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Getting Into: Bob Dylan

How often have you said "I really think I would like that band, but I've never gotten into them"? Therein lies the inspiration for a new BuzzSugar feature called Getting Into, where I'll help start your education about a singer, band, or film director by telling you what albums or movies you'll need as a beginner, intermediate, and advanced fan.

Today's Getting Into idea comes from WhiplashGirlchild, who recently wrote in asking which Bob Dylan albums she should buy next. Actually, this whole Getting Into idea was inspired by Whip, so a big thank you to her! (Got ideas for Getting Into posts? Tell me in the comments or send me a private message.) Here's my guide to Getting Into Bob Dylan.

Beginner: Bringing It All Back Home, Blonde on Blonde, and Highway 61 Revisited

This is the triumvirate of seminal 60s albums that every Dylan fan should own. In addition to essential tracks like "It's All Over Now Baby Blue," "Like A Rolling Stone," and "Visions of Johanna," you'll gain an understanding of how Dylan transformed his harmonica-heavy folk music into a new type of rock by introducing electric guitars and Hammond organ. Plus, "Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands" from Blonde may be one of the best melodies Dylan has ever written.

For the intermediate and advanced selections,


Intermediate: Blood on the Tracks, The Bootleg Series, Vol. 6: Live 1964, Desire, and Modern Times

For your next phase, jump ahead to Dylan's best 1970s albums — you'll need Desire if for no other reason than to own “Hurricane” and “Sara.” To familiarize yourself with young Dylan, scoop up this recently released live double album; it features all of his best early songs, and it will make you realize how the charming singer captivated young fans with just a voice and a guitar. (Also good for this is the 1967 documentary Don't Look Back.) Now that you're a fan, don't forget to pick up his most recent album, Modern Times, and ponder how much Dylan's still got it.

Advanced: The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, Planet Waves, Time Out of Mind, and everything else.

Start venturing into earlier studio recordings, like the groundbreaking Freewheelin', and ponder the extraordinary versatility of "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" and "Masters of War." Then dip into some of Dylan's '70s work with The Band; I like Planet Waves because it's so uncharacteristically romantic and reflective. For another taste of recent Dylan, acquaint yourself with the 1997 Grammy winner Time. Then, of course, there is everything else, and even the bad albums have at least one worthwhile song — though really, you should avoid Dylan and the Dead.

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Join The Conversation
Great-Sommelier Great-Sommelier 7 years
Good suggestions. My husband and I have every cough that dylan has recorded. :laugh:
heathermcxxx heathermcxxx 8 years
Highway 61 is the greatest album I've ever heard. I agree wholeheartedly with Buzz's top three choices. But really, you probably should include "Blood on the Tracks" in the top group since so many younger Dylan fans got hooked on that album. The best Dylan live album, I think, is "Before the Flood," a wild concert that features The Band as Dylan's back-up group. "The Times They Are A-Changin'" is mostly dated now but still contains some of Dylan's best apocalyptic material. "Love and Death" is much better than "Modern Times." You won't miss anything by avoiding "Planet Waves" (except "Wedding Song," which makes the album almost worth the discounted sticker price).
meowsugar meowsugar 8 years
Bob is my guru. a real physical manifestation of the enlightened mind, whether he's 'awake' or not, he is the vehicle. But I transgress.... I personally chose Highway 61 for those pick-me-up times, and the rest.... it's all on shuffle on the iPod so I don't miss out on anything! It's all perfect and I swear the iPod Knows what to play that penetrates my mind to make it stop and go, "ah, that's the answer I was looking for! Now what was the question?"
swwonder swwonder 8 years
Coolness, thanks Whip! I'll check that album out.
mmooney7 mmooney7 8 years
whip, I love Dylan AND the smiths, great choices!
Hope5 Hope5 8 years
My Husband loves Bob's music!
WhatTheFrockBlog WhatTheFrockBlog 8 years
Swwonder, the Smiths were one of the bands I suggested to Buzz when I came up with the idea! Not to step on Buzz's toes, but I have three words for you: Louder Than Bombs. It's a collection of singles and B-sides that is a perfect intro to the Smiths.
Mainly-Obsessed Mainly-Obsessed 8 years
This is a really good idea...hmm on suggestions -- are you looking for older bands/artists or newer ones? Last FM always suggests artists for me that I never listen to...here are some of them Pink Floyd Sufjan Stevens The Decemberists Love the feature -- thanks to Buzz and Whip
Ejmcmis Ejmcmis 8 years
Even if I try, I dont'thinnk I'll like Bob Dylan. Nope Not At All...
UrbanBohemian UrbanBohemian 8 years
What a great new feature! And what could be better than starting it off with one of my all-time favorite musicians? Thanks Buzz!
jdepp_84 jdepp_84 8 years
I love him! I never even heard about him until I took my History of Rock class last spring, he's so awesome!
Advah Advah 8 years
Thanks Buzz, that's an amazing feature! I feel like that about so many bands, and I'm always afraid to pick up the wrong album and decide they're not good although I'd like the other albums..
leeluvfashion leeluvfashion 8 years
There will never be another Bob Dylan; he is a musical genius.
maisiegirl maisiegirl 8 years
Great idea BuzzSugar!!!! Bob Dylan is a seminal artist whose incredible, prolific prose should be listened to often. I have loved him for most of my life and am proud to say that I have ventured far and wide to see him on many different tours. I don't know if I can commit to picking a favorite cd/album, but I also encourage listeners to check out Biograph which will give you insight to his ability to envision different perspectives on his music catalog. Additionally, his political voice is pure genius. He is a channel, he is a poet, he is a visionary and he is human in his ability to change--as we all do throughout our lifetime.
Fab_Kitty Fab_Kitty 8 years
Can I make the suggestion of Elvis Costello for a future "getting into"? I love him and am often surprised when folks w/ great tastes in music only know one or two of his songs.
Fab_Kitty Fab_Kitty 8 years
Oh, Bob Dylan, how I love thee. Blonde on Blonde is my favorite of his albums, but as you said, Buzz, it's pretty hard to find a record of his that isn't great.
Lorelei-Spirit Lorelei-Spirit 8 years
This is a great idea - Blender magazine does something similar each month if you read paper. Bob Dylan is awesome - I am really hoping to get into the ACL Fest this year to see him.
swwonder swwonder 8 years
Great idea, I've never really gotten into Dylan. but I'm always told I would probably like his music. Can I make a suggestion for 'getting into'? I've never really gotten into 'The Smiths', so they'd be good, for me anyway. :)
mwmsjuly19 mwmsjuly19 8 years
Desire is my favorite Dylan album of any time. I have listened to it over and over for hours.
laimar laimar 8 years
This is such a great idea! And coincidentally, I am seeing Dylan at Austin City Limits Music Festival in September. What a great way to educate myself before seeing him!
ALSW ALSW 8 years
Cool idea!
WhatTheFrockBlog WhatTheFrockBlog 8 years
NICE!! Thanks, Buzz. :)
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