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Five star album, 2 detracted it not being a single disc., October 15, 2001
on 11 September 2012
As Amazon notes, this is a much more idiosyncratic approach to Dylan's catalogue than GREATEST HITS VOL I. The central problem with the previous volume is its scant collection and much too literal interpretation of what should be on a greatest hits volume. GREATEST HITS VOL. II loosens up quite a bit, and as a result this stands as a much better testament of Dylan's songwriting skills and how varied an artist he really is. This record focuses more on Dylan as a songwriter than any genuine hits, although there are several here. In this manner, GREATEST HITS VOL II stands as a valid introduction, much more so than the first volume. The first volume feels like exactly what it is: a "new" record that Columbia put out to make some money because Dylan was recouping from his famous motorcycle accident. This set feels more like an appreciation and a study of what made Dylan's body of work so rich and the direction Dylan was then progressing.
This album is locked very firmly in the Dylan's direction was then going. Overall, this compilation has a mellow, country feeling to it. No less than five songs on this are new on GREATEST HITS VOL. II which further document Dylan's progression toward this facet in his art. "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere," and "I Shall Be Released," were already famous compositions in their own right, and Dylan chose this opportunity to release his own version. "Watching the River Flow," "Down in the Flood," "When I Paint My Masterpiece," and the live cut "Tomorrow Is a Long Time," are still only available here. There's also a live cut of "Quinn". All five studio cuts are excellent tracks.
In the end, this record stands as a much better introduction to Dylan than the previous volume, having six previously unreleased tracks and a much clearer portrait of what makes Dylan modern music's most important songwriter. It also gives you plenty of material. To truly make an essential Dylan set, it's going to take more than one disc. Another added benefit is that Dylan himself programmed this set. Another is this has been remastered in 1999, along with STREET-LEGAL. Now Columbia needs to repackage BLONDE ON BLONDE and get rid of that "2 Record Set on 1 Compact Disc" which ruins the excellent cover.
Speaking of the BLONDE ON BLONDE, there is something that needs to be addressed here. On the CD version, I do have an economic complaint. Both this and THE BASMENET TAPES are marketed as double albums, which they were originally because of the time limitation on vinyls. However, you can fit both albums onto a single CD. I have never bought either set because of this fact. I personally don't feel like spending double album price for what can be fit on one CD. The worst examples of these phenomena are The Beatles' Red and Blue albums. Both are just over an hour long, which could easily be put on one CD. Oh, wicked, wicked music studios.
For the album itself, five stars. For the current edition, two stars are detracted because it's a rip off, just like THE BASEMENT TAPES. However, Columbia did a fine job on the remastering, making the songs sound much better.