Bob Dylan,
Essential Bob Dylan
(Sony, 2000)

There's nothing essential about it, folks. I own more than 50 Bob Dylan albums, so I can make an "essential" Dylan compilation that would earn the respect of the biggest Dylan freak of them all. As someone who knows the music of Dylan better than his own mother, I am telling you that to call this double disc set an "essential" collection is like insisting the Empire State Building is still the tallest skyscraper in the world.

This collection excludes Blonde on Blonde's "I Want You," and that is egregious enough. But "I Want You" is not nearly the only track conspicuous by its absence, and enormous questions arise when assessing the track list of this skimpy collection. The point is that every album Bob Dylan released from 1961 to 1967 is "essential." Anyone wanting to hear their piece of history should start with those albums, not this pathetic compilation posing as a completist's dream.

This is no dream. Far from it. The collection doesn't just speed over the next three decades of Dylan's career, it berates them, rendering them almost wholly insignificant. The only way to do justice to Dylan's career is in a comprehensive boxed set of at least four CDs, and that is the only such project worthy of the word "essential" when it's placed before the name of Bob Dylan. I am not just an over-exuberant fan or a "completist" concocting a "lost classics of Bob Dylan" list. I could have named dozens of tunes that are missing from this disc and made a compelling case for each of them -- and yet Columbia wants to call this an "essential" compilation.

- Rambles
written by Gianmarc Manzione
published 12 April 2003

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