Photographers: Ken Regan; Daniel Kramer; Jerry Schatzberg.
This two-disc 2000 release looks back on Bob Dylan's 38 years of recording and pulls out most of the signature tunes from the songwriting giant's prolific career. For an artist of such stature, it's no easy task to assemble an "essential" compilation in just 30 cuts, but it's hard to argue with the choices made here. Most of the high points in the Minnesotan troubadour's catalog are touched on, and the chronological sequencing provides a kind of tour through Dylan's various phases.
We're taken through the pioneering protest-folk period ("Blowin' in the Wind," "The Times They are A-Changin'"), the Rimbaud-inspired songpoet mode ("It's All Over Now, Baby Blue," "Mr. Tambourine Man"), the amphetamine-fueled rocker phase ("Like A Rolling Stone"), and all the rest of Dylan's many twists and turns. From the poignant introspection of "Shelter From the Storm" to the born-again R&B of "You Gotta Serve Somebody" and the searing narrative of "Hurricane," we get the broad view of an awe-inspiring body of work. Diehards will doubtlessly complain about various disincluded tracks, but on the evidence presented, it's easy to see why the genius tag is so often applied to this artist.