Bob Dylan: DYLAN

Dylan masterpieces will always be masterpieces regardless of how many times we're fed the same songs, but enough already.

Bob Dylan


Label: Legacy
US Release Date: 2007-10-02
UK Release Date: 2007-10-01

Oh, how is it even possible to say a bad word about a Bob Dylan album? Arguably the most brilliant songwriter of our time, an absolutely fascinating evolution of an artist: poet, rebel, activist, balladeer, country singer, troubadour.... We all know the list of accomplishments that can follow his name. Even more impressive is the fact that it's a list that's had many of these twists and turns just in recent years of recording, and also includes such off-the-beaten track moves as books of poetry, dips into film including 2004's Masked and Anonymous and the self-penned Chronicles: Volume One in 2005. It's a vast and always intriguing catalogue of work that Dylan has provided us with, but this latest offering from the library of Columbia/Legacy, DYLAN, should not be confused with an offering from the man himself. And perhaps that is the sole reason I can bring myself to utterly say that this is not a necessary addition.

Dylan's music has been remastered, recycled and repackaged in so many ways that the ridiculous number attempts is probably only forgiven because of the extraordinary level of songwriting that we're dealing with. To date, there have been three volumes of Greatest Hits (released in 1967, 1971 and 1994 respectively), the Biograph box set in 1985, an Essential Bob Dylan in 2000, a Best of in 2005, a remastering series of his first most influential albums, The Bootleg Series Volume 1-3 in 1991, and yes, the list goes on here too. There is no doubt that we're talking about a catalogue of work here that is deserving of the title "masterpiece", but do we really need to be presented with these same songs over and over again?

Besides Disc Three of DYLAN, which covers the more recent years of studio work, all but a small handful of the songs on this new three disc set have already appeared at least once before on another compilation. In fact, the only previously unreleased track -- the only remix ever to be approved by Dylan, Mark Ronson's remix of "Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I'll Go Mine) -- is only available through the digital version of the album being sold through iTunes. It's ironic that so many attempts have been made to fit Dylan's career neatly into a box when he has spent his entire career genre-bending, defying expectations and dodging any sort of pigeon-hole that people have tried to carve out for him. But it's also getting tired. According to the advance press released for the compilation, song selections were greatly influenced by the input of fans offered through the website set up to promote DYLAN, though the predictable track listing found here really doesn't indicate anything out of the ordinary.

The latest incarnation of retrospective on DYLAN is one that takes a mainly chronological focus, including the key songs from his albums to paint a sort of linear picture of all of the expected landmarks of his career: from his "Song to Woody" in 1962 and rise to fame in the later '60s, through the personal and professional roller coaster of the early '70s to mid-'80s that saw critics claiming the end of his career at least a few times, up to the widely acclaimed trilogy that began with Time Out Of Mind and led to yet another comeback for the artist in the late '90s. Just trying to mark three such definitive timelines for Dylan's career is restrictive and insisting on "fitting" the songs together like one big jigsaw puzzle feels like we're missing the point completely.

Really, there isn't a single song here that isn't a winner (it is Dylan, after all), but it's all far too familiar territory and just seems to be shelling out the same snapshot of the singer that we've all been getting for years. Frankly, he's a much more interesting artist and more challenging song samples definitely exist: Dylan's often bratty persona and tumultuous relationship with the media as represented "Ballad of a Thin Man", lesser known examples of exceptional lyricism like "Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands", moments of womanizing swagger heard on "Oh, Sister", and instances of his twisted humor as on "Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum" are just a few. There are a million other unrepresented moments throughout Dylan's career that would have offered a more thoughtful and unique portrayal of such a vast artistic landscape: there's certainly enough diversity to be found throughout Dylan's 45 years of work.

Ultimately, it may simply just come down to the fact that there is no box set that could ever properly house the likes of someone like Bob Dylan. There is really nothing linear about his career, and certainly nothing so conventional about his work that it could be expected to be presented in any sort of meaningful way within such unoriginal parameters. So, grab this album for the catalogue of great songs if you don't already have the classic albums that they've been picked from. But, really, we should all already have these albums.






Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.


Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.


The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".


Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.


Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Mobley Laments the Evil of "James Crow" in the US

Austin's Mobley makes upbeat-sounding, soulful pop-rock songs with a political conscience, as on his latest single, "James Crow".


Jordan Tice's "Bad Little Idea" Is a Satirical Spin on Dire Romance (premiere)

Hawktail's Jordan Tice impresses with his solo work on "Bad Little Idea", a folk rambler that blends bluesy undertones with satiric wit.


Composer Ilan Eshkeri Discusses His Soundtrack for the 'Ghost of Tsushima' Game

Having composed for blockbuster films and ballet, Ilan Eshkeri discusses how powerful emotional narratives and the opportunity for creative freedom drew him to triple-A video game Ghost of Tsushima.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Love and Cinema: The Ruinous Lives in Żuławski's L'important c'est d'aimer

Żuławski's world of hapless also-rans in L'important C'est D'aimer is surveyed with a clear and compassionate eye. He has never done anything in his anarchic world by the halves.


On Bruce Springsteen's Music in Film and TV

Bruce Springsteen's music in film and television captured author Caroline Madden's imagination. She discuses her book, Springsteen as Soundtrack, and other things Springsteen in this interview.


Alt-pop's merci, mercy Warns We May "Fall Apart"

Australian alt-pop singer-songwriter, merci, mercy shares a video for her catchy, sophisticated anthem, "Fall Apart".


Tears in Rain: 'Blade Runner' and Philip K. Dick's Legacy in Film

Blade Runner, and the work of Philip K. Dick, continues to find its way into our cinemas and minds. How did the visions of a paranoid loner become the most relevant science fiction of our time?


London Indie-Poppers the Motive Impress on "You" (premiere)

Southwest London's the Motive concoct catchy, indie-pop earworms with breezy melodies, jangly guitars, and hooky riffs, as on their latest single "You".


Vigdis Hjorth's 'Long Live the Post Horn!' Breathes Life into Bureaucratic Anxiety

Vigdis Hjorth's Long Live the Post Horn! is a study in existential torpor that, happily, does not induce the same condition in the reader.


Konqistador and HanHan Team for Darkwave Hip-Hop on "Visaya"

Detroit-based electronic/industrial outfit, Konqistador team with Toronto hip-hopper HanHan for "Visaya", a song that blends darkwave and rap into an incendiary combination.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.