Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan

Columbia Records, 1962

REVIEW BY: Jeff Clutterbuck


Imagine walking into a record store in 1962, strolling up and down the aisles, briefly flipping through that stack or this stack, and coming upon one particular album. You absorb the cover, the liner notes, and the like. That face on the cover is going to be known for decades to come, but right now it's just another face in a sea of faces. What really comes through when examining that cover is the confidence. There’s just a hint of a smirk, but this young kid, whoever he is, knows what he’s doing.

It’s hard to remove what Bob Dylan means to the American culture, zeitgeist, whatever you want to call it when it comes discussing his music. So much of it has been analyzed and critiqued; it’s probably not ridiculous to think there’s a Dylan 101 class on college campuses across the country. Going back to that store in ’62, it’s a near impossible task to start at the beginning with Dylan and not think of what was to come.  Yet when we start there, at the beginning, that 19-year-old kid staring back at you from the cover has no idea what to think.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

What hasn’t changed from 1962 is how striking of a personality Dylan exudes. One would never categorize Dylan’s voice as “generic,” even from this, the start of his career. The slurry speech, the gentle nods at humor, the weariness that he possessed even at 19 add character to this simple album. At times you are convinced that you are listening to someone far older, someone whose life has worn them down.

The majority of the tracks on Bob Dylan are not composed by its namesake. Instead, there are songs that had existed in the folk/blues community for quite some time. “In My Time Of Dying” and “The House Of The Rising Sun” are the most familiar to the modern day audience, albeit in different forms. Zeppelin’s eleven minute take on the former and the Animals’ rock epic version of the latter are great in their own right, but hearing Dylan interpret them in his style was quite fascinating.

The two Dylan originals are “Talkin’ New York” and “Song To Woody,” but of the two, “Talkin’ New York” is the most interesting. The way Dylan portrays New York is both complementary and negative; his fish out of water take on the city’s skyscrapers are the standard fare one expects the first time they visit. The jabs that Dylan then takes at Greenwich Village, the folk community, and the general lifestyle of the city is more in line with what we’d come to expect from Mr. Zimmerman.

There’s not much to actually digest on Bob Dylan; the record is straightforward. The seeds are there, the picture is starting to take shape, but if we are in our record store in 1962, what comes next? The remarkable thing about Bob Dylan is the fact that he became Bob Dylan. The music business is a cruel one, with far more crushing failures than uplifting successes. For all we knew, this kid would never have amounted then anything to more than one decent album. Of course, we all know how the story actually turned out...

Rating: B-

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© 2012 Jeff Clutterbuck and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Columbia Records, and is used for informational purposes only.