Greatest hits albums have a tendency of being too commercially composed to be enjoyable listening and are rarely good representation of their respective artists. The exception is Bob Dylan’s second volume of greatest hits, which breathes with the soul of his music and passion for human understanding. As short love symposiums fall away to witty short stories, Volume II flows easily from great song to great song. With 22 selections, the album is comparable to some box sets, which command a steeper price. With whimsical sliding guitars, whining harmonicas, warm folk guitar melodies, and Dylan’s nasal wit, Volume II easily earns its “Greatest” title.
I stumbled cautiously upon the album one day while scavenging through my father’s dust-wrapped vinyl collection. I recognized the album cover as the Bangladesh promo, with Bob gazing knowingly into the shadowed screams of the glittering crowd. Hoping that a couple of Bangladesh cuts would be on it, I brought it up to the seclusion of my room.
While “Watching the River Flow” hummed through the stillness of my upstairs hallway, I searched the song titles for something obscurely eye-catching and ear-aching. From the beginning of our relationship I fell for the beat-up two-record collection. There are 22 amazingly poetic classics, none of which carry overwhelming popular stature.
If you’re a typical “Classical” Dylan fanatic, this album probably wouldn’t suit you. Unlike Volume I, Volume II appeals to more die-hard fans. You need to have righteous respect for the true mid-folk of Dylan’s music to enjoy the rarely untarnished cuts. With songs selected from the golden era of his music, the album has both the southwestern folk of “My Back Pages” and surreal romance of “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again,” which combine to create a strongly cohesive collection.
The cracking of the old vinyl adds a rustic, mellow groove to the songs which carry you into the facets of human emotion. There are only a handful of artists who can touch on the basic truths of humanity through their skill, but Bob Dylan accomplishes the impossible in easy middle class/high class style. I strongly recommend Volume II to any Dylan fan. If you only know the classics, it will broaden your taste; and if you are vintage listener, it will satisfy your wallet