Bob Dylan

The Very Best of Bob Dylan [2013]

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Giving an album the title The Very Best of Bob Dylan is, more than anything else, a good way to start an argument; given the remarkable scope of Dylan's 50-year recording career, trying to reduce the high points of his body of work to one 18-song set is guaranteed to generate lively (or even hostile) debate among his many fans. For the most part, The Very Best of Bob Dylan steers clear of the notion of creating a definitive sampling of Dylan at his most inspired, instead focusing on the songs that have resonated most strongly with the mass audience. For its first 14 tracks, The Very Best of Bob Dylan delivers a stellar lineup of the songwriter's most iconic compositions, and while you can argue whether these tracks are really Dylan at his very best, from "Blowin' in the Wind" to "Hurricane," these are songs that truly changed the shape of popular songwriting, and they retain their power all these years later. With its last four tunes, The Very Best of Bob Dylan throws in some numbers that are strong but not widely accepted as part of Dylan's essential canon; "Baby, Stop Crying" from Street Legal at least confirms that even the least of Dylan's albums have one or two songs worth remembering, and "Make You Feel My Love," "Thunder on the Mountain," and "Duquesne Whistle" probably aren't the most remarkable moments from his late-career renaissance that began with 1997's Time Out of Mind, but they clearly show the master was still creating vital work well into the 21st century. So perhaps this isn't literally the Very Best of Bob Dylan, but this music shows why Dylan mattered when he cut his first album in 1962, and why he still inarguably mattered when Tempest arrived in 2012.

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