Friday, September 19, 2008

Greatest Hits vol 2 – an even weaker compilation

If Bob Dylan – Greatest Hits was a poor compilation, the sequel, Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits vol 2, was even weaker

Rush-released in Europe in 1967 (and totally different to the US release of the same name), following the success of Greatest Hits, it’s an even more cock-eyed compilation.

It duplicates three songs from the first volume. Seven of the 12 tracks come from Blonde On Blonde. And there’s nothing from Bob Dylan or The Times They Are A-Changin’.

And is there a Dylan CD with worse packaging? The cover is apologetically weak and both cover and disc itself tell of a song entitled Absolutely Sweet Mary!

The album has always been elusive. Both Brian Hinton and Michael Gray overlook it in their exhaustive reference books.

1. I Want You
2. One Of Us Must Know (Sooner Or Later)
3. It Takes A Lot To Laugh It Takes A Train To Cry
4. Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues
5. Masters Of War
6. Chimes Of Freedom
7. Just Like A Woman
8. Obviously Five Believers
9. Rainy Day Women 12 And 35
10. Gates Of Eden
11. Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat
12. Absolutely Sweet Marie

Gerry Smith



Greatest Hits – an embarrassingly poor compilation

I’ve tended to dismiss the critical mauling that Greatest Hits has attracted since release in 1967. Having bought and enjoyed the compilation LP on vinyl on release, I just didn’t get the negative vibes - it was one of the highlights of my nascent record collection. OK, the songs weren’t hits, but I took “hits” as a metaphor for “best-known songs”.

The cover artwork – dark browns dominant, with echoes of Rembrandt – seemed to elevate Dylan to his rightful place among the greats of Western art, well away from the rabble of fellow 1960s popsters.

But when I returned to Greatest Hits recently, the penny suddenly dropped. Good as its songs are, the 12-track UK version from March 1967 was an embarrassingly poor compilation.

The compilers of Greatest Hits had seven Dylan albums and umpteen singles to draw from, yet chose eight of the 12 tracks from just two LPs – Bringing It All Back Home and Blonde On Blonde. Yes, they’re both masterpieces but what a cock-eyed selection to include no singles (unlike the US/world version which had Positively 4th Street), nothing from the first album, Bob Dylan, and only a single track from the other four great albums of the period.

Greatest Hits has long been superseded in the Dylan catalogue. Good thing, too – it was the first missed opportunity in the discography – the first of many, according to some. I’ll be given a fairer hearing to the critics of CBS/Columbia/Legacy/Sony in future. Though the label generally does a fine job in showcasing Dylan, they’re not above criticism, as Greatest Hits demonstrates.

Gerry Smith