The Definitive Ranking of Bob Dylan Studio Albums, From Worst to Best

There’s no better way to celebrate the greatest American songwriter’s 75 th birthday than to stoke reader outrage by attempting to rank his work, album by album.”>

Bob Dylan, one of the greatest and most influential songwriters of all time, turns 75 on Tuesday. To celebrate his graceful march onward into advanced years, Ive decided to look back upon his awe-inspiring career and rank each album, from best to worst.

Some key criteria considered for this venture: level of songwriting, lyricism, and instrumentation; critical and commercial success; significance within the frameworks of Dylans overall discography; lasting influence on other artists; and general fan consensus based exclusively on having a thumb to the wind of online and print dialogues about his career.

This list seeks to be a more honest look at Dylans career, as far too many listicles weigh heavily in favor of the 60 s at the expense of subsequent decades, perhaps out of deference to long-standing clichs that Dylan the Protest Folkie and Dylan the Inventor of Modern Rock n Roll are the only Dylans who matter. You might be shocked, however, to learn that some of Dylans best work occurred when he was well over the hill and his original Boomer fanbase had become grandparents.

But because no two Bob Dylan fans ever fully agree on Bob Dylan, I understand the vein-bursting rage some of you are able experience upon reading this list. Feel free to start a discussion with me on social media, as theres likely nothing Id enjoy more. Especially if your message is in all-caps and seething with hate.

And, on that note, let’s get started 😛 TAGEND

Look, the music here isnt bad, per se. In fact, its mildly refreshing to hear a 68 -year-old Dylan goof around for 42 minutes of unabashed yuletide exhilaration( you can thank this record for the bizarro Must Be Santa music video ). But, call me a grinch, this record is only downright inessentialeven in December.

Essential track( s ): Must Be Santa, if only for the chuckles.

36. Dylan( 1973)

Dylan apparently foresaw that this would be the most widely panned album of his career: He fought against its release. The collect of Self Portrait outtakes( tells you all you need to know) featured no original anthems and is flat-out unlistenable.

Essential track( s ): Spanish Is the Loving Tongue, if only to understand how truly magnificent the piano-centric version released a few years earlier as a b-side to “Watching the River Flow” was by comparison.

35. Down in the Groove( 1988)

Not even a pair of lyrical collaborations with Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter could save this easy-breezy, boring-as-hell trainwreck. Be thankful, however: This record launched Dylans Never Ending Tour and gave us Death Is Not the Objective, which Nick Cave and friends beautifully construed a decade later.

Essential track( s ): Death Is Not the Objective and Silvio, the Dylan-Hunter collabo that found new life as a live song.

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