Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits Vol. III 1972: So I trashed his first greatest hits
effort. But greatest hits albums
are merely a record company rip-off to get you buy stuff you already have. But,
there are songs on this collection
that aren't found anywhere else. "Watching The River Flow", "The Mighty Quinn",
"Tomorrow Is A Long Time", "When I
Paint My Masterpiece", "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere" and "Down In The Flood" are
quite good, and "I Shall Be Released"
is a Dylan classic. So, buy this album, but after you've bought some of his
other classic albums.
RATING: ***= for the unreleased stuff .
"Down In The Flood" 1973: Dylan's first official live offering. All right, this
is not as bad as later live offerings, but
I still find it an unrewarding album. Dylan is backed up by his old friends,
The Band, and it's a sort of greatest hits
collection, but to me it all sounds sort of forced. I have friends who really
like this album, and I'm willing to admit
that I this is a great live album, but right now, the listmaker says: get more
of his studio work before buying this album.
"Movie Soundtrack For Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid" 1973: Dylan was talked into
making the soundtrack for Sam Peckinpah's
movie about the last days of Billy The Kid. And it sounds like it was done in a
hurry. Most of the soundtrack portion
of the album is pretty much unforgettable. But this album did produce "Knockin'
On Heaven's Door", a great Dylan tune.
This saves the album. Is it worth buying the whole album? You decide.
"Planet Waves" 1974: Upon it's release this album was firebombed by the
critics. The album was rushed into released
by Columbia, Dylan's recording company, because it was feared that he was going
to quit Columbia, and go elsewhere
to record, so they rushed this album out to wring their last few pennies from
Dylan before he moved on. As time has
gone on, critics have been changing their minds, and quite rightly so. There is
gritty, earthy tone to "Planet Waves"
that hasn't been found on previous albums since "John Wesley Harding". The
strait blues of "Going, Going Gone", "Hazel",
"Something There Is About You", and "Tough Mama" is truly inspiring. Also, the
heartfelt sentiment of "Forever Young"
(which he does two different versions on the album) is wonderfully sweet. The
albums ends with "Wedding Song", one of
the most stark, revealing loves songs ever recorded. "Planet Waves" can be
considered a "hidden classic", and has very
much improved with age. It's just at the time that it was released, it was
overshadowed by his next release. Still it's
a bonafide Dylan classic.
RATING: **** (Lord knows there will those who disagree, such is the rights of
"Blood On The Track" 1974: By 1974 most critics had considered Dylan's best
days were behind him. He no longer wrote
with the power and authority he once did. "Blood On The Tracks" returned Dylan,
once again, to his God-Head status,
with, most certainly, his greatest album since "Highway 61 Revisited". Dylan
was now in his mid thirties. The intense
power of his previous great works were the inspiration of anger youth. Now he
was writing from a more mature, and perhaps
bitter perspective, his marriage had just ended, and the pain and loss from
that experience is told to the listener, not
from the enraged pen of a youthful man, but from the an older disillusioned
artist, seeming to recoup a (recently missing)
genius. For "Blood On The Track" displays Dylan's genius, as much as any work,
before or since. For Dylan has always been
a brilliant musician, and an unmatched(by anyone) lyrics writer. The album
starts one of Dylan's greatest songs, "Tangled
Up In Blue" a story song gliding on it's sparse, compelling sound, seducing the
listener with his lyrics. "Simple Twist
Of Fate" is a wonderful example of telling four different tales, seemingly in
one. "You're A Big Girl Now" reads as an
enigmatic ode to lost love. "Idiot Wind" is, perhaps, one of Dylan's most
angry, bitter songs. "You're Gonna Make Me
Lonesome When You Go" could be song directly from Dylan's pre-electric days.
"Meet Me In The Morning" is a straight,
heavy blues tune. "Lily, Rosemary, And The Jack Of Hearts" is another story
song which could read like a wild west stage
play. "If You See Her Say Hello" is a glorious, immensely painful love song,
enhanced by the three part 12-string acoustic
guitar ensemble. "Shelter From The Storm" is "Desolation Row"(from "Highway
61") somehow grown up, and certainly some of
his most chilling set of lyrics. The album closes with such a sad, soft
haunting love letter, "Buckets Of Rain". At the
time of the release of this album, critics hailed it as the return of the
genius Dylan. They were correct in that assessment.
Since then, they have tended to back off on that view, and it mystifies one as
to why. "Blood On The Tracks" is one of
Dylan's greatest works. Perhaps with critics, who certainly have their own
agenda regarding their own assessments, get
moody with age. It is, without question, one of the four, or five "must own"
"Desire" 1975: At the time of the release of "Desire" the album was treated
with the same critical respect as "Blood
On The Tracks". Sorry, "Desire" is a much, much weaker album., and may be one
of Dylan's most pretentious albums.
"Hurricane"(a song about wrongly convicted ex-boxer Ruben Carter), "Isis", "Oh
Sister" are stand out songs, but "Joey"
is an 11 minute dirge(for lack of a better metaphor) of a two-bit hood who was
killed in 1970, and one wonders why it
appeared on the album at all. "Desire" was the only time Dylan had ever worked
with a collaborator in the writing of
his songs, Jaque Levy. He should have trusted himself.
"The Basement Tapes" 1976: When Dylan was recuperating from his motorcycle
crash in 1966, with much time on his hands,
he recorded a huge backlog of jumbled songs with his friends, and back-up band,
The Band. These song sat in the vaults
of Columbia Records for almost a decade, at which time the tapes where stolen
and copied so often, illegal bootlegs of
the tapes were everywhere to be found. Columbia decided to release these,
again, trying to wring a few pennies out of
the Dylan faithful. "The Basement Tapes" are an amusing set of songs, giving an
interesting insight into how Dylan
records his songs, but is that information worth the price of buying the album?
A really good example of Dylan bootlegs
would be forthcoming 15 years later.
"Bob Dylan, Live At Budakon" 1977
"Hard Rain" 1978: Let's review these together, and if you own these albums, you
are me, or worse. You are a Dylanite
out on the fringe of radical behavior, with your eyes glazed, hands shaking,
muttering to no one in particular; "I must
have everything he's put out". Two live albums not worth the vinyl it took to
produce them. To enjoy them, you must be
drugged. If you own these two albums, admit this knowledge to no one, or
friends will abandon you, lovers will leave you,
relatives will not answer your phone calls. You were warned.
RATING: You Are Me, No Stars