The 15 Best Bob Dylan Albums
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Over the course of his five-decades-long career, the songwriter has wowed listeners with decade-defining singles (“The Times They Are A-Changin’,” “Just Like a Woman”), timeless albums and notably potent lyrics. In celebration of the release of Dylan’s 35th studio album, Tempest, we’re taking a look at our favorite albums. You can weigh in on your own favorites in the comment box below.
10. Another Side of Bob Dylan
If Bringing It All Back Home was the bridge to the electric masterpieces Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde On Blonde, then Another Side of Bob Dylan was the all-important first step. Still working within the folk framework as a solo performer, Dylan abandons his ultra-serious politics for some of the most personal, humorous, poetic and heartbreakingly vulnerable songs in his catalog. Recorded in just one night in the summer of 1964, Another Side offers a rare snapshot of the still-developing young artist beginning to find a voice of his own with impressive clarity. This allowed the singer/songwriter to shed his persona, start anew and evolve. As he recites “I was so much older then/I’m younger than that now” in centerpiece “My Back Pages,” no other album showcases Dylan in such youthful anticipation for his whirlwind prime.—Zachary Philyaw
8. Time Out of Mind
After spending much of the 1980s struggling to clearly define a musical identity, Dylan returned to the studio with Time Out of Mind, and it was his triumphant return to form. The album went on to win three Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year in 1998. Coming in the subsequent years following Dylan’s well-documented creative crisis during which he questioned his ability to create songs worthy of releasing to the public, the album was a strong commercial success and helped solidify Dylan’s rightful place among the world’s best musicians.
7. The Times They Are A’Changin’
The songs are as raw and emotional as the country was during the early ‘60s. The Times They Are A-Changin’ reflects the world in which it was written. There arrangements are not in a neat package and the lyrics are as honest as they are disturbing. Dylan’s album describes the true emotion of the ‘60s without sugar-coating events many would rather forget. Like most pieces of great art, The Times They Are A Changing is a very detailed, emotive snapshot of tough times.—Laura Flood
6. The Basement Tapes
After Dylan’s infamous motorcycle accident in 1967, the singer went into seclusion in the Woodstock area of New York. The members of his recent touring band, The Hawks (later to become better known as The Band), joined him shortly thereafter, and the group of musicians began writing and recording the music that would eventually become The Basement Tapes. Bob Dylan & The Band recorded over 100 tracks during this time, and while most of them circulated for years on bootleg recordings, it wasn’t until 1975 that they were officially released. The album is notable for its sound, which was a distinct turn away from the type of songwriting Dylan had been exploring on Blonde on Blonde and Highway 61 Revisited. The music on The Basement Tapes is characterized by its roots or Americana feel—a stark contrast to the trends of rock music at the time. When everyone else was infusing rock music with psychedelia or using every nook and cranny of the recording studio to create complex production work, Dylan & The Band sent the music world for a loop by going down into the basement and embracing traditional American stylings. You can always count on Dylan to do the exact opposite of what is expected of him.—Wyndham Wyeth