Thursday, August 6, 2009

An Iron Cross Still Hanging Down From Around Her Neck: 20 Essential Bob Dylan Albums

There are certain artists that I really listen to in major spurts. Artists that I might go for up to a few months without listening to, but just the mention of a song or a dream of a line can send me on a major obsessive frenzy. One of those artists for me is definitely Bob Dylan and lately I have been devouring his back catalogue again. Kim Morgan recently posted a really nice Led Zeppelin list of sorts over at Sunset Gun and that, combined with my current Dylan fixation, has compelled me to present a list of my 20 favorite Dylan albums, as well as the track on each that really speaks to me. Now, from the list below you will definitely be able to tell that I have a particular period that fascinates me more than the others, and you will also notice that I am only working with the studio albums here…no compilations or live collections, as frankly the sheer weight of those would just overload the list. So enjoy, and if you are a fellow Dylan enthusiast please share your thoughts with me, as a talk on Mr. Zimmerman is always a valuable one.

1. John Wesley Harding: Key Track (As I Went Out One Morning)

2. Street Legal: Key Track (Senor: Tales of Yankee Power)

3. Desire: Key Track (Sara)

4. Blood on the Tracks: Key Track (Idiot Wind)

5. Highway 61 Revisited: Key Track (Ballad of a Thin Man)

6. Love and Theft: Key Track (Honest With Me)

7. Bringing it All Back Home: Key Track (It’s Alright Ma, I’m Only Bleeding)

8. New Morning: Key Track (Went to See The Gypsy)

9. Blonde on Blonde: Key Track (Stuck Inside of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again)

10. Slow Train Coming: Key Track (Precious Angel)

11. Planet Waves: Key Track (Going, Going, Gone)

12. Oh Mercy: Key Track (Political World)

13. Another Side of Bob Dylan: Key Track (My Back Pages)

14. Modern Times: Key Track (Workingman’s Blues #2)

15. The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan: Key Track (Masters of War)

16. Self Portrait: Key Track (Paul Simon’s The Boxer)

17. Nashville Skyline: Key Track (I Threw it all Away)

18. The Times They Are a-Changin’: Key Track (The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll)

19. Time out of Mind: Key Track (Not Dark Yet)

20. Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid: Key Track (Main Title Theme: Billy)


Ed Howard said...

Great post, there can never be enough Dylan conversation. It's hard to argue with any list that primarily consists of 60s and 70s Dylan, with a few late-period masterpieces thrown in for good measure.

There are so many great Dylan albums and songs, but if I had to pick just one album, it'd probably be the underrated Another Side, a transitional work between his folk roots and his electric revival. It's just such a warm, passionate album, packed with amazing songs. "Spanish Harlem Incident" is probably my favorite, a song that conjures up so many vibrant images and stories, but there's also "All I Really Want To Do," "Chimes of Freedom," "My Back Pages," and the sheer rambling fun of "I Shall Be Free No. 10." And as an anecdotal footnote, "Ballad in Plain D" is about my fiancee's great-aunt, the girl on the cover of Freewheelin'.

Of course, if I had to pick just one song rather than whole album, it'd unquestionably be "Desolation Row," the song that sums up the entirety of Dylan's career in 11 minutes.

Will Errickson said...

I might put "As I went Out One Morning" at the top of my Dylan list as well. Good call. Over the years John Wesley Harding has become the Dylan album I return to the most. I seem to recall an MST3k joke in which one of the robots quoted the first lines...

John Pilecki said...

After a quick glance, loved that you included :"Self Portrait," the bastard child of prime time Dylan albums, usually sneered at ... I often hear "All the Tired Horses" course through my brain when roaming bucolic settings, and how dare the sincerity of "Blue Moon" be doubted? I am one of those who have forgotten more about other albums highly praised by critics who never have known the charms of this home made wonder. Bravo!

Magic Mark said...

I would have dumped John Wesley Harding and Planet Waves, and substituted those with and Love and Theft, Basement Tapes (enough Bob to call it a Bob album).

Ole5anddimer said...

Linked from expecting rain.

Always get excited when I see a Street Legal line. Real good list and I like the inclusion of a song from each one of the records. I recently blogged an ultimate Dylan by the tracks mix. Little complicated but the results were great. You can check it out here.
Starting June 9th...

Thanks for the post.

Anonymous said...

The Boxer is the worst song on one his worst albums. Bad. Bad. Bad.

Jeremy Richey said...

Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. Great to read and that story about your great-aunt is incredible!
I love the Another Side album, even though it is a little lower in the list (I love all 20 of these albums!). Great choice on the songs from the album as well. The whole thing is flat out amazing, and it is the perfect transistion LP between the folk and electric periods, as you noted.

So glad to hear from another fan of JWH. It's far and away my favorite Dylan album and in my mind it sums up what I love about the man as it is, like Dylan himself, incredibly mysterious, strange and haunting. I have always thought the line from "Frankie Lee and Judas Priest" that states "Nothing is revealved" sums up Dylan's career better than anything else he ever wrote. I will always be totally in love with that album.

Thanks again to you both!

Jeremy Richey said...

Thanks John,
I love SELF PORTRAIT. I know it is an incredibly frustrating album, but damn it is a fascinating one and I always love returning to it.

Jeremy Richey said...

Hey Magic Mark,
Thanks for the comments. Actually I do have LOVE AND THEFT on there, but I know the way the list is formated that it is easy to overlook certain choices. I thought about including THE BASEMENT TAPES, but finally decided against it as I put it in the compilation catagory, but it could have gone either way. It is an incredble collection of songs and it would have been in the top ten had I included it.

Jeremy Richey said...

Thanks Ole5 for the nice words on STREET LEGAL, my list and for the link (which I will check out asap). I fell in love with STREET LEGAL after that remastered CD release (the vinyl always sounded too flat to me due to the length) and I think it is one of his most important and unjustly neglected albums. Thanks again!

Jeremy Richey said...

Hey Anonymous,
We'll just have to agree to disagree about "The Boxer" I know it's one of Dylan's most controversial performances, but I have always loved how he took the orchestrated power of the original and transformed it into something almost matter of fact. I know some consider it a parody or a joke but I've never heard it that way. To me there is something authentically powerful and off the wall about Dylan's take.