Two discs of music don't exactly provide for a thorough overview of four decades of recording, particularly if the subject of the retrospective is one of the most important and prolific performers of his time. So The Essential Bob Dylan definitely skates over the leagues-deep oeuvre of Dylan, summarizing his monumental first half-dozen years in disc one and skirting over the following 34 years in disc two. Delving into Columbia's three Dylan greatest-hits packages (though curiously purging "I Want You," a genuine hit single in its day), Essential offers only a few surprises, opting for The Basement Tapes version of "Quinn the Eskimo" over the Self Portrait remake that made it onto Greatest Hits Volume II and tossing in "Things Have Changed" from the Wonder Boys soundtrack for completists. But this 30-track overview is designed with newcomers, not Dylanologists, in mind. --Steven Stolder
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from MARBLEHEAD, MA
Reviewed on 5/2/2012...
Bob Dylan has no peers! Listening to him takes me right back to college and fills me with nostalgia for the late '60s and early '70s!
Great stuff, but by no means an "essential" album
Johnny Boy | Hockessin, DE | 01/24/2010
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Bob Dylan is an American icon. No, let me rephrase that. Dylan is not just an American icon, he's a world icon. His contribution to music is amazing, and he is by a long shot my favorite performer. He is the greatest songwriter to ever live, bar none.
And that's why 'The Essential Bob Dylan' is incredibly misleading and if you are a longtime, die-hard fan, completely unnecessary. Read on for further details.
First off, two discs just isn't gonna cut it. Sure, it's got several essentials, but Dylan's career is one of those that's nearly impossible to summarize without a box set or concept theme behind the compilation. But 'The Essential' tries -- and hard, at that -- to anthologize Dylan on two discs.
And it fails. Miserably. Dylan cannot simply be represented by two discs. It's impossible. It's missing classics, like 'Idiot Wind,' 'Buckets of Rain,' 'Changing of the Guards,' and 'One Too Many Mornings,' among countless others. What's represented is all entirely worthy of a million stars, but it's not essential. More like a 'Bob Dylan Collection.'
First, why is Dylan's '80s career BASICALLY UNREPRESENTED? Only 'Jokerman,' from his 1983 album 'Infidels,' and 'Silvio,' from 1988's 'Down in the Groove' get representation here. That means, no 'The Groom's Still Waiting At The Altar,' 'Every Grain of Sand,' 'Joey,' 'Series of Dreams' or 'Dignity' are here, among countless others. In my opinion (though many people disagree) some of Dylan's best work came in the 1980s. To this collection, Dylan in the 1980s barely existed, if at all. What a shame.
Alright, I've critcized this disc enough. Now to some positives. What's here is great. 'Don't Think Twice, It's All Right' rarely gets radio play or attention, and is certainly an obscurity. It's nice to see 'The Essential' give it the representation it deserves. The disc also contains 'Maggie's Farm,' 'It Ain't Me Babe,' 'Just Like a Woman,' 'Mr. Tambourine Man,' 'I Shall Be Released,' and perhaps the best protest song Dylan ever wrote, 1975's 'Hurricane' all get representation here.
Overall, 'The Essential Bob Dylan' is hardly essential, but it's a good entry point I guess for the new Dylan fan, and it's an alright sampler for a casual fan who doesn't plan on digging deep into Dylan's catalogue. But otherwise, I can't recommend this. It's a classic case of Columbia, Dylan's label, trying to milk Dylan's name for money, and is nothing but a cash cow. What a shame. This could have been a really great collection, but instead, it was another wasted opportunity.
Two stars for the music (which is all worthy of million stars), but still, it's not worthy of your time and money unless you are an easily-pleased casual Dylan fan.