Bob Dylan,
Good as I Been to You
(Sony, 1992)

One good thing about writing reviews is the fact that I am often compelled to pick up things I have ignored for a long time. When this album was released, I snatched it up, listened to it a few times and proceeded to forget about it for some reason. Being less of a Dylan addict at the time, the fact that this album consisted basically of folk music accompanied by impeccable acoustic guitar did not strike me as very significant, and I was slightly disappointed that these songs were all covers. I was not used to this kind of Dylan music, and for that reason I believe this CD failed to captivate me at the time.

Listening to it now, I am amazed by this album's greatness. Acoustic guitar, harmonica and Dylan's uniquely raspy vocal musings -- that's really all Dylan ever needed, and Good as I Been to You is proof that what was true in the 1960s was just as true in the '90s and will be true until Dylan's greatness is snatched away from this Earth.

These songs are all mesmerizing, but "Hard Times" deserves special attention as Dylan pours his heart and soul into the song. "Arthur McBride" is another incredible storytelling saga. "Tomorrow Night" particularly shows off Dylan's harmonica-playing, and the song's familiarity provides an opening for those seeking to appreciate this impressive album and proves once again that Dylan can in fact sing a love song with great feeling. Don't think that these tracks are all slow and somber anthems, though; a quick listen to "Step It Up & Go" will show you that Dylan can infuse tons of energy into folk music.

Good as I Been to You is Dylan at his most natural, and one can only sit back and revel in the storytelling prowess of one of music's most influential and legendary performers.

Looking back on this album, I can't help but consider it the product of an exceedingly important phase in Dylan's evolution as an artist and musician, one in which he looked back to his roots and drew sustenance for the incredible comeback he would make in coming years. With the mixed success of albums such as Under the Red Sky, clearly it can be said that Dylan was floundering musically at the time this particular album was recorded. While some questioned his decision to record an album of covered folk and blues songs at this particular time, Dylan knew what he was doing, and what he was doing was reinventing himself yet again in preparation for hours and hours of incredible new music with which to delight fans and critics alike in coming years.

I think many Dylan fans will now agree that this album keeps getting better as the years go by, but at the same time I can see where those unfamiliar with Dylan's musical progression might not warm up to it so easily for the simple fact that it will probably differ greatly from their expectations.

- Rambles
written by Daniel Jolley
published 16 July 2005

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