Where do I start with Bob Dylan?

Where do I start with Bob Dylan?

January 04, 2017

Bob Dylan is one of those names everyone knows – but fewer people are properly acquainted with his back catalogue. And now that he’s just won the Nobel Prize for Literature, many are wondering whether he deserves the hype.

Here at SPRESSO we think Bob Dylan is a genius, worthy of all the praise thrown his way. But it can be difficult to know where to start if you’re looking to get into his music. Luckily for you, we’ve taken a break from working on our luxury compression socks to pull together this short guide to his music.

The Hit Singles

A great place to start with Dylan is the hit singles: "Like a Rolling Stone", "The Times They Are A-Changin’", "Hurricane" and "Blowin’ in the Wind". The chances are, you’ll already know these tracks – but just remember, this music isn’t just about melodies and rhythms. Close your eyes and really listen to Dylan’s lyrics – he is a fantastic storyteller with important messages to impart about the world.

The Best Album

Music critics are in constant debate over which of Dylan’s albums is the greatest. Serious contenders include Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde, but for the SPRESSO team, Blood on the Tracks will always be Dylan’s best. Released in 1975, this album includes the famous tracks "Tangled Up in Blue" and "Shelter from the Storm", and was inspired by the dissolution of his nine-year marriage to Sara Lownds.

Today we’re used to hearing singer-songwriters bare their souls, but at the time what Dylan did on Blood on the Tracks was revolutionary. The resulting album is heartbreaking in its rawness and sincerity. Listen to this on a rainy Sunday, preferably with a glass of Scotch whisky in hand. You’ll be a Dylan convert by the time you reach the last track.

The Sixties

As a decade, the sixties were big for Dylan, so it’s a great era to take on once you’ve acquainted yourself with Blood on the Tracks. His first album was released in 1962, with some of his finest following soon after. Top titles include: The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan (1963), Bringing It All Back Home (1965) and John Wesley Harding (1967) – along with Blonde on Blonde and Highway 61 Revisited.

To get the most from this material, do a little reading on Dylan’s political activism in the 60s. It’s also worth noting that Bringing It All Back Home caused a stir as it featured his first recordings using electric instruments.

The Nineties and Noughties

Once you’ve gotten a handle on Dylan’s early work, you can work up through the decades to the modern day, bearing in mind that – unlike many of his contemporaries – his best work isn’t confined to one decade. In fact, one of Dylan’s most popular albums is the atmospheric, bluesy Time Out of Mind (1997).

And once you’ve exhausted all that? Check out his Christmas album. It may not be his best work but "Must Be Santa" is certainly unlike any other Christmas track ever recorded…

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