11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dylan's Historic Debut Still Dazzles and Delights!
The eponymous debut album of the greatest poet and songwriter of the Twentieth Century sounds as fresh today as it did forty yeares ago. This collection sees Dylan pay homage to and reinterpret his sources of inspiration from the blues and folk genre. Traditional favourites such as Fixin'To Die, Pretty Peggy-O and House of the Rising Sun get vigorous treatment from...
Published on 11 May 2001 by Mr. T. J. Armitage
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A good album but a barrel-scraping product from Hallmark records.
On reading some of the previous reviews for this product I notice that some were written over TEN years ago. Strange indeed when you consider that this particular version of Dylan's first album for Columbia records is on the Hallmark record label and was only released in 2013. Although originally recorded by Columbia, this album is now over 50 years old and therefore no...
Published on 26 Feb. 2013 by Mr. D. Bain
Most Helpful First | Newest First
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dylan's Historic Debut Still Dazzles and Delights!,
The eponymous debut album of the greatest poet and songwriter of the Twentieth Century sounds as fresh today as it did forty yeares ago. This collection sees Dylan pay homage to and reinterpret his sources of inspiration from the blues and folk genre. Traditional favourites such as Fixin'To Die, Pretty Peggy-O and House of the Rising Sun get vigorous treatment from Dylan who is so exuberant here with his accompanying guitar, voice and infamous harmonica. The sparse and raw feel of this album still strike the listener who can hear Dylan celebrating and partly imitating his roots. Dylan's debt to Woody Guthrie is acknowledged in the poignant Song To Woody who was dying in hospital at the time of writing. This and the Chirpy and sardonic Talking New York are the only two original compositions on the album but Dylan proves what a master interpreter he was(and still is)of the trad. folk song with an accomplished version of Erich Von Schmidt's Baby Let Me Follow You Down. Dylan made this song his own which he famously performed it at The Band's Last Waltz in 1976 which summed up the history of American popular music at the time. The melodic and plaintive Man of Constant Sorrow provides a perfect vehicle for Dylan's voice and features prominently in the Coen Brothers' film O Brother Where Art Thou? sang by The Soggy Bottom Boys. This collection has no soggy bottom and has great variety from the sheer joy of Freight Train Blues where Dylan has real fun with his hillbilly hick up vocal and train impressions to the intense and sombre See That My Grave is kept Clean. What Dylan went on to achieve with his own songs and sensiblity had incredible impact on the evolution of popular music culture and from his debut album you can hear where he was coming from and tell where he was going. Roots and potential aside this album remains a pleasure to play and revel in the American folk tradition.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dylan's schooling in Americana; essential to Dylan students,
BOB DYLAN, like the debut LPs by The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, are stunning collections of music for their perspective genre, but has long been outclassed by the band's subsequent work. However, the album is an (imperfect) snapshot of Dylan's early days, and in its own way an important indicator of Dylan's musical roots. Unlike The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, BOB DYLAN was recorded for a much smaller audience in mind, and sold in rather slim numbers.
The album is comprised of eleven traditional songs and two covers. The reason was because in the early 1960s folk revival, the artists of that movement focused primarily on traditional material, they were much more concerned with interpretative songs than singing original compositions, a thing which Dylan himself would soon be changing.
In a mid 1960s review, Bob Dylan he was disgusted that all these people suddenly deciding they'd just start writing songs without any real knowledge of the traditional body of songs that have been before them. When asked about his own songwriting, Dylan said he didn't start writing his own songs until he had immersed himself in the tradition of his chosen field: songs from the American tradition. This proved to be a very rich tradition, as Dylan has gotten a lot of great music from that musical background. Over forty years later Dylan's newest music is a testament to this fact.
On his debut he was practicing and doing his own research in the Americana tradition to give his work much more depth than those people who just began writing songs without any sense of history behind it. That is what makes LOVE AND THEFT and MODERN TIMES so rewarding: you feel Dylan giving us a history of modern musical traditions other than rock and presenting it in a rock context. In an interview from 2001, Dylan said that the radio made "hideous noises," and there was none of the great musical tradition which made radio in his day so rewarding. So with LOVE AND THEFT and MODERN TIMES, Dylan gives us a study in the musical structures of the past, and instead of it being a pale imitation. LOVE AND THEFT and MODERN TIMES raises to the level of a grand artistic statement that ranks among his best work.
So why am I going on and on about an albums released decades after this release? It's because his newest music would not have been possible without Dylan steeping himself in the American musical tradition, of which this is his first studio foray.
It should be noted that when Dylan recorded this album, he was careful in what he recorded. He said in the Scorsese biopic that he didn't want to be pinned down, and didn't want to reveal all his secrets and protect his better material from other people on his first album. Dylan haphazardly recorded a number of songs that had been in his repertoire, but also standards in many of the of the other Greenwich Village regulars as well.
BOB DYLAN is Dylan trying to pass for a rough, gravelly voiced old singer who's been thru hell and back and lived to tell all about his adventures. Now he really is an old gravelling singer whose has a tremendous amount of experience and has actually become what he was trying to be over four decades ago.
His voice has always been one of controversy, and this is just as rough hewn as any of his releases. If you're this far into Dylan's body of work, you've come to the same conclusion that most of us have: Dylan's actually a very good singer, just not in the traditional sense. His voice adds much to these songs, giving them that edgy feel which they need to accomplish what Dylan wants them to accomplish. Amazingly, Dylan sings these songs with a world weariness and a wise-beyond-his-years approach that should simply not b e possible for a 21 year old, which is how old he was when he recorded this.
Dylan goes through 11 standard folk songs with a faster tempo than you'd expect (the tempo gives the album that edgy, paranoia feel) and each carry the weight of tradition behind it. Dylan, in a truly skillful way, captured the sense of history that accompanies each of these songs. Each song sounds personal and very relevant to the singer himself, which is amazing because of all the death obsession prevalent on the album. Dylan was only twenty at the time this record was cut, and yet he truly made you feel he was "fixin' to die," (which, coincidently, is more famous as the eleven minute monster on Led Zeppelin's PHYSICAL GRAFFITI) and that when he did you would need to ensure his grave was "kept clean." In "Freight Train Blues," Dylan holds a note for probably the longest in his career, and after he finishes you expect him to be sucking air and yet he keeps right on singing. For you Animal fans here, we have the five-minute "House of the Rising Sun," which Dylan appropriately sings in high anguish.
And what of the two original songs? Dylan, the poet laureate of rock and roll and one if its most important songwriters, only has two original songs on his debut. For reasons already discussed, it is obvious why. "Talkin' New York Town" deals with Dylan's arrival in New York and his struggles there, and "Song to Woody" is his own tribute to Woody Guthrie, the most influential person in Dylan's young life. Each is startling.
Although this record does not point to THE FREEWHEELIN' BOB DYLAN (judging from this, you could not deduce that Dylan's next lp would be one of the top albums of the 1960s), this album stands as an important introduction to Dylan and his muse. For those who want folk Dylan, I personally recommend his next three albums before turning to this. Although this is a fine LP, Dylan's body of work is large enough to make this more for the student of Dylan and music in general (which is impossible to study without a strong focus or emphasis on Dylan and his counterpart The Beatles) as opposed to the fan of Bob Dylan.
BOB DYLAN becomes much more important in retrospect than it ever did upon its original release, and without Dylan soaking himself in all these traditional songs we would never have gotten a lot of the top rate material on THE BASEMENT TAPES (official and otherwise) or LOVE AND THEFT or TIME OUT OF MIND or MODERN TIMES or much of his other material. Of his nine studio releases in the 1960s, this one should be the last on your list to buy, but for anyone who really wants to know Dylan (which is a very hard thing to do: people have built entire careers on the foundation of trying to figure him out) this is essential. Listen to this and then listen to his newest music and his live performances on the Never Ending Tour, and you can see the process which Dylan has been going through. He still covers a good number of traditional songs in his concerts.
Overall, the album is an interesting listen, but only a very limited snapshot of Dylan's early influences. Bootlegs from this period, such as the Minnesota Tapes, the Gaslight Tapes, the Witmark Demos, and other known recordings, in conjunction with this album, give you key insight into Dylan's musical evolution and how important traditional music was, and is, to Bob Dylan's art.
As it stands, this album is a key piece to study to gain understanding of Dylan's pre-fame days, largely because it's been officially released. There are other, much more representative albums in Dylan's early era that gives you insight into how his art evolved, but unfortunately they are mostly bootlegs. Still, this album gets the job done in what it's trying to do, which is a folkie playing music from his repertoire to a, admittedly limited, audience for the first time.
For all you songwriters (and writers in general, for that matter) out there, take a lesson from Dylan. Study and immerse yourself in what's gone before and it will greatly broaden and enrich your own work.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Seriously overlooked.,
Perhaps due to its illustrious successors, Bob Dylan's first major release has often been viewed with little positivity and shrugged off as collection of folk cover songs, wholly incomparible to the later Dylan, who broke away from such folk restraints and penned some of the greatest songs of all time.. It is true that the songs on here are predominantly covers, and Dylan is best known for his fantastic song-writing, but taking the time to listen, the songs on this album are good folk songs and Dylan is in fine vocal form on them (if a little rough around the edges).
The highlight of the album is "House of the Rising Sun", sung from a female perspective rather than the bizarre male version of The Animals, this is my favourite ever performance of the song and certainly showcases Dylan's already burgoning talent. "Man of Constant Sorrow" is also well performed and, while perhaps not quite as good as the O Brother Where Art Thou? version, it's certainly in a different style and a good listen. "Talkin' New York", however, is the song that really showcases Dylan to come, with all the witty and inciteful lyricism so typical of Bob ("Talkin' New York" and "Song to Woody" are the only original songs that appear on the album).
Ultimately, "Bob Dylan" is a good folk album. The fact that it gives an incite into the early roots of the greatest songwriter ever to live is a welcome bonus, but ultimately it's a good work in its own right, and were it released by any multitude of other bands it would be seen as their greatest. Just don't expect a Highway 61 or Blonde on Blonde.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars confident debut,
This is an interesting document in a terrific career. Really, I don't think there's any doubt that Bob Dylan is a genius, a terrific musician and a performer of intense emotional focus. I guess I prefer Neil Young's music generally, but I don't think of Young as a genius; more a very hard working artist.
So as I say, this, Dylan's debut album is a very interesting document. It's interesting to try to imagine the time that this was recorded - in the context of what was to come from Dylan over the years - none of it existed yet.
The arrangements are very simple, just one voice, one blues harp, one guitar. And all three are exceptional. Vocally, Dylan is more emotive here than I've heard him on any record since. Here he is proving that he can sing like the great blues singers, without directly apeing any of them. He snarls and growls and mumbles... it's all very well considered. Dylan's harp breaks on "You're No Good" and "Gospel Plow" are as good as any I've heard elsewhere, and his guitar playing shines as he backs himself expertly.
Now, I know this record is supposed to be folk, but I think it's much more rooted in the blues. There's very little in the way of a traditional folk song besides Dylan's own composition, "Talkin' New York".
Other reviewers have addressed the Woody Guthrie comparisons, saying that the only track that sounds like Guthrie is "Song to Woody". I don't even agree to that extent. I don't think ANY of the record sounds like Woody, with the possible exception of "Talkin' New York" - Guthrie did several Talkin' style tunes, but especially not "Song to Woody". That's nothing like Guthrie. Really, if anyone ever tries to tell you that early Dylan is largely ripping off Woody Guthrie, tell them they're full of crap and question whether they've actually heard any Guthrie. I'll bet they haven't. Dylan has essentially studied traditional American music - folk, the blues, country - and mastered it. He'll prove that time and again throughout his career.
So anyway, more specifically about this record: sure I prefer "The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan", "Another Side of Bob Dylan" and "The Times They Are A Changin'", but if you like those you're probably already well on your way to being a big Dylan fan. And if you're a big Dylan fan... what are you waiting for? You may as well get this one too.
4.0 out of 5 stars 'Here's to Cisco and Sonny and Leadbelly too',
A great set of songs in short, Dylan never falls flat here and does more than simply hint at future glories; his delivery is spot on every time. 'Gospel Plow' is still the best harmonica I have ever heard him play on record, it doesn't shriek like it would in later albums, it chugs along at a wonderful pace and really drives the song on. On the back of this great little tune are the two standout covers here, 'Baby Let Me Follow You Down' and 'House of the Rising Sun', the latter of which at least manages to match The Animals' much more famous rendition, the former, a song that Dylan would hang onto long after he had discarded everything else here wouldn't have felt out of place on 'The Freewheelin', indeed his electric version at the infamous "Royal Albert Hall" concert is a blast.
But naturally, by virtue of the fact that they are covers, many of the songs here are somewhat disposable, well played and enjoyable, but disposable. It is his two original compositions that really ensure this album to be more than just a curiosity. Though both 'Talkin New York' and 'Song To Woody' are somewhat amateurish in contrast with what was just around the corner they are extremely likable.
This is one of those dozen or more Dylan albums that sit happily playing second fiddle to his first rate masterpieces. In layman's terms it isn't essential, but any real Dylan fan is gonna love this.
A side note: in omitting his version The House Carpenter Dylan was kicking off a now age old tradition, he left one of the strongest songs of the sessions on the cutting room floor, something that he was guilty of in the 80's.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A good album but a barrel-scraping product from Hallmark records.,
On reading some of the previous reviews for this product I notice that some were written over TEN years ago. Strange indeed when you consider that this particular version of Dylan's first album for Columbia records is on the Hallmark record label and was only released in 2013. Although originally recorded by Columbia, this album is now over 50 years old and therefore no longer covered by UK copyright laws, which explains how this version (and several others, one adding a Joan Baez album, another tagging a few tracks by some of Dylan's contemporaries of the time such as Dave Van Ronk and yet another offering both mono and stereo versions) are now on sale. Since Columbia owns the original masters I can only assume that these albums have been sourced from good vinyl copies of the original album. Amazon has obviously been somewhat remiss here in attaching reviews pertaining to the original Columbia release to this particular one. As for the music itself, it's a great early Dylan album of mostly covers of other people's songs. As a Dylan fan I've never had too much time for the way that Columbia records has marketed much of his output, for example releasing albums in Japan or Australia only, Thus making them hugely expensive imports for USA and European fans. However if I were considering buying this album I would still opt for the still widely available Columbia release purely for the fact that they have the original masters from which to produce the album, as well as all the original artwork.
17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Piece of Dylan History,
This album is an essential purchase to go alongside Dylan's infamous set of albums in your collection.
The self-titled 'Bob Dylan' is Bob in his pre-songwriting phase, he has just moved to New York, has recently got his foot in the door at coffee house's around 'the village' and has been signed to Columbia by John Hammond after being rejected by many a record label.
The spectre of 'death' hangs over this album, it is mentioned many a time in various songs. Song's which are all covers except for the quaint 'talkin new york' and poigniant 'song to woody'.
This album should not be overlooked, it is a young, fresh faced dylan, before his 'protest era' delivering rollicking hillbilly esque numbers as well as the delightful 'talkin new york' and 'song to woody' which capture first hand what was passing through Bob's mind at the time.
Now that it has been remastered, you can enjoy it even more than previous!
4.0 out of 5 stars An intriguing debut,
As an evangelical Bobcat, Dylan's first album is something of a curiosity to me. Recorded in 1961 when he was just 20, 'Bob Dylan is a entirely different beast to its 1963 follow up, 'The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan'. While the latter showcases Dylan's emerging genius with some of his greatest compositions, his debut is an album consisting largely of folk standards he had rarely played before, the arrangements mainly purloined from other musicians he knew from playing in and around Greenwich Village. Only two of the thirteen tracks are written by Dylan. Talkin' New York is ok, but it is Song to Woody, his eulogy to Woody Guthrie, that is the album's stand out track and a warning of the creative explosion that was about to go off in Bob's head. Dylan immediately rejected the album as mistake, but everyone has to start somewhere. Not his best, but certainly not his worst (see 1979-1988), and I still know every damm word.
12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The Columbia Version is the 'Go-To Version'!!,
Columbia is Dylan's official label, they own the official masters - this CD can be bought for more or less the same price on the Columbia label (the 2005 version is the most recent: Bob Dylan) but you'll have bought the remastered version from the original masters. Although Hallmark may be cheaper, more often than not they tend to offer the buyer highly compressed vinyl rips. You see as the years go by, a lot of these albums in the UK suffer from the 50 years copyright rule, meaning anyone can apparently take a vinyl recording from the early LP's, stick them on a CD with a picture of the artist on and Hey Presto! a cheap money maker for them, it's us the buyer who suffers! Don't get me wrong, out of print albums may indeed be welcome but Dylan's debut is still out there on the official label in pristine audio quality. I don't work for Columbia by the way nor do I own shares in them, I just hate to see folk ripped off with their hard earned cash...
5.0 out of 5 stars Remarkable debut,
Though he's mostly known as a songwriter, and especially as a wordsmith, Bob Dylan's debut album features only two original compositions. And yet every track here is unmistakeably Dylan. Even more remarkably, although the entire album is simply Bob Dylan accompanying himself on guitar (and harmonica), such is the versatility and strength of his playing that there is never a point where extra musicians could have added anything. Dylan's guitar playing at this early stage of his career was truly awesome, and it's almost a shame that he later felt the need to go electric. Almost.
Most Helpful First | Newest First