Bob Dylan Albums 1966-1971

by jim sherman (jrst@PGE.COM)

"Blonde on Blonde" 1966: Is, in many ways, a continuation of "Highway 61 Revisited". Dylan is the first of the rock and roll prophets, before that title was bestowed upon The Beatles or the Rolling Stones. The difference between this album, and "Highway 61" is A) more of a sense of maturity, perhaps lacking in the previous album. and B) a small voice that tells you that, perhaps Dylan is beginning to believe that he can do anything he wishes, musically, and it will still be great. The problem is, he truly can. From the first song on the album, "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35" is fascinating in it's taunting approach, yet, it's also a song that has dated somewhat. This may be said of "Blonde on Blonde". Still, this is a massively great album. It is smoother than "Highway 61", it's lyrics more grown up. Songs such as "Pledging My Time" "I Want You", "Leopard Skin Pill Box Hat", "Most Likely You Go Your Way, And I'll Go Mine", "Temporary Like Achilles", "Absolutely Sweet Marie" "4th Time Around", and "Stuck Inside Mobile, With The Memphis Blues Again" are as good as anything on "Highway 61". And the song "Visions of Johanna" reads like a Shakespeare play. But the rest of the album seems like it was filled. Perhaps it's because it was originally released as a double album. Once again, this album is ranked as one of Dylan's best, but, in the humble opinion of this listmaker, great album that it is, it does not have the power and earthshaking genius of the previous album.
RATING: *****

"Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits Vol. I" 1967: Perhaps the record company thought he was dying, this was released after his motorcycle accident. Either way, don't buy this album. Buy the albums they culled this collection of songs from.
RATING: It's a "best of" album, I don't feel the need to rate it.

"John Wesley Harding 1968: In mid 1966 Dylan had his much celebrated motorcycle accident, and he was laid up for several month recuperating. He had spent the previous two years as the rock and roll prophet, and while bed ridden he had a chance to reflect on a great many things. So, when he released his next album after the event like status that greeted the releases that were "Highway 61, and "Blonde on Blonde" the public was expecting a continuation of the previous albums. They were disappointed. "John Wesley" was not that type of album. It's tone was quiet and reserved, almost subdued. The lyrics seemed to be from a man describing a soul lost in the mist, much like the true life character of the title song, "John Wesley Harding". All of the songs on the album speak of loss, or confusion. "As I Went Out One Morning", "I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine", "The Ballad Of Frankie Lee And Judas Priest", "I Am A Lonesome Hobo", and, of course, the stand out, and much covered "All Along The Watchtower". Yet, the strength of this album is it's softness. With the two previous albums Dylan wished to scream at you to see his point. In this album he prefers to whisper with sedition in your ear. "John Wesley Harding" is an album that has improved with age.
RATING: ****

"Nashville Skyline" 1969: Continuing in his folk rock vain from his previous album Dylan moves to Nashville to record his next work. He had stopped smoking for the event, and his voice has a more sweeter tone than his past recordings. The album opens with both Dylan and his friend Johnny Cash, truly drunk to the Be Jesus, doing a re-recording of his song "Girl From The North Country". The rest of the songs follow in tone for the newly fashioned term folk rock, songs such as "I Threw It All Away", "One More Night", "Tonight I'll Be Staying With You". "Lay Lady Lay" is the only real stand out song on this album. The over effect of "Nashville Skyline" seems to be effortless. It shows.

"New Morning" 1970: When a artist records over thirty albums, some effort are going to be better received than others. When this album was released in 1970 it was not so well received, even as well as "Nashville Skyline" (which wasn't received by the critics all that well either). But hindsight can be a wonderful thing. "New Morning" seems to fall into that category of "hidden classic" Dylan albums, you have to listen to it for awhile, genius will reveal itself, be patient. "If Not For You"(also, much covered by other artists), "Went To See The Gypsy", "Day Of The Locusts" and the title song are great. And even if the rest of the album doesn't always work, it's interesting, and shows a little more creativity than the previous album.
RATING: ***=

"Self Portrait" 1971: All right, there are some Dylanites who think that for Dylan to do any other songs other than his own is almost blasphemous. I don't feel this way. Still, "Self Portrait", a double album of mostly covers of other folk singers, really doesn't work. One gets the feeling that Dylan did this album out of contractual obligation, rather than any need to produce something creative. He does do some interesting reworking of his greatest song, a quaint live version of "Like A Rolling Stone", and his cover of "Days Of 49" is interesting. If you buy this album, please have many other Dylan albums first. Or, (in my case) you have too much money on your hands.