Bob DylanBob Dylan served as America's poet and conscience for years in the ‘60s and ‘70s, and of course, will always be noted for making folk music “go electric” when he decided to forego the acoustic for electric guitar. His career has lasted nearly 50 years and unlike most artists that started their careers in the ‘60s, he is not simply a nostalgia act in 2007, but still a vibrant musical creative force. Columbia has collected more than 50 of his best tracks to create the three-disc set titled simply Dylan.

The song list is a daunting parade of ubiquituous titles: “Blowin' in the Wind,” “The Times They Are A-Changin',” “It Ain't Me, Babe,” “Mr. Tambourine Man,” “Like A Rolling Stone,” “Maggie's Farm,” “If Not For You,” “It's All Over Now, Baby Blue,” “All Along the Watchtower,” “Lay Lady Lay,” “Knockin' On Heaven's Door,” “Tangled Up in Blue,” “Gotta Serve Somebody,” “Everything is Broken,” “Silvio,” “Make You Feel My Love” and more. Chances are, even if you've never listened to Dylan himself, you know a bunch of those songs, since dozens of artists have covered (and had hits with) his songs.

Dylan is a daunting survey of the career of an amazing poet and artist who helped change the face of popular music. And it only scratches the surface of his depths. Pick it up and be amazed… and endlessly entertained.

 

will.i.amwill.i.am
Songs About Girls
(Interscope)
½


As the production and partial vocal force of Black Eyed Peas, will.i.am has had more than your usual batch of pop star success. But not content to simply operate within the boundaries of a group, he's produced other artists, including the recent solo outing from the Peas' Fergie, and now he finally drops a solo album of his own.

The result is a mixed but usually interesting, if not always exciting bag of tricks. will.i.am's vocals are not particularly elastic, but he makes up for his vocal limitations with a survey of pop music styles and help from background vocalists, as well as a guest appearance on “The Donque Song” from Snoop Dogg.

From the ELO-sampled ‘70s-meets-modern-hiphop mix of the leadoff track “Opener” to the Black-Eyed Peas call-and-response formula of “I Got It From My Mama” to the Carribean flavor of “She's a Star” to the '80s urban soul of the stripper celebration “Get Your Money,” Will manages to stroll through musical styles like a series of costume changes, without ever losing the core of his own (occasionally over-repetitive) sound.

Some tracks hold up better than others (did we really need another ‘80s cool urban electro-voice groove like “Impatient” or a yawn-inducing “la-la-la” scheme like “One More Chance”?) but songs like “I Got It From My Mama” and the Jackson 5-esque bubblegum-grooved “Fantastic” are worth the price of the disc alone.

Overall, there're plenty of hooks of wide variety to get stuck on with “Songs About Girls.” And for those who want to dig deeper, this is supposedly an album that follows the rise and fall of a past will.i.am romance, so it follows the exuberant lust of first love through the “gosh baby I'm sorry give me one more chance” to the “so sad it's over” flavor in the lyrics.

Autobiographical or not, this is a collection of impeccably produced, if not always exceptionally memorable, pop music.

 

—John Everson