Friday, November 16, 2007

The Bob Dylan playlist

At the request of my friend Brandon, I've decided to post the track listing for the "Bob Dylan Playlist," something I've been working on for the last couple of months when the urge to avoid actually doing anything productive at all really hits me the strongest. A couple things to note:
  • There's nothing post-1976 on here. I know a lot of people think that his last three albums are among his best. I don't. I think they're ok, but there aren't any tracks on those records that merited inclusion on my personal playlist.
  • There's nothing from Desire or Street Legal on here, which is probably not right. I thought about putting some things from both of those on here, but "Hurricane" is too long for a playlist and there isn't a track on Street Legal that jumped out at me enough to include.
  • All told, there are 16 different albums represented on here. Yet another reminder of how incredible Dylan's output was when he was at his very best.
  • I'm going to include a couple select notes here, but not for every song. There's not much I can tell you about, say, "Like a Rolling Stone" that hasn't been said before.
Without any further ado, here's my playlist. I'm not including mp3's on here, so send me a comment or an email if you want me to send you of these songs to check out.

The Ultimate Dylan Playlist:

1. Baby, Let Me Follow You Down (Biograph) This beautiful, upbeat, and simple demo version of the song from his first record is my favorite example of the "lighter side of Dylan's music."
2. Queen Jane Approximately (Highway 61 Revisited) "When your mother sends back all your invitations," is one of the greatest opening lines to a song. I love the way it hints so well at something awful or maybe even tragic that the details aren't even necessary.
3. It's All Over Now, Baby Blue (Bringing It All Back Home). The version on my ipod is taken from the remastered version of these records. And man oh man, the difference is striking. Picking a couple of these remastered editions up is well worth the investment.
4. Abandoned Love (Biograph)
5. Girl From The North Country (With Johnny Cash) (Nashville Skyline) A like this Dylan/Johnny Cash version just the slightest bit more than the original, if only for the way they and go back and forth on the "true love of mine" line at the end.
6. Visions Of Johanna Bob Dylan (Live, 1966: The Royal Albert Hall Concert) This is probably still my all-time favorite Dylan song. On this live version, every word seems so heartfelt that it's never mattered that I don't really know what the hell's going on in this song.
7. To Ramona (The Bootleg Series Vol. 6 Live 1964 Disc 1) Worth it for the moment near the end of this version where his voice cracks on the "deep in my heart I know there's no help I can bring" line.
8. It Ain't Me, Babe (Another Side of Bob Dylan)
9. Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You (Nashville Skyline) This might be the happiest Dylan song I know, and is a perfect album closer for Nashville Skyline.
10. Just Like A Woman (Live, 1966: The Royal Albert Hall Concert) Good lord, everything from the "Albert Hall" concert is so good that all of the versions of the songs he plays from it, including this one, seem to become for me the definitive versions.
11. One Of Us Must Know (Sooner Or Later) (Blonde On Blonde)
12. The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll (The Times They Are A-Changin) One of the greatest Dylan story-songs, this is also a nice remnant from the time when he was still political.
13. I Shall Be Released (Bootleg Series Vol 1-3)
14. You Ain't Goin' Nowhere (The Basement Tapes) Another classic song made more famous by another band (in this case, The Byrds)
15. If Not For You (New Morning)
16. Million Dollar Bash (The Basement Tapes)
17. Most Likely You Go Your Way And I'll Go Mine (Blonde On Blonde) This song features the quintessential "Dylan voice." Whenever you hear someone do a joke-y Dylan imitation, odds are they're doing this voice.
18. Bob Dylan - Desolation Row (Highway 61 Revisited)
19. Fourth Time Around (Live, 1966: The Royal Albert Hall Concert)
20. I'll Be Your Baby Tonight (John Wesley Harding) This is the only track from John Wesley Harding on here, and even this is included kind of begrudgingly, because I think that album doesn't really fit well with the rest of his stuff and should really be listened to as a whole.
21. The Mighty Quinn (Quinn the Eskimo) (Self Portrait)
22. Oxford Town (The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan)
23. Who Killed Davey Moore (The Bootleg Series Vol. 6 Live 1964)
24. Don't Think Twice, It's All Right (The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan) This has to be the greatest break-up song ever. Fuck-off songs are rarely, if ever, so controlled.
25. Knockin' on Heaven's Door (Essential Bob Dylan Disc 2)
26. Like a Rolling Stone (Highway 61 Revisited) When I first moved to New York, and I was as broke and alone as I'll ever be, I remember playing this song again and again like it was a rallying cry.
27. She Belongs to Me (Bringing It All Back Home)
28. You're a Big Girl Now (Biograph) My very first "favorite Bob Dylan song," this is another demo version from "Biograph" and features some great heartfelt vocals.
29. Absolutely Sweet Marie (Blonde On Blonde)
30. Buckets Of Rain (Blood On The Tracks) I still love his version, but check out the amazing Neko Case cover if you can find it.
31. The Times They Are A-Changin' ( The Times They Are A-Changin)
32. Tangled Up In Blue (Blood On The Tracks) One of the all-time great album openers. It also features some of his most arresting lyrics.
33. Lay Lady Lay (Nashville Skyline)
34. I Don't Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met) (Another Side of Bob Dylan) Another great break-up song. This one is when you can't even pretend to be in the recovery phase of the break-up.
35. The Man In Me (New Morning)
36. A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall (The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan)
37. All I Really Want To Do (Another Side of Bob Dylan) Much like the playlist opener, this song is another example of Dylan's light touch, a characteristic that people often seem to neglect when talking about him.

So, that's my playlist. Even given how subjective this kind of thing is, I'm curious if anyone feels like a made an egregious omission. Also, is everyone as excited as I am about "I'm Not There," the new Bob Dylan biopic? My excitement about that movie, more than anything else, has really fueled this Dylan phase I'm going through right now.


Anonymous said...

At the risk of opening a large can of worms, was there an deep underlying structure that functioned as the method of ordering? Opening light and ending light seems to make a bit of sense, though I am curious how the center of this massive playlist was constructed.

Josh said...

Well, this is obviously an itunes-only kind of playlist, as there's no way that this would stretch over two discs. So I could add a lot more and not worry quite so much about how it worked as a cohesive whole.

I'll admit that it's a little top-heavy, though. Most of the songs in the top 10 are all-time favoritesof mine/some of his most famous songs, so what follows are some of the more random tracks that I've fallen in love with over the years, but generally not the ones that I like the most.

Other than that, the standard rules applied. No long songs back to back, no tracks from the same album twice in a row, no more than two of three really randon, non-famous stuff in a row.

Zack said...

Nice list.

I would add the slower NY Sessions version of Lily, Rosemary And The Jack Of Hearts and substitute I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine for I'll Be Your Baby Tonight.

And, yes, I am now officially counting the minutes for I'm Not There to arrive in a theater near my black (white) ass.

I'm also anxiously awaiting the Better Chatter year-end best lists from BOTH esteemed contributors. When can your adoring fan base expect dat shit to drop?

Yours in Bobness,
A (somewhat) loyal reader

Meg said...

This is great, Josh. I have many of these songs, but not all, and it's really nice to know what I should get next. My Dylan poster glares at me while I sleep, I believe, because I've been listening to him less frequently the past few months. I think it's time to dust off "Blonde on Blonde," and use up that iTunes giftcard.

Take care!

Brandon said...

Glad you could post this playlist, Josh. You don't need an mp3 file to generate good discussion. Your knowledge of Dylan is greater than mine, but now I'll have to interject with two omissions I noticed. 1.) Talkin' World War III Blues -- This is the song we talk about when we talk about songs about the end of the world, or, of course, songs about crippling loneliness. 2.) Idiot Wind -- I thought this song would be a shoe-in?

Josh said...

Well, while Idiot Wind is indeed one of the classic "Angry Dylan" songs, I just felt like I had enough angry/bitter songs on there to last me.

Too much of that and a playlist become hard to listen to, kind of like what happened when I made my "Tom Waits Playlist" and discovered that it was too depressing for even me to listen to.

In addition, "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll" or "It Ain't Me, Babe" are probably closer to the kind of angry/bitter Dylan that I prefer anyway.

Todd said...

Fantastic list, Joshua. It puts me in a Dylan-listening mood, even though I don't own half those songs. I've always been meaning to pick up Nashville Skyline and John Wesley Harding, but in the meantime I've been getting my Dylan/Americana fix from the Basement Tapes. Have you heard the I'm Not There soundtrack yet?

Harvey "Manliness" Mansfield said...

Man, eff "I'm Not There". More like "Wish I Hadn't Been There" or "I Shouldn't Be Here Because This Movie Sucks Ass."

Re-imagining Bob Dylan as an outlaw musician hiding-out in a late 19th century freak-show/Americana town as portrayed by an aging Richard Gere who then stands up for the gentle/freaky townsfolk against the irascible/vicious "Southern Boss In a Wheel Chair" who remembers him from way-back-when which forces Bob to hop a train and make like a hobo on the lamb was the DUMBEST THING I'VE EVER WITNESSED IN A FILM.