Bob Dylan

TrackAlbum
Desolation RowHighway 61 Revisited
Foot Of PrideThe Bootleg Series, Vol 1-3
Just Like Tom Thumb's BluesHighway 61 Revisited
Love Minus Zero/No LimitBringing It All Back Home
MississippiLove And Theft
Mr Tambourine ManBringing It All Back Home
My Back PagesAnother Side Of Bob Dylan
One Too Many MorningsThe Times They Are A-Changin'
Senor (Tales Of Yankee Power)Street Legal
Visions Of JohannaBlonde On Blonde

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Contributor: Roger Woods

Choosing the best of Dylan is a task which is always distorted because in 1965 and 1966 he issued three of the best rock albums of all time. In an amazing period of creativity he released Bringing It All Back Home and Highway 61 Revisited in the same year – 1965. These outstandingly original pieces of music were followed by a double album with the mysterious title, Blonde on Blonde, within a period of eight months. This was at a time when The Beatles, arguably the best rock group ever, were using up unprecedented amounts of studio time to produce successive records.

In making my choice I’ve largely taken exemplars from a small fraction of his album output. There are many fine tracks, for instance, on Street Legal and I’ve completely neglected what I consider his fourth and fifth best albums, Blood On The Tracks and Desire, in favour of including Foot of Pride (which he cast away and didn’t release) and Mississippi.

official Bob Dylan website

Expecting Rain: Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan biography (iTunes)

TopperPost #8

18 Comments

  1. Peter Viney
    Jul 6, 2013

    I like the early bias … the “Essential Bob Dylan” 2 CD set devotes one CD to the period of 11 years to Forever Young, and the other to the next forty which is about right. But no tracks from Blonde on Blonde? Visions of Johanna would be my first choice of all, and years ago when a Dylan magazine did a poll, it came first. I’m also a Street Legal fan, though Changing of The Guard might just edge the choice. I’d also go with the popular vote (the charts) and pick Like A Rolling Stone, the original version, though “Live 1966” is a contender.

  2. Peter Viney
    Sep 4, 2013

    “Another Self Portrait” is a startling reappraisal of the Self Portrait / New Morning era. It’s only been out ten days, but I wondered if any Dylan fans thought it changed their view of the list. While I doubt any make a list of ten, some might make a twenty. Al Kooper’s horn-laden abandoned mix of New Morning would have started that album with a bang, or how about Sign On The Window with strings?

    Then there’s the Self-Portrait outtakes. The Bootleg Series shows how many great Dylan songs were tossed aside … Foot of Pride is mentioned by Roger above, then Blind Willie McTell, then I’m Not There (1956) still hasn’t been properly restored. Why did he dump brilliant covers of the Self Portrait era like Annie’s Going To Sing Her Song (Tom Paxton), Thirsty Boots (Eric Andersen), These Hands (Eddie Noack)? What about the “Trad. Arr Dylan” versions of Pretty Saro, House Carpenter, This Evening So Soon, Railroad Bill?

    Ones that stand out for me, at least for a “fifty” are the remixed live Minstrel Boy from the Isle of Wight set (de-luxe edition only, but it will come out), the stripped down In Search Of Little Sadie, and also I Went To See The Gypsy, but that was always an important one for me. I’d take the “New Morning” version.

    I reckon there’s room for several more Dylan Toppermosts, or rather additional comments to this one: Ten Dylan covers of others? Ten Dylan “traditional”? Ten best covers of Dylan? Anyone for a go?

    • Ian Ashleigh
      Sep 25, 2013

      I put a playlist of Dylan covers together for my daughter. I’ll revisit that selection and post my representative best 10 at the weekend.

  3. Ian Ashleigh
    Sep 25, 2013

    My Bob Dylan Toppermost – almost an impossible ask:

    1 Lily Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts (Blood on the Tracks) just a great story well told.
    2 Hurricane (Desire) another story to tell from my favourite period of His Bobness’ work.
    3 Is Your Love In Vain (Street Legal) a song and an album forever associated with my meeting my other half.
    4 Maggie’s Farm (Bringing it all Back Home) just a great rocker.
    5 Mr Tambourine Man (At Budokan version). One of my favourite live albums and I really like the treatment that Dylan gives to his own song.
    6 Love Minus Zero/No Limit (Bringing it all Back Home) another favourite song, would probably get into my all time top 20.
    7 Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again (Blonde on Blonde) a regular ear worm so I have to have this.
    8 Positively 4th Street, pure musical vitriol.
    9 Sara (Desire) just a great little love song.
    10 Forever Young (Planet Waves) a song for my daughter.

  4. Peter Viney
    Sep 25, 2013

    I’m leaning towards Ian’s ten. Sara just brings tears to my eyes … our first foreign holiday with our kids was Portugal, and I see them running to fill their buckets. I’m not going to disagree with anything from Street Legal or Blonde on Blonde. I was gobsmacked to see someone choose the Budokan “Mr Tambourine Man” as I thought I was alone in loving that one. The two I doubt are Lily, Rosemary & The Jack of Hearts and Maggie’s Farm. a poll of Dylan fans put “Visions of Johanna” at number one. I agree. And I need to get Like A Rolling Stone in. Otherwise, I’m content with this ten. BUT I might investigate my iTunes statistics and suggest amendments.

  5. Ian Ashleigh
    Sep 26, 2013

    Here is my very personal selection of 10 Bob Dylan cover versions. I haven’t purposely avoided the ‘usual suspects’ but that’s how it’s happened.
    1. Sara – Andy Caven (It Must Be Love)
    I have this on an LP purchased at the Lanchester Polytechnic Folk Club (Coventry) from Andy Caven himself and signed by the man. I seem to remember he was from Nottingham and had a voice that deserved to be so much more widely heard.
    2. Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again – Grateful Dead (Postcards Of The Hanging)
    Dylan and the Dead, I just had to have one cover by Jerry and the boys. And I know it’s a cliché to take a live version but I couldn’t resist this from 1988. I will freely admit that it’s not the best cover I could have chosen but music is personal – I like it.
    3. Like A Rolling Stone – Barb Jungr (Waterloo Sunset)
    Bob Dylan’s original just missed my Toppermost and this is a great jazzy cover. I know little about Barb Jungr but she has a great voice. May not be one for the purists.
    4. My Back Pages – The Byrds (Younger Than Yesterday)
    My first conscious memory of Bob Dylan was via The Byrds’ cover of Mr Tambourine Man but then I was bought a copy of History of the Byrds in 1972/73 and this song hit me and has stayed with me ever since.
    5. Lily Rosemary & The Jack Of Hearts – Eliza Gilkyson & Tom Russell (Land Of Milk And Honey)
    This duet brings the narrative to life and maybe can bring round the doubters.
    6. If Not For You – Richie Havens (Dreaming As One)
    Richie Havens deserves a Toppermost of his own – possibly one for his own compositions and one for his covers. This is just simply outstanding; voice, interpretation, arrangement – it has the lot!
    7. Simple Twist Of Fate – Diana Krall (Chimes Of Freedom)
    The 4 CD set of covers ‘Chimes Of Freedom’ does not disappoint. Like Richie Havens, Diana Krall takes the song and owns it, a smoky voice with a piano, magic.
    8. Percy’s Song – Fairport Convention (Unhalfbricking)
    Fairport have a veritable canon of Dylan covers. This from Unhalfbricking chose itself.
    9. Is Your Love In Vain – Vikki Clayton (Honor-Tokened)
    I have no doubt that this will be another eyebrow raiser but this is such a quality cover by Vikki Clayton.
    10.Forever Young – The Pretenders (Last Of The Independents)
    Peter Viney noted that “Sara” brings tears to his eyes; this song has the same effect on me. My daughter is 20 this year but as I listen to this I see her in my mind’s eye at every age. She is studying Primary Education at University and I know that she will make a wonderful teacher. She loves this version, I prefer Bob Dylan’s original.

  6. Peter Viney
    Sep 27, 2013

    Dylan covers! One of my favourite topics. There are over 100 on my Dylan Covers iTunes playlist, and another 73 from the Chimes of Freedom set.. I’m disqualifying The Band on I Shall Be Released, Tears of Rage, This Wheel’s On Fire and When I Paint My Masterpiece because though written by Dylan, these versions were released before his. That’s true of all Basement Tapes covers, but as The Band co-wrote two of the above, they’re in a collaborative role rather than a cover role. Alphabetical order:
    Clothes Line Saga – Suzzy & Maggie Roche
    From the A Nod To Bob compilation. Not a lot of competition from the incomplete original basement song.
    If You Gotta Go – Manfred Mann
    As Dylan hadn’t released his version, this has first shot too. They were a great Dylan cover band, and I’d take Just like A Woman and The Mighty Quinn too. They also had the first pick at the Basement acetate. But one per artist.
    Man In The Long Black Coat – Barb Jungr
    Ian had one too. Basically, Barb Jungr does albums of Dylan covers, always taking an unusual approach. Some work incredibly well. Some don’t. But when they’re good, they’re very very good (but when they’re bad, they’re horrid). I was torn between this and Every Grain Of Sand.
    Mississippi – Sheryl Crow
    It was written for her.
    One Too Many Mornings – The Band.
    From Tangled Up In Blues Dylan tribute album, sung by Rick Danko, who sang with Dylan on it in the 1966 tour. This counts because it’s a 1990s cover.
    This Wheel’s On Fire – Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger & The Trinity
    Co-written with Rick Danko, but Julie Driscoll’s icy voice makes this the best version by anyone, preferable to The Band, Dylan, Byrds or Siouxsie & The Banshees.
    Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You – Cher
    Cher’s ‘3614 Jackson Highway’ album will be a shock to her detractors. Sugarland also do this song well.
    When The Ship Comes In – The Decemberists
    They go for the song full sail.
    With God On Our Side – The Neville Brothers
    Delicate arrangement, quavering voice. A wonderful reworking.
    You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere – The Byrds
    A basement cover, as is Nothing Was Delivered. The Byrds did great earlier Dylan, then moved to country rock with him.

    • Ian Ashleigh
      Sep 27, 2013

      I will be seeking out Peter’s selections, particularly the Cher cover. If I were to disqualify Simple Twist of Fate for being on the Chimes of Freedom collection, then the Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger & The Trinity cover of This Wheel’s on Fire would be in its place.

  7. Carl Burnett
    Oct 15, 2013

    Great selections from all. My alternative Dylan top ten is (in no particular order):

    This Evening So Soon – Another Self Potrait Bootleg Series Vol 10
    Time Passes Slowly #2 – Another Self Portrait Bootleg Series Vol 10
    Shelter From The Storm (live) – Hard Rain
    Black Diamond Bay – Desire
    Up To Me (Blood On The Tracks outtake) – Biograph
    Moonshiner – Bootleg Series 1-3
    What Good Am I – Oh Mercy
    Series Of Dreams – Bootleg Series 1-3
    Sad Eyed Lady of The Lowlands – Blonde On Blonde
    Tangled Up In Blue – Blood On The Tracks

    My selections include a couple from the recently released Another Self Portrait – Bootleg Series Vol 10. What a revelation and thoroughly great listen this album is proving to be.

    I’ve always loved the Hard Rain album, the Rolling Thunder live era Dylan is probably my favourite. Even the few moments of tuning just before the start of Shelter From The Storm on this album sounds like a statement of intent.

    Desire is a great album of course and I’ve picked Black Diamond Day which is a cinematic masterpiece.

    Up To Me was left off Blood On The Tracks as Dylan considered it too similar to Shelter From The Storm. It’s a beautiful song with a strong melody and is equal to mostly everything on Blood On The Tracks.

    I’ve chosen Moonshiner as it shows Dylan as consummate vocalist, if anyone was ever in any doubt!

    Oh Mercy is another favourite album of mine, a comeback of sorts after some less than brilliant preceding 80s albums! Production by Daniel Lanois gives the album a swampy dreamlike feel. What Good Am I is from this album and Series Of Dreams should have been! Yet another example of one of his best songs being left off of the appropriate album.

    Blonde On Blonde. Much has been written about that terrific album before, so I won’t duplicate that. I could have picked many of the tracks from it. Visions of Johanna (although I think the live version on Bootleg Series 4 is superior), I Want You, Fourth Time Around, Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again et al. The track I’ve selected, Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands is the last song on the album. A sprawling tour de force that takes up all of side 4 on the vinyl LP. A ‘live’ studio take where the musicians (apart from Dylan – one assumes) didn’t quite know how long the song would actually last! Brilliant musicianship and Dylan’s best ’60s stoned’ singing propels this song along. Ragged and precise all at the same time.

    My last selection is Tangled Up In Blue. This is my favourite Dylan song from what I think is his best album, Blood On The Tracks. Tangled Up In Blue has everything. Storytelling par excellence (in the ‘first’ and ‘third’ person), his singing voice is perfection and the musicianship is economical but at the same time sumptuous.

    My love of Dylan increases with the years. I’m already looking forward to the next Bootleg Series release and studio album. The man is the greatest songwriter in history for goodness sake!

  8. Peter Viney
    Oct 16, 2013

    Ten most influential Dylan … not my favourites but “the important steps in music”. Maybe this opens the way to some other Dylan tens. Political? Romantic? Worst? Live?

    House of the Rising Sun
    Mining the blues. What you can do with trad.arr by, even more so when The Animals covered it and had trad.arr Price. A path that leads to blues rip offs of the extremity of Robert Plant exhorting Squeeze My Lemon. Or better, to Good As I Been to You and World Gone Wrong. I prefer the 1961 efforts.

    Blowing In The Wind
    The acme of commercial folk, once Albert Grossman got it to Peter, Paul and Mary. Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall is way less commercial.

    The Times They Are A Changing
    Full on generational protest, the old road is rapidly changing, please get out of the new one etc.

    Mr Tambourine Man
    Druggy lyrics never surpassed, Byrds cover also important. Psych rock begins, weirdly from an acoustic version, voice and guitar. Best version is the solo side of Live 66 according to Michael Gray.

    Subterranean Homesick Blues
    Inventing rap (or popularizing something that did exist) to a boogie rhythm. But don’t forget Motorpsycho Nitemare

    Like A Rolling Stone (live 66 version)
    Representing the switch to electric. We really need to be a year earlier at Newport 65, but the Play Fucking Loud! event at Manchester in May 1966 Is the best example of it.

    Visions of Johanna
    Because it is his greatest performance from his best album it sets down the gauntlet to every other singer songwriter. It indicates that if you’re a would-be poet who can’t write music, or get it set to music, your craft is fast becoming obsolete.

    Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You
    Country rock, or any track from Nashville Skyline or Self Portrait. I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight from John Wesley Harding is an earlier possible, but this is better.

    Saved
    A salutary lesson for me at least. No more heroes. The greatest lyricist of the 20th century can write inane garbled banal nonsense and set it to dull, boring generic patterns, with no expense spared backing. Awful. As is every track on the album. We learn that no one is perfect. Even Shakespeare wrote Henry VI part one.

    Not Dark Yet
    Best example of Rick Rubinization or how old guys can rock gently at death’s door. See also Johnny Cash American series, or Leonard Cohen, or Neil Diamond or Glen Campbell. Paul McCartney is standing in line to join the club. And Dylan did it sixteen years ago. Yes, he showed how to get older, and did it younger than anyone else.

    Number 11: Early Roman Kings
    Keeping on keeping on.

    • Ilkka Jauramo
      Jan 27, 2014

      Motto: “Take it outside, boys!” – – On Saved. It has two very elegant theological dimensions: ecclesiastic contra evangelical Free Church and Christianity contra Judaism. Exciting album.

  9. David Lewis
    Dec 30, 2013

    I can’t go past Manfred Mann’s ‘Mighty Quinn’. One reason, I think, Dylan is a great songwriter is because his songs are so malleable and changeable. If you listen to Dylan’s deeply cynical version, and then Manfred Mann’s more naive version… Dylan KNOWS the mighty Quinn is another false prophet: the Manfreds hope he’s not… But they are to be disappointed… Brilliant stuff.

  10. Peter Viney
    Dec 30, 2013

    Manfred Mann were always interesting Dylan interpreters. The “Lo & Behold” album by the offshoot, Coulson, Dean, McGuiness, Flint is a superb selection of the lesser known stuff. Track to sample is “Sign On The Cross.”

  11. Kasper Nijsen
    Dec 30, 2013

    Good lists all. Here’s a top ten based on some of my favorite lines. Ten reasons why Dylan is (in my book) still the world’s greatest songwriter.

    Visions Of Johanna: The ghost of electricity howls in the bones of her face.
    Dirge: There are those who worship loneliness, I am not one of them: in this age of fiberglass I’m searching for a gem.
    Abandoned Love: I march in the parade of liberty, but as long as I love you I’m not free.
    Idiot Wind: I kissed goodbye the howling beast on the borderline that separated you from me.
    Up To Me: And if we never meet again, baby remember me, how my lone guitar played sweet for you that old-time melody.
    Every Grain Of Sand: I have gone from rags to riches in the sorrow of the night, in the violence of a summer’s dream, in the chill of a wintery light.
    Caribbean Wind: Atlantic City, by the cold grey sea. I hear a voice calling ‘Daddy’, I always think it’s for me.
    Blind Willie McTell: See them big plantations burning, hear the cracking of the whips, smell that sweet magnolia blooming, see the ghosts of slavery ships.
    Things Have Changed: Feel like falling in love with the first woman I meet, putting her in a wheel-barrow, and wheeling her down the street.
    When the Deal Goes Down: The midnight rain follows the train. We all wear the same thorny crown.
    Spirit On The Water: I can’t go back to Paradise no more, I killed a man back there.

  12. Andrew Shields
    Jan 1, 2014

    In terms of cover versions would add these four:
    1. Jason & The Scorchers, ‘Absolutely Sweet Marie’
    2. Mark Lanegan, ‘Man in the Long Black Coat’
    3. Them (with Van Morrison), ‘Its all over now, Baby Blue’
    4. Rory Gallagher, ‘Don’t Think Twice, it’s alright’

    And this (off the top of my head) is an alternative alternative list of ten Dylan classics:
    1. ‘Corinna, Corinna’ – one of Dylan’s greatest covers
    2. ‘Moonshiner’ – an extraordinary portrait of a jaded old timer by a young Dylan
    3. ‘John Wesley Harding’
    4. ‘The Drifter’s Escape’
    5. ‘Girl from the Red River Shore’
    6. ‘Dreamin’ of You’
    7. ‘Jokerman’
    8. ‘Rank Strangers to Me’ – one of Dylan’s best cover versions which appears on one of his worst albums
    9. ‘Dignity’
    10. ‘Man in the Long Black Coat’

  13. Colin Duncan
    Jan 25, 2014

    I’ve drawn up a Toppermost list of ‘traditional arranged Bob Dylan’ songs. I was interested in Bob Dylan singing traditional songs because there was a time when I looked for signs of Scottish references in his work – he lived with Jean Redpath, Scottish folk singer, Burns’ expert and academic, in Greenwich Village. I think I could change this list to accommodate even more songs, maybe the whole list, from the brilliant ‘Another Self Portrait’. Many great renditions have had to be omitted when compiling this list.

    Man of Constant Sorrow (Bob Dylan)
    You’re Gonna Quit Me (Good As I Been To You)
    Diamond Joe (Good As I Been To You)
    Delia (World Gone Wrong)
    He was a Friend of Mine (Bootleg Series 1- 3)
    Moonshiner (Bootleg Series 1- 3)
    The Girl on the Greenbriar Shore (Tell Tale Signs)
    Spanish Is The Loving Tongue (Another Self Portrait)
    Rail Road Bill (Another Self Portrait)
    This Evening So Soon (Another Self Portrait)

  14. Peter Viney
    May 9, 2014

    “Dylan’s Gospel” by The Brothers & The Sisters has been reissued. It’s a 1969 Lou Adler production with LA’s best session singers … Merry Clayton (shortly before she sang on Gimmie Shelter), Clydie King, Brenda Holloway, Gloria Jones and many others in a huge gospel choir. It’s far better than “Saved” – better songs, better singers too.

    Merry Clayton gets the first song on each side of the original LP: The Times They Are A Changin’ and The Mighty Quinn. They really go to town … this is a fantastic Dylan covers album.

  15. Jerry Tenenbaum
    May 10, 2014

    ‘Nobody sings Dylan like Dylan’ is true. However, there are brilliant interpretations of Dylan by so many. Peter Viney is right about his praises for The Brothers and Sisters covers of Dylan songs. Many Dylan covers are a treat with some extraordinary and others whimsical or less. From the Byrds to Jason and the Scorchers to Barb Jungr and Mary Lee’s Corvette, Dylan is likely the most covered of all contemporary performers. For those who appreciate creativity in all things music, try the band Jewels and Binoculars for ‘jazz’ Dylan. Of late, Charlie Daniels has given it a go. There are many sources of Dylan covers on line.

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