Pop/Rock/World CD Reviews

Bob Dylan – The Complete Album Collection, Vol. 1 – Columbia/Sony Legacy 1962-2012 – 43 album titles comprising 35 studio albums, 6 live albums, and 2 CD “Side Tracks”

Chronicling the development of an American musical genius….

Published on December 18, 2013

Bob Dylan – The Complete Album Collection, Vol. 1 – Columbia/Sony Legacy 88691924312BKI – 1962-2012 – 43 album titles comprising 35 studio albums, 6 live albums, and 2-CD “Side Tracks” (from compilations, soundtracks, and Biograph issue) [11/05/13] *****:

It takes a legacy label of the magnitude of Columbia Records to attempt to fully document the recorded history of a musical icon whose recorded output encompasses half a century. Few, if any labels, have the staying power, and the financial clout, to keep a musician satisfied for such an extensive period of time. Columbia Records has achieved this feat with Miles Davis, and to a lesser extent, Johnny Cash, and Dave Brubeck. The label’s magnum opus, however, is their recent release of Bob Dylan’s entire studio and live recording output.

The comparison of Dylan to Miles Davis may be an odd one, but there are significant similarities. Both are prominently known for their early work in their careers, and each is known for having a restless soul. Davis, is most known for the period encompassing the mid ’50s (he previously had recorded for Prestige Records) to the end of the 1960s. Davis then ventured out to record heavy electric, fusion, and even dabbled in pop and hip hop before briefly returning to more mainstream fare at the tail end of his career.

Much the same, Bob Dylan is most honored as the voice of his generation in the 1960s, recording folk protest and social consciousness songs that will always be remembered (i.e. “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “Chimes of Freedom,” and “With God on Our Side”). These classics are just a few of the early acoustic tracks that inspired and moved a generation ready to tackle American society’s injustices. Dylan, like Davis, became restless and outraged his folkie/peacenik base by going electric at the Newport Folk Festival. Highway 61 Revisited totally changed the dynamic for what was to follow. Dylan continued to change  American folk, pop, and rock music, but now it was super-charged with electric energy. Though revolutionary at the time, it now seems tame and almost expected, for this music to have moved forward to meet a new audience.

From his beginning in Greenwich Village, Bob Dylan was known (with his quirky and unique voice and phrasing) for being the voice of the disaffected. He commented on race relations (“Rubin Carter”), civil unrest (“Blowin’ in the Wind” and “Times They Are a Changin”), and warned that a “Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall.” His lyrics were sometimes puzzling with a stream of consciousness that demanded debate and intellectual interpretation. He was our generation’s Woody Guthrie, and that did not change even when Bob strapped on his electric guitar, and at times his lyrics became unintelligible and his formerly sweet voice turned into an inimitable growl. His talents then just demanded more concentration.

Dylan’s acoustic period from Freewheelin’ in 1963 all the way through 1965’s Bringing It All Back Home, set the stage for Blonde on Blonde, and into exploring music of the day on Self Portrait. Not slowing up in the least, Dylan was highly prolific throughout the 1970s, before stepping back at bit in the ’80s, and even more significantly in the ’90s, when he concentrated on non-stop touring.

During the ’70s and into the ’80s, Dylan’s “search” broadened out considerably. He put his mark on country and blues, had a period of acting and composing soundtracks, and a brief segue (which deeply puzzled his audience) into exploring both Christian evangelism (on record), and even exploring his Jewish roots by taking his son to Israel’s Jewish religious sites. His recording and touring with The Band revitalized his career, and there were periods of recording and touring with rock stars of the day. Planet Waves, and Blood on the Tracks put him back on rock’s main stage.

Performing through the British invasion, punk rock, electronica, and the various stages of alternative rock, Bob Dylan has remained a constant presence. Over the last two decades, Bob has at times returned to his folk roots, releasing Good as I Been to You, and World Gone Wrong (which won a Grammy for Best Traditional Folk Album.) That was even topped by 1997’s Time Out of Mind that went platinum, and received three Grammy awards including Album of the Year. The trend has continued with Modern Times in 2006, which topped the Billboard charts and achieving another platinum status in both the US and Britain.

Every time the music industry has thought that Dylan was ready to rest on his laurels, he has risen like a phoenix. Though still primarily a reclusive figure, and not known as an artist with sharing his thoughts with the public onstage, Bob continued to tour on the road, happy to play in smaller venues with a heavy touring schedule. At this stage in his life, it can’t be a need for the money, but more likely the joy of playing his music.

At age 72, seemingly rock’s most senior citizen, Dylan remains a fascinating enigma – a recluse that still constantly rises to the occasion seemingly whenever he chooses.  The issuance of this monumental box set, chronicling his entire career, is the equivalent of a Lifetime Achievement Award. Each CD is presented in an LP mini-sleeve. (Don’t worry if your elderly eyes can’t read the liner notes, as they are reproduced in the comprehensive 268-page hardcover book.) There is an introductory essay by Bill Flanagan, and a 40-page chronology by Dylan biographer Clinton Heylin, that covers every album.

Fourteen of the albums have been remastered for this set, eleven being studio releases, while three are live issues. There are no sound problems present, though there will still be some who will compare some of their Dylan SACDs to the red book releases found here. The first ever North American CD release of 1973’s Dylan album is an added bonus, as is the thirty “Side Tracks” on two CDs. They include some rarities, mainly songs from compilations, and heavily taken from Dylan’s Biograph box set.

For those of you who wonder why this mega-set is titled Vol. 1, it is because Vol. 2, when it is issued next year, will be comprised of the entire Bootleg Series, which now totals 10 volumes. (With Dylan, there is seemingly always more…)

At less than four dollars a disc, available online at Amazon and elsewhere, this box set is the deal of the year. Even those just remotely interested in Bob Dylan, can do no wrong at this price. It will provide months of listening enjoyment. Dylan “freaks” may already have most everything here (they will probably buy it anyway), but this is Bob Dylan for the masses. If your eyes and ears have remained “open” over the last half century, this is beyond a must purchase at its present price. Case closed….

TrackList:

Studio Albums:
Bob Dylan (1962)
The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan (1963)
The Times They Are-a-Changin’ (1964)
Another Side of Bob Dylan (1964)
Bringing It All Back Home (1964)
Highway 61 Revisited (1965)
Blonde on Blond (1966)
John Wesley Harding (1967)
Nashville Skyline (1969)
Self Portrait (1970) – newly remastered
New Morning (1970)
Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973) – newly remastered
Dylan (1973) – newly remastered and first US CD issue
Planet Waves (1974)
Blood on the Tracks (1975)
The Basement Tapes (1975)
Desire (1976)
Street Legal (1978) – newly remastered
Slow Train Coming (1979)
Saved (1980) – newly remastered
Shot of Love (1981)
Infidels (1983)
Empire Burlesque (1985) – newly remastered
Knocked Out Loaded (1986) – newly remastered
Down in the Groove (1988) – newly remastered
Oh Mercy (1989)
Under the Red Sky (1990) – newly remastered
Good as I Been to You (1992) – newly remastered
World Gone Wrong (1993) – newly remastered
Time Out of Mind (1997)
Love and Theft (2001)
Modern Times (2006)
Together Through Life (2009)
Christmas in the Heart (2009)
Tempest (2012)
 
Live Albums:
Before the Flood (1972)
Hard Rain (1976) – newly remastered
Bob Dylan at Budokan (1979) – newly remastered
Real Live (1984) – newly remastered
Dylan and the Dead (1989)
MTV Unplugged (1995)
 
“Side Tracks” :
 Baby, I’m in the Mood for You, Mixed-Up Confusion, Tomorrow is a Long Time (live), Lay Down Your Weary Tune, Percy’s Song, I’ll Keep It with Mine, Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window?, Positively 4th Street, Jet Pilot, I Wanna Be Your Lover, I Don’t’ Believe You (She Acts Like We’ve Never Met (live), Visions of Johanna (live), Quinn  the Eskimo, Watching the River Flow, When I Paint My Masterpiece, Down in the Flood, I Shall Be Released, You Ain’t Going Nowhere, George Jackson (acoustic version), Forever Young, You’re a Big Girl Now, Up to Me, Abandoned Love, Isis (live), Romance in Durango (live), Caribbean Wind, Heart of Mine (live), Series of Dreams, Dignity, Things Have Changed

—Jeff Krow

 




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