Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Bob Dylan - Bob Dylan (1962)

Man of constant sorrow....


Released March 1962

Recorded in New York City

Running time 36.11

Yes, I know this is where it all started for Bob Dylan, but, as someone who owns all his albums (save the last two "crooning" ones - Fallen Angels and Triplicate) I have to admit that  rarely play this album and find it a slightly grating, and at times, difficult listen. It is largely made up of old blues covers, but they are sung nowhere near as appealingly as they are say, by the older Dylan, on Good As I Been To You or World Gone Wrong. I find Dylan's young voice just a little irritating on this album in places, although of course, I realise what an effect the album had, having been released by one so young. It is nowhere near as good an album as The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan or The Times They Are A-Changin', though. Though released not long after, they are light years ahead. This set him on his way, though, but the whole folk/protest movement thing came over the next year or so, with his next two albums and contributions from other artists in the Greenwich Village folk scene.


1. You're No Good
2. Talkin' New York
3. In My Time Of Dyin'
4. Man Of Constant Sorrow
5. Fixin' To Die
6. Pretty Peggy-O
7. Highway 51 Blues
8. Gospel Plow
9. Baby, Let Me Follow You Down
10. House Of The Risin' Sun
11. Freight Train Blues
12. Song To Woody                                      

There are good moments though, it has to be said.  Some of the more bluesier numbers I quite like - the cutting Talkin' New York; the powerful bottleneck blues of In My Time Of Dyin' (also memorably covered by Led Zeppelin);  the pure blues of Highway 51; the moving Man Of Constant Sorrow; the acoustic, aggressive Fixin' To Die and my favourite, Baby Let Me Follow You Down. There is an almost punky, edgy, attack to Dylan's renditions of these songs, it has to be said, and his harmonica throughout  is revelatory. Dylan's mournful take on House Of The Rising Sun is actually very evocative, but it is completely different to that made famous by The Animals (which was apparently inspired by a version by Josh White, not Dylan's version). Freight Train Blues, with that ridiculously drawn-out high-pitched bit just annoys me. In fact all the wailing on that track just doesn't do it for me.

I do have time for Woody's Song, however, it was one of the few written by Dylan and in it you can hear hints of the two albums that would follow over the next year. See That My Grave Is Kept Clean has its good points too in its menacing, lamenting tone. The protest songs began with this one.  Dylan approaches it with a verve and vigour and a cynicism too.

Incidentally, the mono version is excellent, particularly In My Time Of Dyin' and Highway 51.


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