Artist: Bob Dylan
Songs: You're No Good [James Fuller]/Talkin' New York [Bob Dylan]/In My Time Of Dyin' [Traditional]/Man Of Constant Sorrow [Traditional]/Fixin' To Die [Booker T. Washington White]/Pretty Peggy-O [Traditional]/Highway 51 Blues [Curtis Jones]/Gospel Plow [Traditional]/Baby, Let Me Follow You Down [Reverend Gary Davis, D. Van Ronk & E. Von Schmidt]/House Of The Risin' Sun [Booker T. Washington White & Terry Holmes]/Freight Train Blues [Mississippi Fred McDowell]/Song To Woody [Bob Dylan]/See That My Grave Is Kept Clean [Blind Lemon Jefferson]
Produced by: John Hammond
Thoughts: In 1962, John Hammond, after securing a contract, brought Bob Dylan into Columbia's New York studios. Simply, the rest is history and the first step was Bob Dylan. Columbia believed they had the standard folkie in Mr. Zimmerman and in 1962, your average folkie was a guy who could sing and play guitar. That was it and that's all Columbia expected. With Bob Dylan, that was all they got.
Bob brought just two originals, "Talkin' New York" and "Song To Woody". If you weren't told that these were originals, you probably would have no idea that they were. The two songs share a simple structure. "Talkin' New York" shows how a kid from Minnesota reacts to the hustle and bustle of New York. It is simple, with Dylan just singing his thoughts. "Song To Woody" is a little different, bringing to the table a more subtle song. It doesn't really stick out, but its' beauty lies in its' unassuming nature. Essentially, it is Bob dedicating his life to Woody Guthrie. Bob was at his bedside every day as soon as he found out where he was.
As for the rest of the album, it feels a lot like Please Please Me. (Oh, come one, what else did you think I was going to compare it to.) The Beatles used their opportunity to shed a light on their favorite obscure rock and R&B tunes. Bob used his opportunity to shed a light on his favorite gospel, folk and blues tunes. The trouble with looking at the album today is the same trouble we have looking at Please Please Me. The songs that inspired the Beatles and Bob Dylan are so far removed from our time that they feel ancient, especially Bob's material, which is so old, that most of these are traditional and public domain songs. For me, and I know for a lot of other listeners, these songs become Dylan and Beatle originals, simply because they are the only ones that we can associate them with. Tell me, who reading this has ever heard the original "Anna (Go To Him)" or "Man Of Constant Sorrow"? Now, the reason why it is easier to listen to Please Please Me than it is to listen to Bob Dylan is that where The Beatles' vision of rock & roll was upbeat, making you literally rock and roll, Bob's vision of these songs was one of pure delicacy. Bob recorded these tracks quickly (although not in a single ten-hour session), but they still feel like he labored over them. There is a certain way Bob wanted us to hear them and Bob's vocals prove how dedicated he was to this material. "In My Time Of Dyin'", for example, is performed so eloquently, that if we could touch it, it would brake. Bob takes the song to pieces, with full emotion. Listen to the way he pronounces "Don't want nobody to morn/All I want is for you to do/Is take my body home".
If you are interested in Dylan and just starting out, this is a perfect place to do it. Yes, there are no hits and only two originals, but it lays the groundwork and forces you to hear the stuff that created the man.
Rating: I'm throwing out ratings. I just want to talk about these records. You can't put a number to this stuff.