The Freewheelin? Bob Dylan (1963): The apex of his protest period, the songs range from apocalyptic and angry (?A Hard Rain Is A-Gonna Fall,? ?Masters of War?), to tender and hilarious (?Girl from the North Country,? ?I Shall Be Free?). The album also includes the 1960s anti-war anthem, ?Blowin? in the Wind.?
Bringing It All Back Home (1965): The lauded folk singer goes electric (side A of the album) and shatters the parameters of popular songwriting. Although ?Subterranean Homesick Blues? and ?Maggie?s Farm? pack a hefty punch in the amp category, it?s the acoustic numbers on Side B, ?Mr. Tambourine Man,? ?Gates of Eden,? ?It?s Alright, Ma (I?m Only Bleeding)? and ?It?s All Over Now, Baby Blue? that cut the deepest.
Highway 61 Revisited (1965): Arguably the greatest rock ?n roll album of all time, Highway 61 opens with Dylan?s trademark single ?Like a Rolling Stone? and closes with ?Desolation Row,? one of the finest examples of existential poetry in American poetry. In between, there is not an ounce of filler.
Blonde on Blonde (1966): Rock?s first double album, it captures Dylan at the zenith of the most successful and prolific phase of his career. The hits ?Rainy Day Woman #12&35? (aka ?Everybody Must get Stoned?), ?I Want You? and ?Just like a Woman? are equaled in strength and surpassed in depth by stellar non-singles such as ?Visions of Johanna? and ?Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands.?
The Basement Tapes (1974): Recorded in the summer of 1967 with members from the Band, but not officially released until 1974, The Basement Tapes is a collection of amusing nonsense (?Million Dollar Bash,? ?Quinn the Eskimo?) and back porch ballads teeming with emotion (?Tears of Rage,? ?Goin? to Acapulco?).
Blood on the Tracks (1975): After struggling creatively for years, Dylan ?learned to do consciously what (he) used to do unconsciously? and returned to glory with a No. 1 album unlike anything he had ever recorded before. Written during the disintegration of his first marriage, Dylan drops his guard and articulates despondency in a sublime manner that leaves an indelible mark on the listener.
Slow Train (1979): Dylan knew an album reflecting his conversion to Christianity was going to be a hard sell, so he employed Mark xKnopfler of Direstraits to co-produce and crafted one of the tightest collections of his career. Slow Train yielded his last Top 20 single, ?Gotta Serve Somebody,? and also includes ?I Believe in You,? a stirring declaration of faith covered in the 1990s by none other than Sinead O?Connor.
Infidels (1983): During the MTV fluff, synth-pop revolution, Dylan released an under-appreciated gem that includes ?Jokerman,? one of the finest lyrical achievements of the 1980s. Other highlights include ?I and I,? ?Sweetheart like You? and ?License to Kill.?
Oh Mercy (1989): Following the success of his loose, rocking collaboration with the Traveling Wilburys (George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison and Tom Petty), Dylan
teams with U2 producer Daniel Lanois for a late 1980s comeback. The album is dark, spooky and laced with hypnotic guitar hooks. Tracks such as ?Ring Them Bells? (covered by both Gordon Lightfoot and Joan Baez), ?Most of the Time? and ?Man in the Long Black Coat? (covered by Joan Osborne) proved to be rich additions to Dylan?s sprawling catalog.
Time Out of Mind (1997): Dylan drops the figurative vernacular and records the first rock album to thoroughly examine the perils of middle age and mortality. His effort goes platinum, earns three Grammy Awards, including Best Album, and catapults him back into the spotlight where he has stayed for the past four years. The 16-minute epic, ?Highlands? is the album?s centerpiece and is complimented by standout tracks such as ?Not Dark Yet,? ?Love Sick? and ?Tryin? to Get to Heaven.? ?Make You Feel My Love,? a beautiful, emotionally charged Valentine, soared to No. 1 on the country charts when Garth Brooks got hold of it.
Bonus Disc: Live 1966 (2000): One of the most famous bootlegs to ever find its way into circulation finally was doctored and given official release last year. On it, a stoned Dylan outrages his folk fans with sonic blasts of ?thin, wild, mercury music,? prompting one member of the audience to shout ?Judas? at the stage. All the nasty banter between Dylan and the disgruntled fans is magnificently caught on tape so that you can feel the tension mounting in the hall. Before the finale, a jolting version of ?Like a Rolling Stone,? you can hear Dylan turn to the band and yell, ?play f–king loud!?
The two-disc set includes the definitive version of ?Visions of Johanna? and ?It?s All Over Now, Baby Blue? in addition to raucous retoolings of ?I Don?t Believe You,? ?One Too Many Mornings? and ?Baby, Let Me Follow You Down.?
Wade Tatangelo is a senior majoring in creative writing and can be reached at email@example.com.