A little while back me and a colleague went to a film festival screening of “I’m Not There”, I’m a minor Dylan obsessive, he didn’t know a lot more than the average person might about Dylan. The film piqued his interest in more detail, but in conversation afterwards it became clear that the sheer size of the back catalogue proved something of an obstacle. Just where do you start? The conversation concluded with me set a challenge, come up with a list of 12 tracks which would help him test the waters.
Now you can debate exactly what such a list should be, is it the “best of”, is it my personal favourites?, is it the most popular? Or perhaps the 12 best examples of each of Dylan’s various styles? I eventually boiled it down to this. For me Dylan is something of an addiction, so for me the list had to be Dylan in his “purest, most concentrated form”, the songs where I don’t want them to end. This by and large meant the songs which initially hooked me on Dylan.
All Along The Watchtower – You’ve probably heard the Jimi Hendrix version, but for me Dylan’s original is better. Some might say that’s close to musical blasphemy, have a listen and see what you think. Personally Dylan is a lot more connected with the words giving his version more power.
Blowin In The Wind – A great example of just how timeless Dylan’s best work is. Dylan sang this to the crowd a few hours before Martin Luther Kings ‘I Have A Dream’ speech.
Desolation Row – You could probably adapt this into a film, it’s got a cast of thousands!
Highway 61 – Grabs you from the first line and doesn’t let go.
I’m Not There – Perhaps not one of Dylan’s best known, but theres a reason the recent biopic was named after it. Tangles with issues of identity that Dylan often mines for material.
Like A Rolling Stone – Upped Dylan’s status from Folk Star to Pop Star.
Make You Feel My Love – Incredibly moving, not much else to say.
Not Dark Yet – An older Dylan in reflective mood
Positively 4th Street – Best first line of any song. Ever.
Shelter From The Storm – Lyrics that you’ll roll over continuously in your head long after the songs finished.
Tangled Up In Blue – Hard to describe or comment on, just listen.
The Times They Are a-Changin’ – My favourite Dylan track and the very definition of timeless. Upon it’s release in 1964 made by Dad an instant Dylan fan, more than 40 years later it did exactly the same to me.
Click on a title above and it’ll take you to an Amazon MP3 listing, where you can listen to samples. You can then buy those tracks individually 89p each, which I thinks a bargain. If you’d prefer to buy an actual album, then this compilation has 6 of the above 12 on it along with a lot of other great tracks. Alternatively, Highway 61 Revisited is an early studio album which has 3 of the above tracks on it.