A while back I wrote an article about Dylan which you can check out by clicking here. It was about my love for Dylan and his work. I also gave an example on how he Is Shakespeare of our time. Now, this article Is about his best albums. He has had a long run, debuting In 1962 and to the present day still writing, recording and also performing song In his ‘Never Ending Tour’ which started in 1988 and continues.
Throughout his career he has produced some of the greatest albums ever In the music history, and filled with phenomenal poetry. In the 60’s Itself he produced 9 albums, and they all stand as classic In their own sense. Then even In the mid-70’s he came with some masterstoke’s like ‘Blood on The Tracks’, which Is another triumph.
All his albums stand on their own. This article mentions 15 of them, which I believe are his best albums, and ones which I felt writing about. These are about his studio albums only, so no bootlegs would be included. I’ll keep them for another day.
Every album of Dylan has something to add to his world of music, art & poetry. As his work ages, It starts to get appreciated more. With the years to come, It’s only way trip for It. With his comeback album as many say ‘Time Out Of Mind’ he’s been coming up with wonderful albums like ‘Love & Theft’ and ‘Modern Times’. So, let’s get right Into exploring his best albums.
This album came after one of the greatest Dylan albums ever ‘Blood On The Tracks’, but that doesn’t make it any less. Desire has a unique sound to it and Is quite different from his other albums, but aren’t all of his albums are unique. It starts with a 8 minute ballad about a boxer ‘Hurricane’ and ends with one of the most personal song Dylan has ever written and recorded ‘Sara’. It was recorded during his supreme ‘Rolling Thunder Avenue’ tour. So, It captures Dylan during one of his zenith moments. Though, Dylan experimented by collaborating on the lyrics with Jacques Levy, a theatre director. It just adds another layer to It.
Best Tracks: Romance In Durango, Sara.
OH’ MERCY (1989)
After couple of forgettable works, Dylan made a comeback with Oh’ Mercy. 1980’s was a pretty diverse decade for Dylan. He experimented with different kinds of music, but nothing seemed to be working. Oh’ Mercy changed It all, It was his best album since his mid 70’s phrase. He got his groove back with this. This Is filled with wonderful songs like ‘Political World’ which seem to be valid more than ever today. It came also at a time when he started his ‘Never Ending Tour’ started. It’s definitely one of Dylan’s most crucial album.
Best Tracks: Political World, What Good Am I?
NASHVILLE SKYLINE (1969)
Dylan’s Nashville Skyline Is one of his shortest album, but certainly one of his greatest. He was exploring country-rock music with this and the album that preceded It ‘John Wesley Harding’. He had moved on from his electric trilogy which included albums like ‘Highway 61 Revisited’.
In 1969, psychedelic rock was at Its peak, and counter-culture was flourishing, there were festivals like Woodstock, but Dylan was taking a different road, with this album he went back to the roots of American Music, and captured his Interpretation of It. It starts with a beautiful duet with Johnny Cash of Dylan’s earlier song ‘Girl From The North Country’. He also used a distant voice on this album different from his voice on his previous albums at the time. It’s Bob Dylan after all.
MODERN TIMES (2006)
Modern Times Is the third addition to his comeback trilogy which started ‘Time Out Of Mind’, and It adds more depth to them. It features homage to Dylan’s own hero’s, It also features the original blues and folk rock music which Is hard to hear In the modern times as the title says. Every Dylan album has Its own speciality and this one Is no different.
ANOTHER SIDE OF BOB DYLAN (1964)
This was perhaps the first step that Dylan took to start experimenting with different kind of music. The 3 albums that came before ‘Another Side of Bob Dylan’ were purely folk, and even this Is. But difference can be sensed with the use of Instruments, especially that Harmonica as for the sound.
The theme of the album Is certainly different from his earlier albums like ‘The Freewheelin Bob Dylan’. He also started experimenting with mind-altering substances around the time this album was recorded and released. He recorded the whole album In one recording session, yes One. His lyrical poetry on this album shines all the way through. Dylan made himself very clear to his folk fans with album, that he’s an artist who will be constantly experimenting with his craft. As the last track on this album ‘It Ain’t Me, Babe’ says very clearly ‘I’m not the one you’re looking for’.
LOVE & THEFT (2001)
After his come back album ‘Time Out of Mind’, Dylan followed It up with another masterstroke ‘Love & Theft’. In this album, Dylan kicks of 21st century with going back to his roots and earlier influences. It is a full mix of roots rock with electric blues and folk rock. Each of the lyrics can be read as poetry, they are so majestic. While Its predecessor dealt with themes of mortality and uncertainty of a man, this album takes us on a tour of American Music, he explores his long-time obsession with lost love and love ballads from different angles as always. In this album, he sounds like he savours the ride as there’s a new morning.
THE TIMES THEY ARE A-CHANGIN (1964)
Dylan’s third album ‘The Times They Are A-Changin’ came at a time when it spoke for the things happening back In early 1960’s. But It can be true of today’s time as well. Great art never ages, again. It starts of with one of Dylan’s most famous song ever which Is of the same name as the album, and It has become almost like an anthem since then, It’s certainly one of the greatest he’s ever written. The album as whole consists of ballads which speak on topics like racism, poverty, social change and features marvelous lost love songs like ‘One Too Many Mornings’ and ‘Boots Of Spanish Leather’.
This album captures the the essence that surrounds most of the major issues our society has been facing, It symbolizes hope. But most of all It’s work of art. This was the first Dylan album for me which I personally digged. By the time It got released, Dylan was entering Into a new phrase of his, and the change can be sensed from the album cover Itself, especially when you look at the previous album’s cover ‘The Freewheelin Bob Dylan’. The times where really changin at least for Dylan.
JOHN WESLEY HARDING (1967)
Little after an year of his motorcycle accident, which kept Dylan away from the public eye, he came with John Wesley Harding. In 1967, psychedelic music was starting to be bloomed, and Dylan came with country inspired folk-rock album. It came as a surprise for many Dylan fans during the time It was released. As It was preceded by Dylan’s electric trilogy. He called It as ‘The First Biblical Rock Album’. The reference can be felt throughout.
It deals with cryptic tales and strange warnings. Dylan took a different approach to writing with this one. As Allen Ginsberg describes It ‘There was to be no wasted language, no wasted breath’. Dylan himself sensed the change as he said ‘I thought I was just gonna get up and go back to doing what I was doing before But I couldn’t do it anymore.’ He recalled in 1969. It stands alone In Dylan’s long discography. It takes you to another world, and by this album and Its songs it was very clear that the old Dylan was long gone.
The title may sound similar to the Shakespeare’s play ‘The Tempest’ but Dylan denied any connection as his album Is simply called ‘Tempest’ without ‘the’. Tempest continues the new comeback phrase of Dylan which started from his 1997 LP ‘Time Out Of Mind’. It’s certainly the darkest album In his catalog. It came after 100 years of the sinking Titanic, and features a 14 minute ballad bout It of the album name. It includes some of the greatest lyrical poetry Dylan has ever written. It truly Is an example that Dylan Is the greatest songwriter of all time. Dylan’s voice In this album Is quite older, but the sound, the words and his interpretation makes me say this Is one of his greatest works.
THE FREEWHEELIN BOB DYLAN (1963)
The Freewheelin Bob Dylan was Dylan’s first album which consisted major portion of his originally written songs, he broke the folk orthodox with album and It resulted In his first classic. It was his first genuine masterpiece and one where the world got to know who Dylan Is. It features anywhere from blistering social commentary on topics like nuclear holocaust and civil rights, to pure romance to comical talking blues to lost love songs.
He was just about 22 years old when this album came out, and It remains a landmark In modern music. It features some of the greatest songs ever written from ‘Blowing In The Wind’ to ‘A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall’ to ‘Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright’. The phenomenon Bob Dylan started with this album, and It was only his second album.
HIGHWAY 61 REVISITED (1965)
Highway 61 Revisited was Dylan’s first album In which he went fully electric. Though, the last track on the album ‘Desolation Row’ which Is a 10 minute song filled with magnificent poetry and pays homage to the folk music tradition but even that has been given an electric touch. It consists of only 9 tracks but It covers It all In Its depthness. It starts of with probably the greatest song of all time? ‘Like A Rolling Stone’. It also Is quite humorous as well with tracks like ‘Ballad Of Thin Man’.
This album had an impact on the history of music, especially for the 60’s music and rock’n’roll. It showcases Dylan becoming a deity In rock. In other words, It made him immortal In the history of rock’n’roll. His poetry in It seems to be combustible and unpredictable, His poetry also became more less straightforward from Highway 61 Revisited onwards. It came at a time a time when modern music was getting started, Its where Dylan went next level, Its where folk & poetry got Infused with Rock.
BRINGING IT ALL BACK HOME (1965)
If ‘Another Side Of Bob Dylan’ was the first step towards a new kind of music, Bringing It All Back Home was the first album In which Dylan plugged In and went Electric. Although only half of the tracks were electric, the acoustic one’s were also given melody which made them sound a little different. But, It was very clear with this album that Dylan was not gonna look back, and will indulge with other musical Instruments and people to play them to tell his stories.
Bringing It All Back home Is manifestly one one of the most Important album of Dylan’s career If not the most. From a folk hero, he was becoming a ‘poet of the road’, I strongly believe Dylan really started digging the poet In himself with this album, and It shows In the songs like ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’ which Is said to be about the drug ‘LSD’, there also has been said It was written along with many songs of his previous album ‘Another Side of Bob Dylan’ on a hash-fueled road trip. Who knows, but It remains a classic, and one of his very best work. It was just the start and the first Installment In his ‘Electric Trilogy’.
TIME OUT OF MIND (1997)
Many folks say Dylan has had many comebacks In his career, though I believe he was there all the time, but ‘Time Out Of Mind’ Is a masterstroke and with this album It was very clear that Dylan was on the run again, It was followed by albums like ‘Love & Theft’ & ‘Modern Times’, to find a stronger trilogy In Dylan’s career you’ll have to go back to the mid 60’s. Time Out Of Mind Is certainly his most important album since ‘Bringing It All Back Home’. It put him on the map again.
It deals with themes like ageing which seems pretty valid as Dylan was 55 years old when this came out, as he says ‘I’m trying to get to heaven, before they close the door’. Lost love Is another major theme which Dylan has explored in his writing since the he began writing and recording songs. His voice had gone through some changes and became different by this album, but It blends perfectly well with the writing and sound of this album. Again, music has never been just about voice, at least for me.
It Is the longest album of Dylan and It was his first double LP since his 1970 album ‘Self Portrait’. It’s almost like Dylan started to go with his roots from this one, with folk-rock and a touch of blues music. This Is a work of mature artist, and It’s visible In Its lyrical poetry, which Is some of the greatest he has ever written. It also ends with a 16 minute ballad ‘Highlands’ which Is the longest song Dylan has ever written and recorded. In short this Is Dylan’s meditation on mortality and love.
BLOOD ON THE TRACKS (1975)
Tell me ten better love poems In a single album and I’ll wait. Blood On The Tracks Is by many believed to be Dylan’s best work, and I have no doubt about that alongside the next album mentioned, ofcourse. This album Is speculated that It was inspired by Dylan’s marriage to Sara Dylan (his first wife), though he has personally denied It. But his son, Jakob Dylan said that when he hears this album, he hears his parents talking, so who knows. Its Dylan after all.
It paints many verbal pictures that deals with lost love from different sides and situations, he really digs deep Into that theme. Starting of with the classic track ‘Tangled Up In Blue’ which Dylan commented ‘It took him 10 years to live and 2 years to write’, then there’s ‘Shelter From The Storm’, which Is truly one of the greatest songs ever written and recorded. The album revolves around the idea of relationship gone all wrong, the romantic poetry of Dylan seems to be at its peak. Its termed as ‘the greatest break-up album ever’ by many folks. It’s a monumental one for Dylan weather as musician or a poet.
When people say they enjoyed this album Dylan said ‘It’s hard for me to imagine enjoying that kind of pain’, I’ll leave you with that.
BLONDE ON BLONDE (1966)
Finally, Dylan’s magnum opus. This album has magic, It really does. I thoroughly believe this album along with two albums came before It ‘Bringing It Back All Home’ and ‘Highway 61 Revisited’ changed the music industry forever. The Interesting part Is all three came within a 14 month period. Blonde on Blonde was the first double LP In rock music history. The whole album is filled with magical poetry, surreal imagery with a solitary sound. Besides this being Dylan’s best album, It’s my favourite album of all time. My ears haven’t heard anything better than this.
This album Is where the distance between Dylan’s imagination and his music collapsed as Dylan himself said “The closest I ever got to the sound I hear in my mind was with Blonde On Blonde, that thin, that wild mercury sound.” This album Is everything it could be, it’s assorted with mix of unique lightning rock, a touch of classical blues, love folk ballads and psychedelic country music. Dylan’s poetry on this one Is of a visionary. It’s diverse in nature, It starts of with a joke and ends with a hymn as Robert Shelton noted.
Nobody has captured the sound of 3 A.M better than Blonde On Blonde’. Al Kooper an organist on this album said that. I can’t do nothing but agree. This album is Superlative. The 72 minutes of this album Is an experience within Itself. It along with Its two predecessors stand unequalled In rock history. I can talk about this forever, but I’ll leave you with this Dylan has a song ‘When I Paint My Masterpiece’ he wrote later In the year 1971, I can tell you ‘Blonde on Blonde’ Is It.
The article showcases 15 albums of Dylan. I picked to write particularly about those which I had something to say about. There are some works which are worth mentioning like ‘The Basement Tapes’, ‘Planet Waves’, ‘New Morning’ & his first album ‘Bob Dylan’ along with several others.
Thanks for reading.
I speak for myself In the above article.