The Essential Bob Dylan
While Bob Dylan's remarkable body of work is far too large and complex to lend itself to easy compilation, this 30-song double-CD package does a very reasonable job of presenting a balanced overview of Dylan's oeuvre, touching on the various junctures of his multifarious career while not always falling back on the most obvious hits. Unlike Columbia's three Greatest Hits comps and the sprawling Biograph box set, Essential is arranged chronologically, so it functions as a fascinating guided tour through the visionary -- and sometimes baffling -- twists and turns of the artist's unique career. The track selection does a good job of demonstrating Dylan's leap from such immortal folkie protest anthems as "Blowin' in the Wind," "It Ain't Me Babe," and "The Times They Are A-Changin' " toward the more ambitious surrealist poetry of "Like a Rolling Stone," "Positively 4th Street," and "Subterranean Homesick Blues," followed by his subsequent return to relatively straightforward insight in '70s tunes such as "Tangled Up in Blue" and "Hurricane," and it brings the story up to date with the haunting "Not Dark Yet" (from the 1997 comeback disc Time Out of Mind) and the non-album "Things Have Changed" (from the Wonder Boys film soundtrack. Of course no two-CD package can completely do justice to an arist as prolific -- and as profound -- as Dylan, but Essential offers a sensibly assembled, user-friendly introduction to his remarkable output.