My Top 5 Favorite Bob Dylan Albums
I first heard Bob Dylan in the early 80s on a cassette tape named Golden Folk Songs Vol. 2 bought by my father. The album consists of songs that I am familiar with, like Father and Son by Cat Stevens, Vincent by Don Mc Lean among others. In the middle of the tracks in Side A played Mr. Tambourine Man by Bob Dylan. The 13 year old me was surprised by his voice, it felt unconventional, raw and felt like coming from an old man. After the song has finished I rewound the tape it and intently listened to the lyrics. I immediately became a fan. Years later I bought some of his albums (no funds to buy all his albums) and converted them to digital music and placed it in my iPod. From there I was just amazed by his poetry, stories and melodies. In 2011 it was a dream come true to watch him perform live. It was a music festival in Singapore called Timbre Rock and Roots. Too many great albums were made by Dylan but below are my favorite albums. What I consider as great albums are the albums that you fully listen to all the songs, you don’t skip any tracks.
5. John Wesley Harding (1967)
The album starts with the title of the album, Bob sings “John Wesley Harding was a friend to the poor, he traveled with a gun in every hand.” The album is full of stories, as if you are just listening to Bob telling you stories in a camp fire. My top tracks in this album are: “I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine” the iconic “All Along The Watchtower”, The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest”, and “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight.” The album although not considered by many as one of the top 10 albums of Bob, for me it is a relaxing album. When you are lonely, feeling low and want someone to tell you a story, just listen to this album, I assure you will feel better. It is bare, raw but refined, it is easy to your ears and the poetry is the strength of this album. The other day, my daughter got my help in her homework, “Dad we need to submit a ballad it could be written by someone else”, Bob Dylan came immediately to my mind. I asked “What is a type of ballad you need?”, she replied “A poem or story where the 2nd line and the 4th line rhymes”, I told her to search I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine lyrics. She did and presented it to her class. (You will never go wrong with Bob Dylan’s songs. The master of ballads)
4. The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan (1963)
This is Bob’s second studio album and he solidified his status as one of the greatest composers of all time. It also presented to the listeners that some of Bob’s songs contain political protests. It continued in his next album “The Times They Are a-Changin”. The opening song is “Blowin’ In the Wind”, for me this is one of Bob’s greatest songs of all time. This song has been covered by too many artists, because it is simply a beautiful song. It was even sang in our church service by the choir. “Girl From the North Country”, “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall”, “Masters of War”, Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right” are my top tracks in this album. Once in a while when you are watching a movie or a TV show, Bob Dylan’s song would suddenly creep up in the background. From my experience, ‘A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall’ and ‘Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right’ are the ones mostly used.
3. Highway 61 Revisited (1965)
The album starts with Dylan’s iconic song “Like A Rolling Stone”, a glorious six minutes and 13 seconds track, which I felt I do not want to end. The album starts with a bang and it just gets your attention and sucks you into Dylan’s world. There is no letup with “Tombstone Blues” immediately follows and you just can’t stop the album and just listen to the imagery of Dylan’s words: “Momma’s in the factory she ain’t got no shoes, Daddy’s in the alley he is looking for food, I am in the kitchen with the Tombstone Blues” . The third track “It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes a Train To Cry” slows down the ambience, everytime I listen to this track I feel like I am in a bar, watching Bob and his band play. The other track that I love are ” Queen Jane Approximately”, ” Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” and the everlasting “Desolation Row”. As the last track “Desolation Row” an 11 minute song full of imagery finishes, I feel like finishing reading a last chapter of a great book.
2. Blonde On Blonde (1966)
Considered by many critics as Bob Dylan’s best album ever, this is a double album which they said was the climax of the “trilogy” of Dylan’s work starting from “Bringing It All Back Home” and then “Highway 61 Revisited”. There are 14 tracks in this album. It starts with the track “Rainy Day Women ♯12 & 35” a very interesting title for a song, and more interesting is the way it was recorded, it was like an informal recording where you can hear Dylan laugh a few times. A marching band opens up the album and you would probably say, hmmm ok where is this album going. As you hear Dylan sing “everybody must get stoned” some will feel uneasy as some ctonsidered this a drug song. The informality of this track makes it special, as if Dylan is inviting you in his little party. The third track is my favorite, “Visions of Johanna” is pure bliss. Simply a beautiful song. One of my top 5 favorite songs of Dylan. It is like Dylan has this magical brush and just paints a picture in your mind. Track after track Dylan just continues to amaze you with tracks like “Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again”, listening to this album is a poetic journey that ends with the track “Sad Eyed Lady Of the Lowlands”. For me this is Dylan’s lullaby, a soothing poem which perfectly closes this amazing album.
1. Blood On The Tracks (1975)
Yes this is my favorite Bob Dylan album. Although many would argue Blonde On Blonde is his best, for me this is the album closest to my heart and ears. The album I mostly play. From the title of the album alone, you will expect that this is a sad album. The opening track “Tangled Up In A Blue” is a great track, probably one of his powerful songs. I love the acoustic guitars almost drowning Dylan but his voice stands out. The second track “A Simple Twist Of Fate” is simply beautiful, Dylan sings about a relationship that did not work out. This is the track that stands out for me and one of my favourite Dylan songs of all time. My wife who is not a Dylan, when she heard this song, she fell in love with it. The third track “You’re A Big Girl Now”, intensifies that this album is about relationships breaking up. Another one of my favorites in this album is the track “Lily Rosemay and The Jack of Hearts”, Dylan goes country with this narrative ballad about a love triangle between Lily, Rosemary and Big Jim. Dylan has stated in one of his interviews that ” I am just a story teller” well this is a proof of that. “If You See Her Say Hello” a slow sad song about again a failed romantic relationship. One of the tracks that probably stands out. The next song “Shelter From the Storm” shows Dylan’s strength in his lyrics, you forget that the chords are mostly repetitive you forget that there are no chorus, it is just verses after verses and you just get too engrossed with his lyrics. “Buckets of Rain” is a really good last track for this album, a slow acoustic lovely song, I call it one of Dylan’s simple songs but the haunting melody just goes inside you. A perfect last track of this amazing album. One reason that this is my top favorite album is that the songs I felt are intertwined, and you get that unity of the songs in this album.