Dylan is perhaps the trickiest man in rock, and the hardest to put in a box. In the 60s there were people who thought he was the messiah. Eric Clapton had the same experience, until Hendrix came along. But even today some people say that Dylan is deeper and more original than Elvis or the Beatles, that he invented the vocabulary of rock, or did more at least than any other songsmith. He's the only artist (except Neil?) who has been making first-rate rock for four decades. On the other hand, I have friends with large collections who never listen to him because he sings "like a cow caught in a barbed-wire fence."
So here's an artist critics would say belongs in the front rank of the rock pantheon, perhaps in the lead. And the Hit Parade pretty much says "NO!" Looking at the US and UK top 20, Dylan had 7 hits in the 60s and 2 in the 70s, and none got higher than #4 in the charts. `Like a Rolling Stone", which frequently tops critics' lists as the best rock single ever, reached #8. If you look at the 100 top-selling rock albums, you won't see Dylan's name.
This is why I'm curious what others on DailyKos think of Dylan, and how you rate his individual albums. Because if you're into the roots of classic rock, `What's your favorite Dylan album' can be a pretty tricky question.
Last Sunday I asked, What's the 13th best Dylan album?
Which may seem like an odd question. If you read that diary you'll find out why I only had time to play my 12 favorite Dylan albums on the road to Buffalo. (incidentally, there was another interesting Dylan question last Sunday: Best Dylan line?)
I asked what your 13th favorite Dylan album was because of driving circumstances, but also because Dylan is one of a handful of artists the question makes sense for. Try thinking of your 13th favorite album by Led Zep, the Clash or Radiohead and you'll have a bit of trouble. Excellent bands, who didn't release more than 12 worthwhile albums. A brief digression, while I walk into my bedroom and peruse my collection: I have 12 or more albums by Miles Davis, Bob Marley, Stevie Wonder, Prince, the Beatles, David Bowie, Elvis Costello, Bob Dylan, Genesis, the Jam (if you count all my 12" singles), the Kinks, Van Morrison, Pink Floyd, Lou Reed, REM, the Rolling Stones, U2, the Who and Neil Young. But Dylan, the Stones and Miles Davis (and possibly Elvis P., whose work I know a fraction of) are the only ones I could imagine getting 30 albums by.
As you perhaps have already gathered, I like to talk, and I like music, and I could talk about Dylan for 3 hours without stopping for a glass of water. But I'm trying to get a dialog (polylog?) going here, so I'd like to know not what the critics say, but just the Dylan album you like the most, the one you're most likely to play and most likely to be enchanted by.
Here's what people said last week (3 people gave lists of their top 5 Dylan albums, which really helps in terms of getting a bigger picture of what Dylan fans like):
x picked Blonde on Blonde, Highway 61 Revisited, Blood on the Tracks, Nashville Skyline and Time out of Mind.
BenGoshi picked 7: Blood on the Tracks, Highway 61, Blonde on Blonde, Time out of Mind, Freewheelin', Infidels and Planet Waves.
Caldonia picked Bringing it all Back Home, Bob Dylan, Highway 61, Blonde on Blonde and Freewheelin' (no picks later than '66).
Maryscott OConnor said Dylan's best is `Blood on the Tracks' (4 others agreed with a 4 rating)
Elwood Dowd spoke up for Live 1966: Royal Albert Hall
Bumblebums for Another Side of Bob Dylan
existenz for World Gone Wrong
pastordan for Oh Mercy
DHinMI for The Times they are a Changing
ourprez08 for Good as I Been to you
(though all of these were asked their 13th favorite Dylan album, and may have favoriter albums)
So what are your favorite Dylan albums and why?
(Since you can only have 12 answers to a poll, I've had to leave out great albums like Freewheelin, Another Side, Basement Tapes and Oh Mercy. Just write a comment if I axed your personal favorite. And, sorry if I did)
Update [2005-8-27 16:33:53 by Brecht]: So far it looks like 'Blood on the Tracks' is winning, with 'Blonde on Blonde' second and 'Highway 61' close behind.
'Blood on the Tracks': there's a version, 'Blood on the Tapes' which is all the original, less-polished versions of the same songs. Or you can compile something similar between 'Biograph' and 'Bootleg 1-3', which would have alternate versions and a couple of different songs ('Up to me' and 'Call Letter Blues').
Secondly, I tend to find 'Highway 61' and 'Blonde on Blonde' more powerful and compelling. But maybe we should just play 'Blood on the Tracks' louder. One time in Chicago the guy upstairs did that, and I discovered what great bass there is on the album.
What 'Blood on the Tracks' certainly has going for it is that it's Dylan's most accessible album. He sings pretty sweetly, and he also does something almost unprecedented in rock: he really invites the listener in. If you're paying attention to 'Tangled up in Blue' or 'Simple Twist of Fate', you'll get sucked into the story of these star-crossed lovers and find yourself sitting on the bench with them. He tells you enough story to put you right there, but leaves you enough mystery to always hunger for the next line.