In anticipation of Scorsese’s Dylan doc No Direction Home (DVD out today, but airs on PBS next week), Entertainment Weekly breaks down the legend’s catalog for newbies. In addition to recommending the classics you should already own, the mag goes a step further, citing Dylan discs “for absolutely no one.”
Self Portrait (1970)
“What is this s—?” Greil Marcus famously wondered in Rolling Stone at the time. Answer: a motley, seemingly random assortment of cutesy curios, covers, and live tracks intended to throw worshippers off the scent of brilliance.
Street Legal (1978)
Released just before he found God, this suggests he was profoundly in need of some kind of born-again experience. Cloying female backing vocals fatally sandbag a set of so-so post-divorce material.
Dylan & the Dead (1988)
A marriage made in a surprisingly unheavenly place, with each party bringing out the other’s sloppy somnambulism. Almost any concert bootleg you could pick up handily beats this (and 1979’s At Budokan and 1984’s Real Live are almost as lame).
Down in the Groove (1988)
Fans debate whether this or 1986’s equally undercooked Knocked Out Loaded represents Dylan’s studio nadir. Notice we didn’t say passionately debate.
Under the Red Sky (1990)
Produced by Don and David Was with a musical cast including George Harrison, Slash, Elton, and Stevie Ray Vaughan. What could go wrong? Everything, actually, with Dylan phoning in his weakest batch of material ever, defended by a few stalwarts as “nursery-rhyme-inspired.” Mother Goose nearly sued.
Can’t really argue with their picks, as I don’t own ‘em. Anything you would add?