Bob Dylan

The Very Best of Bob Dylan [2000]

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It is difficult to determine a "best-of" Bob Dylan collection. He was never comfortably a singles artist, even though his hit from the summer of 1965, "Like a Rolling Stone," was one of the most important and influential singles ever released and its follow up that fall, "Positively 4th Street," made it appear that Dylan was going to have a long career at the top of the pop charts. His songs frequently were hits, usually by other artists, from the Byrds to Jimi Hendrix, but Dylan himself never hit the Top Ten singles chart after 1965. His albums, however, were cultural events, and it is nearly impossible to pick just a single song or two from the best of them (Highway 61 Revisited, Blonde on Blonde, John Wesley Harding, Blood on the Tracks), as is the case here, with just "Tangled Up in Blue" included from Dylan's 1975 confessional masterpiece, Blood on the Tracks, for example. So, having explained why it is impossible to truly have a two-disc, best-of Bob Dylan set, this collection does get a few things right, starting with the sequence, which is chronological, allowing a glimpse of the evolution of this groundbreaking songwriter. Also, several wonderful songs that were buried in lesser, later albums are given fresh light here, including "Changing of the Guard" from 1978's Street Legal, "Every Grain of Sand" from 1981's Shot of Love, and the mock-epic "Brownsville Girl" from 1986's Knocked out Loaded. Although it was issued as a single, it is hard to justify "Silvio" as one of Dylan's best, however, by any criteria. The album closes with the wry "Things Have Changed" from the Wonder Boys soundtrack, which has been interpreted by many as a kind of summing-up of his long career. If you absolutely need a best-of Bob Dylan collection, this will do, but you really need the individual albums to fairly access the growth and vision of this one-of-a-kind pop artist.

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