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PostPosted: Fri March 2nd, 2018, 05:33 GMT 

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Slow Train Coming- Essential Dylan Album

I would like to list the albums I consider essential for a Dylan fan or music fan in general. For me, it goes like this (chronologically):

1. Freewheelin’
2. Times
3. Highway 61 Revisited
4. Blonde on Blonde
5. JWH
6. Blood on the Tracks
7. Desire
8. Slow Train Coming*
9. Oh Mercy
10. Time Out of Mind
11. Modern Times/Tempest
12. Shadows in the Night**

* *i’ll explain this shortly
* **its essential for ME because I think it’s a good album, and THE album that brought me back into Dylan’s work and music in general after a period of being tuned out of the music world.

I know I’m missing some big ones, and my list is prone to changing from time to time. I love World Gone Wrong, Another Side, Love and Theft and others, but for now that is the list of essential Dylan albums in my eyes.

Anyway, I would like to make a case for Slow Train Coming. I have some extra time on my hands today, and I think it’s not only an important album in his career, but one that should be considered essential because it once again shows his versatility as an artist.

I wasn’t well acquainted with this period in Dylan’s career when I was younger. I knew “Gotta Serve Somebody” but that was about it. My first time listening to the album didn’t leave me spellbound like Desire or John Wesley Harding did, but looking back I realize it wasn’t the content or the lyrics but the way it was presented. I was riding high on Desire around the time I heard STC, and was slightly taken aback by how different Dylan sounded.

But after giving the album a few spins, I realized how important it was, not to mention how enjoyable. The way it was presented no longer was alarming, but intriguing.

Dylan, of course, is known primarily for his lyrics. While I believe lyrics are important to this album as well (not just because it shows where Dylan was at in regards to his feelings on his newfound faith, but because there are clever moments on this album as well), the draw comes from his singing and the production.

Listeners and critics claimed how confident Dylan sounds on this record when it comes to his new beliefs, but I think that only comes out in certain cuts (Slow Train, Gotta Serve Somebody). But for the most part Dylan sounds pretty intimidated by what he’s singing about (even if it’s his own thoughts). He’s claimed in interviews how intimidating it was writing the album, and his vocals reflect that. That fear sounds genuine, like he wants to commit to what he’s saying but knows how big of a change it is. I think he leaned a little too much into his faith during the first tour, but we’re speaking solely of this record for now.

It’s not always his best singing, but it’s genuine and engaging in a way that some of his best singing is. I appreciate how none of it is covered up, every crack or reach for notes is up front. I don’t think it’s easy to get into during the first listen or so, but i found myself appreciating it over time.

A ton of credit should go to Jerry Wexler, as well. Mark Knopfler often gets mentioned for his guitar licks (I Believe in You might be the best example of his talent on that record), but Wexler gave Dylan a new sound to add to his recording career. Sterile to some, I think Wexler’s production was one of the real miracles (pun intended) on that album. I have no issue with the sound of , say, Desire with its slight reverb. Not everything is captured perfectly, but it’s really not noticeable to me and I’ve been listening to it for years. On STC, everything is captured “perfectly”, and I think that was an interesting change with his studio recordings. Above all I think Dylan adding that clean sound through Wexler’s production gave him a new notch in his belt, and while that style wasn’t necessary for his career I believe it is welcomed nonetheless.

Every good Dylan album has at least one common thread, which is that every good album is nothing like the others. JWH and Blonde on Blonde are totally different on so many levels, and they both benefit greatly because of it. All the “essential” albums I listed above all have that quality, the fact they are all different is what makes them so worthwhile. I get some people’s dislike of the ideas on Slow Train Coming, and maybe it shouldn’t be the first Dylan album new fans should listen to. However, I think it’s a solid record that should grace anyone’s collection, especially if people want to delve deeper into his work.

Criticisms and different opinions are welcome, but hopefully anyone who read this got some kind of kick out of it.


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PostPosted: Fri March 2nd, 2018, 07:48 GMT 
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To me all of his albums are essential apart from the studio albums released after Tempest.


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PostPosted: Fri March 2nd, 2018, 07:54 GMT 
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His first album is wayyyyy more essential than slow train


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PostPosted: Fri March 2nd, 2018, 08:34 GMT 
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goodmeats wrote:
His first album is wayyyyy more essential than slow train

I suppose it's really how you look at each album. How many original songs are on that first album? To try and compile a list of twelve essential albums will never have the backing of all Dylan fans, personally I think the list is pretty good - the album I think should be on there is Bringing It All Back Home, but what would you remove to accomodate it is down to personal choice.


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PostPosted: Fri March 2nd, 2018, 08:53 GMT 
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Bringing it all back home is indispensable. It has some of his most enduring songs, generally great performances, and is a fairly obvious transition between the acoustic (and therefore thought of as 'folk') and the electric. Only later would some people realise there is less difference than they thought - it's a revolutionary album.

Slow Train Coming? = reactionary album, lyrically and musically. The performances are ok given the mitigating factors.


Last edited by slimtimslide on Fri March 2nd, 2018, 08:54 GMT, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Fri March 2nd, 2018, 08:54 GMT 
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oldmanemu wrote:
To me all of his albums are essential apart from the studio albums released after Tempest.

So youd say something as dreadful as Knocked out loaded or down in the groove is more essential than any of the last three?


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PostPosted: Mon March 5th, 2018, 01:48 GMT 
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A music fan in general should have Biograph. It mops up a number of essential tracks that are from albums that may not themselves be considered essential.


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PostPosted: Mon March 5th, 2018, 05:23 GMT 
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I believe everyone should experience Dylan on their own terms. There is no argument for what's essential because it's personal. Garlic is essential to me but if others don't like it I can respect that. Same goes for Slow Train. Except Slow Train is not essential for me. The title track is great though.

His SNL appearance from around this time is possibly essential viewing.


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PostPosted: Mon March 5th, 2018, 09:48 GMT 
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Every Dylan album is essential for me.


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PostPosted: Mon March 5th, 2018, 11:00 GMT 
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Desolation Row wrote:
oldmanemu wrote:
To me all of his albums are essential apart from the studio albums released after Tempest.

So youd say something as dreadful as Knocked out loaded or down in the groove is more essential than any of the last three?

Absolutely!


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