Skip to content

A Journey With Dylan: Halfway Through

A Few weeks ago, I wrote a post about how I was taking a journey through the studio albums of Bob Dylan, starting with his first eponymous album, and discovering new albums and tracks along the way which resonated with me. I’m now about half way through the catalogue, and have encountered a few surprises.

(Here’s the previous post, in case you haven’t read it.)

I wrote a few weeks ago that Dylan is an artist that demands constant re-assessment from his fans. And indeed, some of the assumptions and opinions which I had, and which I’d heard, about his back catalogue have proved … interesting, if not completely false.

1. Dylan’s Early Work is Hard Going

I had already struggled with Dylan’s earliest work. I can appreciate that he was an artist absorbing, emulating and building on those around him at the time, but I really didn’t identify at all with Bob Dylan, The Times They Are A-Changin’ and only just got through Another Side . Maybe I have been tainted a bit by listening to a lot of what came afterwards, but I just can’t see the appeal.

The Freewheeling’ remains my favourite album of this period, and my favourite track of that album has become my favourite duet of all time: “Girl from the North Country” with Johnny Cash is an absolute gem of a record. Cash’s perfectly toned pathos is a great contrast to Dylan’s lighter, more introverted approach.

2. Self Portrait Is a Masterpiece

From what I’d heard, the world was aghast at what Dylan had released in 1970. Even the artist himself claimed that the album was “something of a joke”. So I took the CD out of it’s case … and didn’t listen to it for a few weeks, fearing the worst.

Although I’ve discovered a distaste for Dylan covering other artists’ work (I hated Dylan — and don’t get me started on the Sinatra albums) there are plenty of absolute diamonds in there. I could listen to “Copper Kettle” and “Early Morning Rain” for hours.

Taking a rounded out view of the first half of this journey, I’d have to add “Nashville Skyline” as one of my top albums.

Oh, and listening to John Wesley Harding was going well, until “All Along the Watchtower” started playing, and for the first time I got the context of that song. Whoa.. that changes things. Just having that track amongst some instrumental movie soundtrack music makes it stand out as genius these 50 years later.

I’m currently on Street Legal, which, after a few tracks, has again surprised me. “Señor (Tales of Yankee Power)” is a powerful and unique track that I love very much. So, on we go to Dylan’s religious moment, which again I might find difficult … or I might not …

“Design isn't just how it looks. Design is what it does.” —Steve Jobs