Ranking Bob Dylan’s 33 Studio Albums: No. 23 — ‘Together Through Life’

August 7th, 2012

By Bill Spurge

A year ago, I decided to complete my collection of Bob Dylan albums. I was a few albums and some odds and ends short, but I purchased most and swapped items with a co-worker and fellow Dylan fanatic.

Then, in honor of the 50th anniversary of his first album, 1962’s Bob Dylan, I set out to rank every Dylan album and song. A monumental task, indeed. I listened to album after album, four or five times through. Even albums I knew in my sleep were placed under scrutiny. Then came the hardest part: making the list. The albums came easier. The songs, not so easy.

My song list is coming soon. In the meantime, here’s my album-by-album ranking of Dylan’s 33 studio albums (NOTE: Dylan has actually released 34 studio albums, but I’ve chosen not to include 2009’s Christmas In the Heart. I have to have some ground rules.)

These 33 album-ranking stories will take us right up to the release of Tempest, Dylan’s new album, which is scheduled to come out September 11. Enjoy!

No. 23 of 33: Together Through Life (2009)

Not counting Tempest, which will be released September 11, Together Through Life is Dylan’s latest studio album of original songs. It was, however, mostly co-written with Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter, with whom Dylan feels a special writing kinship. Mike Campbell plays guitar, too. What can I say? This is pretty damn good work for a 66-year-old artist — and I wrestled with rating it a notch or two higher.

This is a solid, bluesy album with lots of inspired bluesy guitar-picking numbers. Tops for me are songs like “Shake Shake Mama,” “Beyond Here Lies Nothing” and “Jolene.” “My Wife’s Home Town” has some excellent guitar riffs. The album closes out with a strong song, “It’s All Good.”

Of course, Dylan certainly sounds 66, but his voice works pretty good on these numbers. There are other so-so songs, one a ’30s-style “Life Is Hard.”

I couldn’t rate this album higher than No. 20 or 21, and I’ve settled on No. 23. This is about as good as it gets for a 66-year-old Dylan. “It’s All Good.”

Journalist Bill Spurge of New York City has been a Bob Dylan fan since 1974.