The critics’ view

The critics’ view

New albums by Bob Dylan and Neil Young in the same week? Did I wake up this morning in the 1970s?

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This week?s release, Rough and Rowdy Ways, is the fortieth album of Bob Dylan?s career, excluding the archival Bootleg Series.

As in previous stories, I triangulated the views of music critics and fans to create the definitive ranking of Bob Dylan?s albums.

Data for the critics? view come from the meta-site Album of the Year(AOTY).

Image for postTop 20 Bob Dylan albums ? ranked by music critics (Data source: AOTY)

The new album comes in at a very respectable number 8, edging out the fan-favorite, Highway 61 Revisited. According to critics, this is Dylan?s best album of the 21st century, to date.

The fans? view

As usual, I used Rate Your Music (RYM), the biggest crowd-ranking site, for the fans? view.

Image for postTop 20 Bob Dylan albums ? ranked by music fans (Data source: RYM)

Although not as rapturous as the critics, music fans so far have also placed the new album high in Dylan?s oeuvre ? number 12.

Critics vs fans

There is a broad consensus between critics and fans regarding the ranking of Dylan?s albums. The chart below shows this graphically.

Image for postThe albums of Bob Dylan ? critics? vs fans? rankings

Critics? ranks are on the horizontal axis and fans? ranks are on the vertical axis. The diagonal line is the ?line of agreement? between critics and fans.

The biggest differences of opinion related to two mid-seventies albums, Planet Waves (1974) and Desire (1976). Fans rate these number 20 and number 6, respectively. Critics are not so enamored, rating them number 32 and number 21 respectively. Going in the other direction are Infidels (1983), Shadows in the Night (2015) and Triplicate (2017). These were ranked significantly higher by critics than fans ? numbers 12, 18, 22 vs numbers 23, 29, 33.

The combined view

Given the general agreement between critics and fans, it is unsurprising that eight of the top 20 albums are from the 1960s. Remarkably though, every decade since then is also represented. A table with all forty albums is included at the end of this story.

Image for postTop 20 Bob Dylan albums ? ranked by music critics and fans

The new album just makes it into the top 10.

Career trajectory

The following chart shows the ranks of Bob?s albums over time.

Image for postAlbums of Bob Dylan ? career trajectory

There are several distinct phases:

1963?1969: Genius ? eight brilliant albums in seven years that defined a genre and an era.

1970?1974: Is he finished? The rate of new releases continued, but the impact had waned.

1974?1976: Genius redux ? four albums in three years that emphatically answered the question.

1978- 1993: Mid-career ? with nothing to prove, the pace of releases slowed only a little and their caliber was more variable.

1997?2006: Genius redux, redux ? the pace may have slowed even further, but these three albums were worth the wait.

2009?2017: Late career ? a solid body of work that would be the highlight of most artists? careers and which pales only in comparison to Bob?s earlier peaks.

2020: ? ? Rough and Rowdy Ways ? a new decade and an excellent new album.

Complete listing

Here is the full ranking of all forty albums.

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Earlier music stories

Here are a few other music stories that I?ve written recently. I hope you enjoy them. Every week I publish story in the Best New Albums series (which used to be titled New Music Weekly). These look at the most interesting albums released each week, and also chart the best twenty albums released in 2020 according to critics and fans.

19 June: The Best New Albums ? Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Phoebe Bridgers and more

12 June: The Best New Albums ? Christian Lee Hutson, Orlando Weeks, Norah Jones, Jehnny Beth and more

5 June: The Best New Albums ? Freddie Gibbs, Run the Jewels, Natalia Lafourcade and more

29 May: The Best New Albums ? Jeff Rosenstock, Steve Earle, Monophonics, Owen Pallett and more

24 May: An AI falls for Mick Jagger

22 May: The Best New Albums ? Charli XCX, Paradise Lost, Yung Lean and more

15 May: The Best New Albums ? Perfume Genius, The Soft Pink Truth, Ka, Moses Sumney and more

9 May: An AI Talks to Paul McCartney

8 May: New Music Weekly ? Hayley Williams, new queen of pop?

2 May: Ranked: The Best Albums of April 2020

1 May: New Music Weekly ? Oranssi Pazuzu, Boston Manor, Katatonia, BC Camplight and more

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