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Rock - Released August 27, 1965 | Columbia

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Taking the first, electric side of Bringing It All Back Home to its logical conclusion, Bob Dylan hired a full rock & roll band, featuring guitarist Michael Bloomfield, for Highway 61 Revisited. Opening with the epic "Like a Rolling Stone," Highway 61 Revisited careens through nine songs that range from reflective folk-rock ("Desolation Row") and blues ("It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry") to flat-out garage rock ("Tombstone Blues," "From a Buick 6," "Highway 61 Revisited"). Dylan had not only changed his sound, but his persona, trading the folk troubadour for a streetwise, cynical hipster. Throughout the album, he embraces druggy, surreal imagery, which can either have a sense of menace or beauty, and the music reflects that, jumping between soothing melodies to hard, bluesy rock. And that is the most revolutionary thing about Highway 61 Revisited -- it proved that rock & roll needn't be collegiate and tame in order to be literate, poetic, and complex. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Rock - Released June 19, 2020 | Columbia

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Immediately contradicting the album's title, opener "I Contain Multitudes" finds Dylan doing his best Leonard Cohen: the lion in winter, growling with deceptively gentle gravitas over cinematic guitar—paying tribute to William Blake, Anne Frank, Indiana Jones and "them British bad boys the Rolling Stones." If it were to be the 79-year-old's last stand, it's a pretty damn great one. But he immediately springs to spirited life with "False Prophet," a no-frills dirty blues march. There are so many highlights: "My Own Version of You" is a laugh-out-loud "Frankenstein" tale set to a shadowy guitar prowl; the swooning "I've Made Up My Mind to Give Myself to You" borrows from doo-wop balladry. "I hope the gods go easy with me," Dylan croons on that track, and it's hard to shake the feeling that he's taking stock. But there's still so much to say. "Key West (Philosopher's Pilot)" finds the elder statesman chasing immortality along Route 1 for nine-and-a-half fully entertaining minutes, while closer "Murder Most Foul" stretches out for nearly 17, reliving the Kennedy assassination and incanting a phone book's worth of cultural-imprint references without wasting a second. © Shelly Ridenour/Qobuz
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Folk/Americana - Released May 24, 1963 | Columbia

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It's hard to overestimate the importance of The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, the record that firmly established Dylan as an unparalleled songwriter, one of considerable skill, imagination, and vision. At the time, folk had been quite popular on college campuses and bohemian circles, making headway onto the pop charts in diluted form, and while there certainly were a number of gifted songwriters, nobody had transcended the scene as Dylan did with this record. There are a couple (very good) covers, with "Corrina Corrina" and "Honey Just Allow Me One More Chance," but they pale with the originals here. At the time, the social protests received the most attention, and deservedly so, since "Blowin' in the Wind," "Masters of War," and "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" weren't just specific in their targets; they were gracefully executed and even melodic. Although they've proven resilient throughout the years, if that's all Freewheelin' had to offer, it wouldn't have had its seismic impact, but this also revealed a songwriter who could turn out whimsy ("Don't Think Twice, It's All Right"), gorgeous love songs ("Girl From the North Country"), and cheerfully absurdist humor ("Bob Dylan's Blues," "Bob Dylan's Dream") with equal skill. This is rich, imaginative music, capturing the sound and spirit of America as much as that of Louis Armstrong, Hank Williams, or Elvis Presley. Dylan, in many ways, recorded music that equaled this, but he never topped it. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Rock - Released June 17, 1966 | Columbia

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If Highway 61 Revisited played as a garage rock record, the double album Blonde on Blonde inverted that sound, blending blues, country, rock, and folk into a wild, careening, and dense sound. Replacing the fiery Michael Bloomfield with the intense, weaving guitar of Robbie Robertson, Bob Dylan led a group comprised of his touring band the Hawks and session musicians through his richest set of songs. Blonde on Blonde is an album of enormous depth, providing endless lyrical and musical revelations on each play. Leavening the edginess of Highway 61 with a sense of the absurd, Blonde on Blonde is comprised entirely of songs driven by inventive, surreal, and witty wordplay, not only on the rockers but also on winding, moving ballads like "Visions of Johanna," "Just Like a Woman," and "Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands." Throughout the record, the music matches the inventiveness of the songs, filled with cutting guitar riffs, liquid organ riffs, crisp pianos, and even woozy brass bands ("Rainy Day Women #12 & 35"). It's the culmination of Dylan's electric rock & roll period -- he would never release a studio record that rocked this hard, or had such bizarre imagery, ever again. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Rock - Released March 19, 1965 | Columbia

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With Another Side of Bob Dylan, Dylan had begun pushing past folk, and with Bringing It All Back Home, he exploded the boundaries, producing an album of boundless imagination and skill. And it's not just that he went electric, either, rocking hard on "Subterranean Homesick Blues," "Maggie's Farm," and "Outlaw Blues"; it's that he's exploding with imagination throughout the record. After all, the music on its second side -- the nominal folk songs -- derive from the same vantage point as the rockers, leaving traditional folk concerns behind and delving deep into the personal. And this isn't just introspection, either, since the surreal paranoia on "It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)" and the whimsical poetry of "Mr. Tambourine Man" are individual, yet not personal. And that's just the tip of the iceberg, really, as he writes uncommonly beautiful love songs ("She Belongs to Me," "Love Minus Zero/No Limit") that sit alongside uncommonly funny fantasias ("On the Road Again," "Bob Dylan's 115th Dream"). This is the point where Dylan eclipses any conventional sense of folk and rewrites the rules of rock, making it safe for personal expression and poetry, not only making words mean as much as the music, but making the music an extension of the words. A truly remarkable album. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Pop/Rock - Released September 22, 1989 | Columbia

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Oh Mercy was hailed as a comeback, not just because it had songs noticeably more meaningful than anything Bob Dylan had recently released, but because Daniel Lanois' production gave it cohesion. There was cohesion on Empire Burlesque, of course, but that cohesion was a little too slick, a little too commercial, whereas this record was filled with atmospheric, hazy production -- a sound as arty as most assumed the songs to be. And Dylan followed suit, giving Lanois significant songs -- palpably social works, love songs, and poems -- that seemed to connect with his past. And, at the time, this production made it seem like the equivalent of his '60s records, meaning that its artiness was cutting edge, not portentous. Over the years, Oh Mercy hasn't aged particularly well, seeming as self-conscious as such other gauzy Lanois productions as So and The Joshua Tree, even though it makes more sense than the ersatz pizzazz of Burlesque. Still, the songs make Oh Mercy noteworthy; they find Dylan quietly raging against the materialism of President Reagan and accepting maturity, albeit with a slight reluctance. So, Oh Mercy is finally more interesting for what it tries to achieve than for what it actually does achieve. At its best, this is a collection of small, shining moments, with the best songs shining brighter than their production or the album's overall effect. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Pop/Rock - Released January 10, 1964 | Columbia

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
If The Times They Are a-Changin' isn't a marked step forward from The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, even if it is his first collection of all originals, it's nevertheless a fine collection all the same. It isn't as rich as Freewheelin', and Dylan has tempered his sense of humor considerably, choosing to concentrate on social protests in the style of "Blowin' in the Wind." With the title track, he wrote an anthem that nearly equaled that song, and "With God on Our Side" and "Only a Pawn in Their Game" are nearly as good, while "Ballad of Hollis Brown" and "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll" are remarkably skilled re-castings of contemporary tales of injustice. His absurdity is missed, but he makes up for it with the wonderful "One Too Many Mornings" and "Boots of Spanish Leather," two lovely classics. If there are a couple of songs that don't achieve the level of the aforementioned songs, that speaks more to the quality of those songs than the weakness of the remainder of the record. And that's also true of the album itself -- yes, it pales next to its predecessor, but it's terrific by any other standard. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Pop/Rock - Released November 1, 1983 | Columbia

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Infidels was the first secular record Bob Dylan recorded since Street Legal, and it's far more like a classicist Dylan album than that one, filled with songs that are evocative in their imagery and direct in their approach. This is lean, much like Slow Train Coming, but its writing is closer to Dylan's peak of the mid-'70s, and some of the songs here -- particularly on the first side -- are minor classics, capturing him reviving his sense of social consciousness and his gift for poetic, elegant love songs. For a while, Infidels seems like a latter-day masterpiece, but toward the end of the record it runs out of steam, preventing itself from being a triumph. Still, in comparison to everything that arrived in the near-decade before it, Infidels is a triumph, finding Dylan coming tantalizingly close to regaining all his powers. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Pop/Rock - Released September 11, 2001 | Columbia

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Pop/Rock - Released November 6, 2015 | Columbia - Legacy

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The wonderful Bob Dylan Bootleg Series continues, this time over the period 1965-1966. The Cutting Edge, the twelfth episode of the collection, contains unreleased studio recordings, never before heard songs, out-takes, rehearsal songs and alternate versions recorded during the sessions of Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde On Blonde. More importantly, The Cutting Edge: The Bootleg Series Vol. 12 1965-1966 offers a rare view of the songwriter while in studio. This 6CD Deluxe Edition includes premium full sessions of Like A Rolling Stone. Obviously, one is tempted to book this type of publication to Dylan's hardcore fans because being ready to take on twenty versions of the same song, fantastic as it is, is a very specific ability. Yet The Cutting Edge: The Bootleg Series Vol. 12 1965-1966 offers a perspective into the creative process of one of the greatest artists of the twentieth century. A journey which therefore has no price. © MD / Qobuz
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Rock - Released October 15, 2010 | Columbia - Legacy

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Rock - Released October 15, 2010 | Columbia - Legacy

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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Rock - Released October 15, 2010 | Columbia - Legacy

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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Pop/Rock - Released October 15, 2010 | Columbia - Legacy

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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Pop/Rock - Released April 11, 1969 | Columbia

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John Wesley Harding suggested country with its textures and structures, but Nashville Skyline was a full-fledged country album, complete with steel guitars and brief, direct songs. It's a warm, friendly album, particularly since Bob Dylan is singing in a previously unheard gentle croon -- the sound of his voice is so different it may be disarming upon first listen, but it suits the songs. While there are a handful of lightweight numbers on the record, at its core are several excellent songs -- "Lay Lady Lay," "To Be Alone With You," "I Threw It All Away," "Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You," as well as a duet with Johnny Cash on "Girl From the North Country" -- that have become country-rock standards. And there's no discounting that Nashville Skyline, arriving in the spring of 1969, established country-rock as a vital force in pop music, as well as a commercially viable genre. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Pop/Rock - Released January 16, 1976 | Columbia

If Blood on the Tracks was an unapologetically intimate affair, Desire is unwieldy and messy, the deliberate work of a collective. And while Bob Dylan directly addresses his crumbling relationship with his wife, Sara, on the final track, Desire is hardly as personal as its predecessor, finding Dylan returning to topical songwriting and folk tales for the core of the record. It's all over the map, as far as songwriting goes, and so is it musically, capturing Dylan at the beginning of the Rolling Thunder Revue era, which was more notable for its chaos than its music. And, so it's only fitting that Desire fits that description as well, as it careens between surging folk-rock, Mideastern dirges, skipping pop, and epic narratives. It's little surprise that Desire doesn't quite gel, yet it retains its own character -- really, there's no other place where Dylan tried as many different styles, as many weird detours, as he does here. And, there's something to be said for its rambling, sprawling character, which has a charm of its own. Even so, the record would have been assisted by a more consistent set of songs; there are some masterpieces here, though: "Hurricane" is the best-known, but the effervescent "Mozambique" is Dylan at his breeziest, "Sara" at his most nakedly emotional, and "Isis" is one of his very best songs of the '70s, a hypnotic, contemporized spin on a classic fable. This may not add up to a masterpiece, but it does result in one of his most fascinating records of the '70s and '80s -- more intriguing, lyrically and musically, than most of his latter-day affairs. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Pop/Rock - Released August 20, 1979 | Columbia

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Perhaps it was inevitable that Bob Dylan would change direction at the end of the '70s, since he had dabbled in everything from full-on repudiation of his legacy to a quiet embrace of it, to dipping his toe into pure showmanship. Nobody really could have expected that he would turn to Christianity on Slow Train Coming, embracing a born-again philosophy with enthusiasm. He has no problem in believing in a vengeful god -- you gotta serve somebody, after all -- and this is pure brimstone and fire throughout the record, even on such lovely testimonials as "I Believe in You." The unexpected side effect of his conversion is that it gave Dylan a focus he hadn't had since Blood on the Tracks, and his concentration carries over to the music, which is lean and direct in a way that he hadn't been since, well, Blood on the Tracks. Focus isn't necessarily the same thing as consistency, and this does suffer from being a bit too dogmatic, not just in its religion, but in its musical approach. Still, it's hard to deny Dylan's revitalized sound here, and the result is a modest success that at least works on its own terms. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Rock - Released July 13, 1973 | Columbia - Legacy

This album was unusual on several counts. For starters, it was a soundtrack (for Sam Peckinpah's movie of the same title), a first venture of its kind for Bob Dylan. For another, it was Dylan's first new LP in three years -- he hadn't been heard from in any form other than the single "George Jackson," his appearance at the Bangladesh benefit concert in 1971, in all of that time. Finally, it came out at an odd moment of juxtaposition in pop culture history, appearing in July 1973 on the same date as the release of Paul McCartney's own first prominent venture into film music, on the Live and Let Die soundtrack (the Beatles bassist had previously scored The Family Way, a British project overlooked amid the frenzy of the Beatles' success). Interestingly, each effort reunited the artist with a significant musician/collaborator from his respective past: McCartney with producer George Martin and Dylan with guitarist Bruce Langhorne, who'd played with him on his early albums up to Bringing It All Back Home, before being supplanted by Mike Bloomfield, et al. But that was where the similarities between the two projects ended -- apart from the title song, Live and Let Die was Martin's project rather than McCartney's, whereas Dylan was all over Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid as a composer, musician, etc. Additionally, whereas McCartney's work was a piece of pure pop-oriented rock in connection with a crowd-pleasing action-fantasy film, Dylan's work comprised an entire LP, and the resulting album was a beautifully simple, sometimes rough-at-the-edges and sometimes gently refined piece of country- and folk-influenced rock, devised to underscore a very serious historical film by one of the movies' great directorial stylists. It was also as strong as any of his recent albums, featuring not just Langhorne but also such luminaries as Booker T. Jones, Roger McGuinn, and Byron Berline. "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" was the obvious hit off the album, and helped drive the sales, but "Billy 1," "Billy 4," and "Billy 7" were good songs, too -- had any of them shown up on bootlegs, they'd have kept the Dylan semiologists and hagiographers busy for years working over them. The instrumentals surrounding them were also worth hearing as manifestations of Dylan's music-making; "Bunkhouse Theme" was downright gorgeous. It was the first time since New Morning, in 1970, that Dylan had released more than five minutes of new music at once, and it was a gift to fans as well as to Peckinpah -- little did anyone realize at the time that it heralded a period of new recording and a national tour (with the Band), along with a brief label switch, and Dylan's greatest period of sustained musical visibility since 1966. This record also proved that Dylan could shoehorn his music within the requirements of a movie score without compromising its content or quality, something that only the Beatles, unique among rock artists, had really managed to do up to that time, and that was in their own movie, A Hard Day's Night. "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" may have been the biggest hit to come out of a Western in at least 21 years, since Dimitri Tiomkin and Ned Washington had given "High Noon" to Tex Ritter to sing in Fred Zinnemann's High Noon in 1952 (and Katy Jurado was in both movies), and he'd also outdone Ritter on two counts, writing the music -- a full score, to boot -- and getting a cameo appearance in the film. The album was later kind of overlooked and neglected in the wake of the tour that followed and the imposing musical attributes of, say, Blood on the Tracks and Desire, but heard on its own terms it holds up 30-plus years later. © Bruce Eder /TiVo
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Pop/Rock - Released September 10, 2012 | Columbia

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Pop/Rock - Released December 29, 1967 | Columbia

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Bob Dylan returned from exile with John Wesley Harding, a quiet, country-tinged album that split dramatically from his previous three. A calm, reflective album, John Wesley Harding strips away all of the wilder tendencies of Dylan's rock albums -- even the then-unreleased Basement Tapes he made the previous year -- but it isn't a return to his folk roots. If anything, the album is his first serious foray into country, but only a handful of songs, such as "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight," are straight country songs. Instead, John Wesley Harding is informed by the rustic sound of country, as well as many rural myths, with seemingly simple songs like "All Along the Watchtower," "I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine," and "The Wicked Messenger" revealing several layers of meaning with repeated plays. Although the lyrics are somewhat enigmatic, the music is simple, direct, and melodic, providing a touchstone for the country-rock revolution that swept through rock in the late '60s. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo

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Bob Dylan in the magazine
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