The Original Mono Recordings
By Doug ColletteJanuary 05, 2011
The Original Mono Recordings of Bob Dylan
are almost as much of a revelation as those of The Beatles, albeit for different reasons. The Bard from Minnesota never took recording as seriously as the Liverpool quartet, but his music lends itself better to the vintage recording technique. A fifteen-track collection culled from his first eight albums illustrates why.
The simplicity of the recording method magnifies the artistry of Dylan’s songs especially as began to reinvent the genre with visionary tunes such as “The Times They Are A’Changin'.” The lyric images within “Chimes of Freedom” resound even more graphically as (comparatively) young Bob voices combinations of words that would sound precious or pretentious coming from the mouths of other less stylish supremely self-confident writers and performers. Even his voice, reedy as it is, carries more than a little resonance.
The monaural audio mix suits the sound of Bob Dylan in electric mode almost equally well. Certainly the blues at the heart of “Tombstone Blues” doesn’t need much polish; in fact, the music sounds more authentic that way, right down to Michael Bloomfield’s snarling lead guitar. And the groove Dylan’s accompanists dig into so deeply on “Like A Rolling Stone” and Positively 4th Street” only becomes so evident because the individual instruments seem to have more space around them in the single channel: stereo may have in fact diffused the impact of the musicianship.
After all, how much of an aural spectrum do you need for a single man playing acoustic guitar and harmonica and singing? As on “Song for Woody,” the clarity of sound amplifies the rough-hewn nature of the performance, the spirit of which is that of a natural musician refusing to sound too polished for his own good. The savvy likes of such recordings (also available in a deluxe vinyl collection) will move future generations the way those of his own heroes inspired Bob Dylan.