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80 of 83 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The roots of Dylan...
A younger than seems possible Bob Dylan stares at us from the cover of his very first album. The year was 1962. Inside the CD booklet, the pictures reveal a slightly awkward looking Dylan who doesn't quite exude the confidence that inexorably burgeoned approximately a year later (compare these photos with the photos included in the remasters of "The Freewheelin' Bob...
Published on July 30, 2005 by ewomack

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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 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,...
Published on October 10, 2007 by Mike London


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80 of 83 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The roots of Dylan..., July 30, 2005
This review is from: Bob Dylan (Audio CD)
A younger than seems possible Bob Dylan stares at us from the cover of his very first album. The year was 1962. Inside the CD booklet, the pictures reveal a slightly awkward looking Dylan who doesn't quite exude the confidence that inexorably burgeoned approximately a year later (compare these photos with the photos included in the remasters of "The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan" and "The Times They Are A-Changin'"). And who can blame him for possibly feeling a little out of place? The great John Hammond had just discovered him playing in clubs such as the Gaslight in Greenwich Village (Hammond also discovered such indispensable names as Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Billie Holiday, Aretha Franklin, Bruce Springsteen, and others). Suddenly (he left Minnesota for New York around 1959) Dylan finds himself in a Columbia records recording studio. Not only that, he's recording two of his own compositions.

Though the young Dylan might look a little awkward here, he by no means sounds awkward. The now 42 year old pictures belie the extreme confidence and "wise beyond his years" mood that pervades his first album. Dylan was only 20 at the time. Nonetheless, the songs about death and sorrow carry a mood of experience and feeling that most 20 year olds probably can't imagine. Dylan grunts and strains in "In My Time of Dying" (a traditional blues number sometimes attributed to Blind Willie Johnson and sometimes credited as just 'traditional') and "Fixin' To Die" (by "Bukka" White - another blues singer that lived the blues) as though the issue has direct immediacy for him. And the great closer "See that my Grave Is Kept Clean" (by the legendary Blind Lemon Jefferson - another man who lived the blues) carries a similar impact. At times, Dylan's voice takes on a harsher growl here than on any of his subsequent albums (listen to the songs above as well as "Highway 51 Blues", "Gospel Plow", and "House of the Risin' Sun" for more examples). Songs such as "Talkin' New York" - the album's funniest song with original lyrics by Dylan - and "Baby, Let Me Follow You Down" point to the Dylan that emerges on 1963's "The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan". Dylan began to evolve even on his first album.

The Dylan original, "Song To Woody", shows Dylan's great promise as a songwriter, but it does pale a little in comparison to his output of 1963. In fact, very little on this album, great as it is, points to the Dylan that we know over 40 years later as one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century. Had Dylan ceased recording after this album he would've remained an interesting, and probably obscure, footnote in folk music history. Had he stopped recording after "Freewheelin'" he would probably still be remembered as somewhat of a legend. In fact, the transition from this album to its successor is startling and shows an evolution and progression probably unmatched in popular music history. In his "Chronicles, Vol. 1" Dylan even expressed some surprise at what happened. At the time he said the only thing of any significance he had written was "Song To Woody". That soon changed.

Dylan's first album is a great listen. The long overdue remastering sounds incredible. It has also likely exposed many people to great blues and folk classics. It probably also fueled the young Dylan with the confidence and assurance to go on to write timeless songs such as "Blowin' in the Wind", "Masters of War", and "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall". This album exposes Dylan's roots, and provides a fascinating document of where he came from and, subsequently, what he became.
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bob Dylan, now centered in glorious mono, September 15, 2005
This review is from: Bob Dylan (Audio CD)
The audio quality of this remastered CD is head and shoulders superior to the standard CD that we have endured for decades.

Do not be put off by the monophonic sound (not labeled as such on the CD package, probably for that reason). These recordings are the result of two sessions from November 1961, featuring Bob Dylan solo on vocal, guitar, and harmonica. The stereo version, on both LP and CD, had an idiotic arrangement of vocal and harmonica on one channel, and guitar on the other. Depending on how far apart your speakers are, you could have Dylan playing guitar 20 feet away from where he is singing and playing harmonica!

This is the case no more! Unless you are fortunate enough to have the mono LP of this debut album, you have never heard it the proper way until now, with this superb, newly remastered CD, with Bob Dylan--vocal, harmonica, and guitar--centered between your speakers.

This CD also contains a few previously unpublished photos from the recording sessions.

Although the booklet doesn't say so, I believe this was DSD mastered. Steve Berkowitz, also uncredited on this remaster, is in charge of the overall remastering of Dylan's catalog. He deserves a lot of thanks.

The standout tracks are "Fixin' To Die," "Gospel Plow," and "Baby, Let Me Follow You Down." For an excellent outtake from these sessions, "House Carpenter," you need to buy "The Bootleg Series, Vol. 1-3."

Trivia: This first album, "Bob Dylan," was originally going to be released under the title "Free Wheeling." A variation of the title survived for the second album.
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49 of 56 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 8.9/10.0, September 17, 2006
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This review is from: Bob Dylan (Audio CD)
IT was the coldest winter on record. Some of the guys and I from the Chase-Plaza construction site decided to hustle into one of the Village's basket clubs. We huddled together at a small table, coffees and creamers all around. Wooden chairs creaked under our weight, and the place was filled with a bustle so common to small restaurants- the clattering of plates and silverware, the beat of rubber soles upon wood floors.

Up on the stage was a quiet kind of child- he looked like he belonged in a museum! His face was impossibly untainted, and, combined with his uneasy movements, gave the impression of a marionette. He began to tune his guitar, and then hummed on the harmonica for brief moments- suffice it to say, almost no one looked toward the stage; there was a slow rumble of talk, every now and then a single phrase rose through the fog.

The guitar began to rear up, and then the kid started to sing. There was a moment of uncertainty at first. No one could understand that the voice came from the kid. His voice, its timbre and pitch, sounded as if it came from a man three times his age. It was as if he were performing ventriloquism; only that the voice's source came from someplace we couldn't see, only feel. The emotions of self-inflicted misery and calamitous love for another coursed through his words; and everyone understood, the sweet heartache of a woman who both saps and gives us our strength.

His next song seemed to roll right off the frozen Village streets. Harmonica premiered, a dizzy zig-zag of notes that blended disorientation and comfort. The crowd rumbled with sympathetic musings as he sung about the oppression of the big city, the wheelings-and-dealings that the honest man could never get his hands around: "People going down to the ground: buildings going up to the sky." The several minutes that the song occupied constituted a perfect moment: the artist became the spokesman for the audience's consciousness.

As the boy offered more and more songs, we were transformed, from casual patrons into devout listeners: the music seemed to surge from a place far back in time, when the primary way to experience music was not to hear it, but to sing it. His voice had all the craggy imperfections of a raggedy southern farm hand, relating the tragedies and the prayers of a life of hard work.

I could tell, both the young boy and we were exhausted when he bottomed out the session with "Song To Woody." He gave us a short preface to this work, and this new voice seemed otherworldly, alien, compared to the one with which the audience had been so affixed. Of course, the guys and I had all heard most of Woody's work. But few of us had heard anything as plainly honest as this song. Listening to it, it seemed to hold an eternity with it, as if it composed all the truth and excellence one could hope for in music.

But it ended. Afterwards, the boy stepped to a corner. Nearby were a few records, his face posted upon them. Most everyone clamored for them, but my friends and I managed to buy one each. We slid it inside our jackets, then headed outside. Tomorrow would be another lesson in breaking our backs, but it was as if this experience had rejuvenated each of us.

Looking back now, it's hard for me to understand the face on this record. He's different now than he ever was back then; he's become a signature of an entire social kinesis. In fact, Dylan is more an idea than he even is a human being like us. This picture of him, though, shows him back when he was nothing! Just a nobody kid from Minesota who could give a knockout session. Back then, as one of those old construction crew friends of mine have said, Dylan was un-Dylan-like. But this first opus, this first success, although it borrows much from other musicians, shows the awesome talent that eventually manifested the whirl-wind of creativity that the United States (and other countries, to a lesser extent) knows as Bob Dylan.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Raw and Gutsy, March 28, 2000
By 
Randall K. Ventresca (Sarasota, Florida United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Bob Dylan (Audio CD)
"Bob Dylan" - An album that has sort of been ignored through the years, partially because Dylan only has a couple original songs on the album. But, to fully understand the man and what he would later become artistically, you must experience this amazing, gritty piece of Americana.
This album is not just folk, contrary to popular belief, neither was Bob...not really....this album is many things...blues, folk, gospel...sung and played by a real bluesman. It is a great collection of songs that are expressed from the soul.
The performances are quite spectacular for such a young man to be singing them. "In My Time of Dying", "You're No Good", "Man of Constant Sorrow", "Gospel Plow" and "House of the Rising Sun" are among the classics. "Song to Woody", written by Bob is beautiful. A MUST HAVE!
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Some of Dylan's greatest work, December 29, 2002
This review is from: Bob Dylan (Audio CD)
In many ways, this is my favorite Bob Dylan album. He didn't write most of the songs but his incredible interpretations made them his own anyway. Compare his "Man of Constant Sorrow" to the original folk version on the hit single from the 'O Brother Where Art Thou' soundtrack. He virtually rewrote the melody (much for the better in my opinion) and changed some of the lyrics - most notably substituting "Colorado" for "Kentucky," resulting in a brilliant approximate rhyme with "constant sorrow.'   Listen to the soulful and inventive slide guitar on "In My Time of Dying'" -- it doesn't get much better than that! (Too bad he couldn't remember the song's composer -- Blind Willie Johnson who titled it "Jesus Make Up My Dying Bed" -- but Dylan did have the integrity not to put his own name on it, as others have done in similar circumstances. I just can't keep from crying about that). Dylan's vocals, guitar and harp playing on this entire record are unsurpassed - by him or any other folk/blues artist I've ever heard.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mood-swinging originality, February 25, 2005
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This review is from: Bob Dylan (Audio CD)
Like many others, i got familiar with Bob D. through albums such as Highway 61, Blood, B.O.B., Bringing it home, Freewheelin`and later Desire and Times. I`d read somewhere that the debut album was mediocre and much weaker than Freewheelin, which was supposed to represent a huge leap forward both career-wise and artistically.

Having heard and for the most part hated (although there are one or two good songs on any BD album) other `mediocre`albums such as Down in the groove and At Budokan, I shunned this one for a long time. After all, for a budding Dylan collector, there are a LOT of classics to buy, and being a poor highschool student, I had to make priorities.

So when I finally bought it, it was a spontaneous buy, just seemed nice to own the very first Dylan album, even if it wasn`t supposed to be very good...

Suffice to say, I was totally overwhelmed by it. Here are a few facts that the general record-buying public should know, but generally don`t know about it:

1.`Bob Dylan` has some of the best vocal work and guitar playing Dylan ever did.

2.It is bursting by the seems with a ferocious ENERGY (Freewheelin is much quieter and, frankly, more boring)

3.It contains distilled hoopla-Americana of a kind that you`ll have a hard time finding anywhere else.

4.It predates heavy metal-listen to his voice in Fixin`to die when he goes "There`s black smoke risin`,Lord, it`s risin`up above my head, UP ABOVE MY HEAD..

5.His version of `House of the rising sun`is the definitive one, full of emotion, copied but not bettered by The Animals.

6.`Song to Woody`is actually maybe the worst song on the album.

7.On `Freight train blues` Dylan holds a single note (blu-huuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuues...) longer than he ever did, ever! :)

8.Unlike the detached, satirical/knowing singing style he was to develop later, here he is sometimes overwhelmed by emotion. On `See that my grave is kept clean`, he manages to convey a true dread and fear of dying that is down-to-earth, private and scary.

9. It is obvious that he is singing without any pressure from fans/the Movement/himself. This album is a rare oppurtunity to hear Dylan at his most liberated and free.

10.You should buy it.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bob's First Chance At Fame, July 5, 2005
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This review is from: Bob Dylan (Audio CD)
It's easy to critize the first effort by an artist, especially after the fact, once we have all seen the tremendous heights that his career has soared to and the lows that inevitably follow. But this album is remarkable, not just because of what came after. I dare anyone to listen to "In My Time Of Dyin'" or "House Of The Rising Sun" and tell me otherwise. It took a while for this album to grow on me, though after my very first listen I couldn't help but play "In My Time Of Dying"' over and over, even humming the lyrics at work. "Talkin' New York", "Pretty Peggy-O", "Song to Woody" and a few others could have fit perfectly on any of the three albums that followed this one. We also get a lot more of a yodeling sound in "Man Of Constant Sorrow" and "Freight Train Blues." I rated this album five stars because I love it and everything else by Bob, but I wouldn't choose this to start your collection. Having said that my first cd was the live bootleg 1966, so maybe it doesn't really matter where you begin. One last thing is about the quality. I own the old cd version and have just purchased the remastered version. WHATEVER YOU DO, SPEND THE COUPLE EXTRA BUCKS AND GET THE REMASTERED VERSION. There's nothing explicitely wrong with the old one, but the too aren't in the same league sonicly.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lots of people need to own this..., March 16, 2007
By 
William E. Adams (Midland, Texas USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Bob Dylan (Audio CD)
1. Any real Dylan fan should have his debut release, just to know that Bob did not spring from the earth singing "Like a Rollin' Stone."

2. Any true fan of traditional folk should have a copy, to hear what the 20-year-old found interesting way back in 1962.

3. Anyone interested in the history of American recorded music in the second half of the 20th century should shelve this CD, in order to appreciate that once upon a time, Columbia Records paid smart people to find unique talents and produce records by them, even if they had no audience at the moment, and were not likely to win a big one with their first effort.

4. Bob's original "Song to Woody" is of historic significance, since at this early stage of Dylan's professional career, he was visiting Guthrie in the hospital, meeting Cisco Houston, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Pete Seeger and other friends of the tragic genius.

5. It grows on you, even if you don't like blues and Dylan's early voice so much. His guitar and harmonica playing are also strong on this one.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Back Where It All Begins, September 5, 2005
This review is from: Bob Dylan (Audio CD)
Hearing Bob Dylan's 1962 debut album is quite a revelatory experience. After forty years of albums of varying quality and varying musical styles, Dylan's very first LP might be shocking to the first-time listener. Here we have a 20-year-old Bob Dylan performing thirteen blues and folk songs with a gusto that he has rarely displayed since. I can't say it enough: these recordings are simply astounding. Dylan doesn't simply perform these songs. He attacks them as if he's out to prove himself to the world (Just look at that smug picture on the cover). He's announcing to the world: "Here is Bob Dylan. A name that you will never forget". This results in one of the most invigorating recordings of Dylan's career. Although only two of the songs were written by Dylan ("Talkin' New York" and "Song To Woody"), this is a fantastic album. Some of his best singing and guitar and harmonica playing are to be found here. He makes all of the traditional songs uniquely his own and delivers them in a sincerity you would never have guessed possible for a 20-year-old kid.

This album is not what you would call one of Dylan's masterpieces, however it is an electrifying record that any serious fan of Bob Dylan should seek out. It's a rare glimpse at a young and hungry Bob eager to make his mark on the musical world. Highly recommended for all but newcomers.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Dylan's schooling in Americana; essential to Dylan students, October 10, 2007
This review is from: Bob Dylan (Audio CD)
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.
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Bob Dylan by Bob Dylan (Audio CD - 2005)
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