Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits Vol. II

Bob Dylan

Columbia, 1971

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


When Columbia Records was faced with the reality of Bob Dylan not releasing any new music in the mid '60s following his motorcycle accident, they found the ultimate solution (though they were not the first label to release such a disc): put out a greatest hits collection.

In 1971, they faced a similar situation, though this was now due to contract negotiations Dylan was having with CBS Records (and, brother, when's the last time you heard that moniker?). So, back to the well they went – only this time, they did so with Dylan's cooperation, leading to the inclusion of a few songs that had never been released to that point.

The end result, Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits Vol. II, is yet another disc that, paired with its older, single-disc brother, could be a great introduction to Dylan and his work for people unfamiliar with him.

Granted, a whopping four new albums had been released since the first best-of disc hit store shelves – and one of those, my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Self Portrait, was reviled by fans and critics alike. But the 21 selections included here are a nice snapshot of Dylan's work (even if The Times They Are A-Changin' and his self-titled debut are ignored this time around). Yes, diehard fans will wring their hands that a certain favorite of theirs was passed up – perhaps again – when this was compiled.

As it turns out, the new material proves to be the highlight of the release – possibly setting the mold so many other labels would follow, of putting out multiple discs of the same crap with one song never before released, so that drooling fans would keep buying the same songs over and over again just for that one new track. Fortunately, Dylan gives the faithful six such songs.

The opening number, “Watching The River Flow,” had been released as a single earlier in the year, so you could rightfully say it had been released. It just had never been released on an album, so I'll call that one on a technicality. On this song, as well as a few of the other new tracks, the influence that Dylan's time with The Band had on his music is very obvious – and, in fact, seems to have given him a new spark of creativity that he desperately needed.

Similarly, “When I Paint My Masterpiece” seems to have that rhythmic plodding that was part of many early songs from Levon Helm and company (and, here, plod is not meant negatively). It makes the listener wonder why it hadn't been released on any album up until this point. “I Shall Be Released” has a similar style to it, and almost sounds like a clone of the previous track at times, while “Down In The Flood” and “You Ain't Goin' Nowhere” are solid efforts that would not have sounded out of place on any of Dylan's more recent albums to that point.

Ironically, the best effort turns out to be a live track recorded in 1963, “Tomorrow Is A Long Time.” Dylan's delivery is clear and pure, and makes the listener wish that more had been released from that particular show. (Remember, to this point, there had not been a live album released by Dylan, and it would be a few more years until Before The Flood hit store shelves.)

Like its predecessor, Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits Vol. II is one of those rare best-of collections which tends to live up to its billing, and the addition of previously unreleased tracks make this a nice addition to any fan's collection.

Rating: B+

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