I’ve been on quite a Dylan kick recently since the release of Todd Haynes’ magnificent anti-biopic I’m Not There. I would love to say that I’ve been listening to The American Bard, Bob, all my life but that would be far from the truth. Just like Shakespeare seemed to me in my younger days, Dylan was the one singer that I had to grow to connect with. It took many years to appreciate the infinite complexities and simple beauties that make up the many ballads, epics and lyrical anthems that he has written and recorded throughout his memorable career. It was actually after hearing U2’s much criticized cover of Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” on Rattle and Hum which got me curious about The Bard. (Incidentally, Dylan plays on a few tracks with U2 including organ on “Hawkmoon 269” and he co-wrote and sings on “Love Rescue Me.”)
The first Dylan discs that I ever bought were Biograph and The Bootleg Series Vol. 1-3 1961-91. But still it wasn’t till I was living alone, out of my elements, in New Orleans when the words of The Bard finally began to make sense to me in my new surroundings. To this day, I remember hearing Dylan crooning the lyrics to “Love Sick” as I walked the French Quarter streets during my years as a solitary man. His voice resonated through me during my years as a starving artist. I came to appreciate the poet and the singer whom for me was once a stranger in an alternate universe. It’s amazing when I finally connected with his music and words. I was reborn, everything changed to me. I looked at life as two distinct periods: before and after Dylan. Before I was blind and confused, and after my rebirth I was awake, aware with a sense of poetic amazement that was missing from my past life.
Yes, this is how much Dylan influenced me, as much as Henry Miller, Mark Twain, Hunter S. Thompson and Shakespeare himself inspired me in my ever growing ways as a writer in residence whilst living in New Orleans. I would disappear weeks on end, writing in my one bedroom Uptown Apartment with Dylan’s voice echoing from my stereo as my fingers hit the keyboard. If my friends heard Dylan was singing from my apartment, chances are I was on my computer, and they knew not to bother me.
Times may have changed but my devotion to Dylan continued throughout my many moves around these past few years. The release of this new compilation, Dylan, will bring a new generation of wide-eared, earnest music listeners to the world of this musical marvel. You will find his words beautifully strange at first but listen, really, let him reflect his timeless voice through out you. You will hear shades of your own life, loves, fears, hopes and dreams throughout many of these tracks. The world you always wanted to live in. The girl you always wanted to fall in love with. All of this and more come to life when you press play.
Listening to Dylan is more than to hear a CD. It’s an experience worthy of the Springsteen quote—You’ll learn more in a three-minute record than you’ll ever learn in school. You can bet The Boss was definitely talking about this timeless songwriter. Dylan is the perfect introduction to the School of Bob. This collection is separated in three CDs. The first showcases the Early Years, from 1962’s “Song to Woody (Guthrie)” to 1967’s “All Along the Watchtower.” Disc Two focuses on the seventies, when Dylan’s popularity hit its pinnacle from 1969’s “Lay Lady Lay” all the way to 1985’s “Not Dark Yet.” The last volume in this superb collection is the Dylan of late from 1986’s epic “Brownsville Girl” to 2006’s “When the Deal Goes Down.”
Is this the best collection available? Arguably, yes. Although I do tend to favor Biograph and the first Bootleg Series collection, Dylan is the best because of the mastering and the sequencing of the songs. Selected to stir and move you while reflecting on this amazing 3 CD set, you will discover why he is America’s Poet Laureate of Rock. Throughout his many incarnations of folk singer, rock, alt-country and 21st Century rocker, Dylan has remained an artist looking forward, relented in searching for his muses through his many voices the results in this amazing collection are pure poetic gold.
So before or after watching I’m Not There, I recommend investing in this must-have document of The American Bard. Dylan will take you to places you have longed to discover inside of you. He sings for all of us in a voice sometimes not so easy to comprehend, but you will understand his message of life, love, faith and despair. Sing along and you will feel the resurrection shaking you into a personal state that reflects truth, beauty and hope that’s pure Bob Dylan. Through the shadows of the past in a glimpse of the future that sounds like nothing before and after, you will be changed for the better. Believe Me—how does it feel?
Bob Dylan – Biograph
Bob Dylan – The Bootleg Series 1-3: Rare and Unreleased, 1961-1991
Bob Dylan – Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits