very interestingly-chosen comp. and the otherwise-unavailable stuff is pretty stellar. "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere" is one of my favorite Bob tunes, and this is my favorite version. This is also by far my favorite version of "Mighty Quinn" (everyone sounds kinda drunk and having a rollicking good time, as opposed to the dirgey Biograph
version). Plus "Watching The River Flow" and "When I Paint My Masterpiece"! "Tomorrow Is A Long Time"! "I Shall Be Released"! Fantastic.Planet Waves
This gets its own "era" because it's just that awful and wrongheaded. There's some good songs on here (like the aforementioned "Forever Young", inexplicably included twice) that Dylan and The Band simply demolish. Pretty much unlistenable crap. I gave it one star just because I know there are worse Dylan albums, they're just not in my CD collection.
I wish I had Before The Flood
on CD because that's really great. Hard to believe it's the same group of fellas on both.Blood On The Tracks
has some of my fave Dylan songs -- "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go", "Shelter From The Storm", "Tangled Up In Blue" -- but the band is pretty lackluster ("Simple Twist Of Fate" is a great song, nearly sunk by the inept bass playing). I also find Dylan's voice to be all over the map here.
I pretty much lose interest in Dylan after Desire
. I used to like this record a lot more, but it mostly just leaves me cold these days. The whole Rolling Thunder-era I find pretty useless (I actually bought and quickly sold the live Bootleg Series
CD from those shows because I found it insultingly awful.)Biograph
(1985) ***The Bootleg Series Volumes 1-3
****No Direction Home
Hard to believe that Biograph
was hailed as some kind of revelatory masterpiece at the time of its release, but it sure hasn't held up well given all the other archival releases since issued. There's a host of great stuff here, but the sequencing is pretty random and often just bad, and like so many box sets, it wants to pretend that the newer stuff is just as vital as the legendary stuff. Glad to have a lot of otherwise uncollected singles and some truly spectacular live and alternate stuff, but there's also plenty of dross here. The other two comps are much, much better, both in terms of quality of the selections and in historical interest. And I was pleasantly surprised that disc three of Bootleg
was much better than I remembered it. Not great, but not the garbage dump I had assigned it in my memory.
Hey, Kyle -- what's your favorite Dylan record?