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. 26 of 33: Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (1973)
Except for the hugely popular “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door,” there’s nothing spectacular about this folksy/country collection of mostly soundtrack-type instrumentals. The music is pleasant — but not particularly moving. In fact, it’s kind of mellow for a soundtrack, especially for a film about the old West.
Besides “Knockin,” the best tracks have the title of “Billy” (It doesn’t hurt that that’s my name). Of these four songs, the best is “Billy 1,” which ends with some actual lyrics. “The Final Theme” is kind of nice and laid-back, and there’s some nice picking on “Bunkhouse Theme.”
I can’t say anything bad or great about this album, but it’s the beginning of the climb of better and better Dylan releases. Of course, “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” alone is worth the listen. Dylan had a small role in the movie, which I haven’t seen in years.
Once again, I’m trying to avoid deeper analysis of songs because I’m saving that for my song rankings.
Let’s hear what you have to say! Share your thoughts in the comments below or on Facebook.
Journalist Bill Spurge of New York City has been a Bob Dylan fan since 1974.