Bob Dylan - The Essential / Curtis Mayfield - Soul Legacy

Two different ends of the musical spectrum, but both the work of true musical legends. It seems almost irrelevant to be sat here reviewing what is a Best of (Dylan) and a 4 CD box set (Mayfield) as there is little more you can add to the legend. Perhaps the only valid way to look at these retrospective collections is to look at the long lasting effect both these artist have had. While you may not necessarily be a fan there's almost certainly a level of respect from any true music fan.

Curtis Mayfield's "Soul Legacy" almost certainly one for the hard-core fans only. A 4 CD / 77 track box set complete with a 56 page booklet. It almost goes without saying but you'd be hard pressed to find any current R&B or Hip-Hop artists who haven't been touched by music of Mayfield. Whether its the party tracks like "Movin On Up" or the social commentary of "This Is My Country" the emotion seeps through. The latter perhaps more relevant to a listener who seeps himself in the political rap of Public Enemy or the Clash's "London Calling". You just don't get the same consciousness in modern soul music - it never moves on from the "I love you baby / I Miss you baby / I want you back" school of song writing.

Times may have changed but much of the same problems still remain. "Billy Jack", tackling the issue of American gun culture in a more sensitive and intelligent way than dozens of gangster rappers could even imagine. "Miss Black America" is perhaps the precursor to a thousand independent women like TLC or Destiny's - and all this written by a man's ambitions for his daughter. As a social commentator you can't ask for more than the truth and Curtis delivers. This is his truth now tell me yours.

On the other side we have Dylan influencing a whole host of guitar bands. Its almost a cruel and twisted fate that the most prolific songwriter of the 20th century couldn't hold a note if his life depended on it. What he lacked in vocal ability he made up in vocal originality and if anything he worked a punk ethic before the word was even invented. Vocally you can still hear the lazy sneer in leftfield artists such as The Fall and Stephen Malkmus. But with Bob it was all about the songs. "Like A Rolling Stone", "Subterranean Homesick Blues", "Mr Tambourine Man"...... need we really go on. If the likes of Travis and Coldplay are mentioned 40 years down the line then I'll throw my hands up and admit I know fuck all about music (for my sake however I feel I'm pretty safe in that assumption).

Released for his 60th birthday "The Essential Bob Dylan" is a perfect introduction. 36 tracks over 2 CD's with a fairly realistic price tag. They say everyone should check out Bob Dylan and this ultimately is the best introduction you can ask for. Whether you're an old veteran wanting to update your old vinyl collection or simply a youngster who's heard Gabrielle's "Rise" - this is a must buy.

Alex McCann