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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Here We Go Again: Neil Young vs. Bob Dylan


We do sometimes find faux rivalries to be a bit wearisome at times.

Like that whole Ronnie vs. Neil thing is so yesterday.

But it seems like some folks just can't resist a good debate like the never ending Bob vs. Neil thing which we waded into a few years ago with pretty hilarious results.

And -- of course -- we all know that music isn't about which band is better like some sort of sports competition where there are winners and losers.

With that said, we bring you another chapter in the never ending Bob Dylan vs. Neil Young saga. No, we don't dream this stuff up or go looking for it. Folks do find these kinds of discussions fascinating and when it is done well, it can be insightful. So here goes.

From You Set the Scene: East Coast vs. West Coast: Neil Young vs. Bob Dylan:
Songwriting: These are two of the most prolific, respected songwriters of all time. By my count, Neil's got ten albums and 85 songs that are pretty fantastic. No slouch either, Dylan's got at least a dozen critically acclaimed records and probably 60 songs that (I think) are pretty fantastic. Dylan also got all those one liners that are ingrained in our culture. Edge: Too close to call

Voice/Musicianship: Both artists have unmistakably unique voices that are a bit of an acquired taste. Dylan can be a chameleon with his. Put some of his country records on the turntable and the average music fan probably wouldn't recognize it as Dylan. Neil's able to use his limited range in a slightly prettier way. While Neil never claims to be a good guitar player, most fans would strongly disagree. Dylan doesn't quite have the same cachet. Edge: Neil Young

Cool Factor: Dylan's cool is more rooted in a beatnik-y, mid to late 1960s thing while Neil's is more rooted in that early to mid-1970s Topanga Canyon vibe. Neither artist has shied away from politics - Dylan with the civil rights movement and Neil Young's "Ohio" was a huge anti-war anthem. They both had periods of uncool too - Dylan's born-again phase and Neil's Republican phase. Neil Young wrote "This Note's For You" and Dylan appeared with in a Pepsi ad (I'll excuse him for Victoria's Secret, but Escalade?). In the end, it's really hard to find anybody who has been as cool for as long as Neil Young. Edge: Neil Young

Influence/Legacy: Both artists will leave behind incredible legacies. They've influenced both directly and indirectly anybody who has picked up a guitar (including each other). Not to discount Neil, but Dylan started earlier and was able to leave a more distinct legacy. There's really no modern substitute for Dylan. Edge: Bob Dylan

The final verdict can be found on You Set the Scene.

If that's not enough, see Bob Dylan and Neil Young's musical influence and inspirations.

Want more Bob & Neil stories?

Try Top 10 Reasons Why Neil Young is Better Than Bob Dylan or Top 10 Reasons Not to Goof With Bob Dylan Fans.


At 7/25/2009 01:30:00 PM, Anonymous TM said...

Last fall I saw Neil Young perform two and half hour sets in Worcester and New York, respectively. They were blistering sonic and emotional extravaganzas. You can close your eyes and his voice can sound exactly as it did 40 years ago. The same cannot be said for Dylan. I just saw him perform for a scant hour in Pawtucket, RI. His brief performance was a stylized kabuki of songs from several periods, his spooky croak/wreckage of a voice blended into a staccato, droning sameness.

Game, set, match for The Neil.


At 7/25/2009 02:36:00 PM, Blogger Rink's Ramblings said...

I'm sorry but as much as I love Neil Young he can't hold a candle to Bob Dylan as a songwriter.

At 7/25/2009 03:27:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why Neil "versus" Bob ? Really, I don't understand this debate.
Another idea for a debate : Why Neil doesnt play with Crazy horse, dammit ?

At 7/25/2009 03:55:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You keep forgeting one think: neither Neil Young nor Bob Dylan ever wanted to be famous. They weren't looking for fame and they don't do that now. It's not pop music or whatever you may call it. So it has no purpose to push such crap out to the world.

I think it's very stupid from Thrasher to even put such posts on this blog. I know it's just linked/cited from another source, but for us who love this cosmic music and try to ignore such nonsense...well, it just makes me (us) very angry!

Only idiots write something like that. It's a wonder they still know how to breathe!

At 7/25/2009 04:17:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dylan wrote in a song about listening to Neil and he couldn't get it loud enough-advantage, Mr. Young.

At 7/25/2009 04:19:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

Anon @ 7/25/2009 03:55:00 PM:

I hear you.

As you point out, this is just something from another blog. Regular readers know how we feel about this whole debate as witnessed by the linked posts.

If you didn't check'em out, so now and come back then.

Of course it's absurd. Which is why we try and point out how ridiculous this all is.

Hope that helps.


At 7/25/2009 10:06:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's something from an interview with Neil in the new issue of Guitar World.

"One thing I'll tell you about the next volume of Archives is that Time Fades Away II is in there. And it's interesting because the whole thing has a different drummer than what was on that album. I switched drummers halfway through the tour- Kenny Buttrey was in there for the first half, and Johnny Barbata came in for the second. It's a completely different thing, with completely different songs. So that's interesting. There's lots of stuff like that that I'm working on right now for the second volume."

At 7/25/2009 10:46:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a die hard Neil fan (more so than a Dylan fan) but if you asked Neil he'd tell you Dylan deserves the greater legacy ... true, today there is nothing to debate about ... Neil's the best out there without a close second, but if you are talking about whose legacy is greater its hard to not say Dylan, who at his peak was the greatest of the great. Neil's greatness has been his consistency, putting out fantastic work year after year decade after decade to the present day .. and the same can be said for his touring ... in those ways Dylan can't touch Neil. But in the end Dylan's still the king, if only for the past.

At 7/25/2009 11:50:00 PM, Blogger heywally said...

'songwriting' needs to be broken down to lyrics and the music itself, largely the melodicness of it.

I don't really even understand comparing Dylan and Young because their music really was quite different.

Dylan was largely a great lyricist and Young was largely a great music writer.

NO ONE - in my lifetime anyway - comes close to the number of melodically great songs that Neil Young wrote and that includes people like McCartney (who 'tuned out' fairly early on compared to Neil).

Dylan's songs were brilliant lyrically and pretty good musically.

Both were very good acoustic players and Neil played a much better electric than Dylan.

Anyway ... I'll take Neil.

At 7/26/2009 03:27:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It probably makes sense to listen to what Neil says: "I'm a b-grader compared to this guy."

I love Neil Young dearly, but he's a couple of levels below Bob Dylan.

-- Glenn

At 7/26/2009 01:30:00 PM, Anonymous Wiggy said...

I don't like to say it, but I would rather listen to Bob Dylan's Together Through Life album more than NY's Fork in the Road. When compared I think Bob's new album outshines Neil musically, even though Bob reused some older tunes and rewrote the lyrics which is kinda odd for Dylan. I will give it to Neil though for writing an entire album about his Lincvolt, I don't know anyone else who could pump out that many tracks about their car and driving it around.

If you haven't already, check out the video for Beyond Here Lies Nothing.. Sorry Neil, I love you but this is way cooler than all those low budget videos of you driving around with your dog.

At 7/27/2009 05:25:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wiggy, I can't imagine which Dylan songs you are referring to ... "reused", "rewrote". Which ones?

-- Glenn

At 7/27/2009 06:45:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Neil's great -- he's actually a close relative. Neil's recent shows -- and he always has been primarily a live performer -- are among his best ever. The Dylan shows I've seen in the last few years have, in my opinion, been awful -- inaudible, a-melodic shouting and mumbling, mediocre backup bands and terrible sound.

That said, when I think of the most influential folk and rock acts that came out of the 60's, the real first tier, I think of Dylan, The Beatles, The Stones and Hendrix. I wouldn't quite put Neil in that company. He'd be second tier (with a lot of other incredibly talented bands and individuals that all of us can name).

This is really neither here nor there, though.

I just think it would've been cool if Neil had played with Bob, Harrison, Orbison et al in The Travelling Wilburys. Probably woulda been Shakey Wilbury . . .

At 7/28/2009 09:01:00 AM, Anonymous SONY said...

Neil or Bob?/Bob or Neil?

Man, that's like trying to figure out which of my two kids I love more.

One's an athlete, the other an artist. One drives me nuts, the other drives me crazy.

They both hold my heart.
No comparison necessary.

At 7/29/2009 08:38:00 AM, Anonymous SONY said...

"and he always has been primarily a live performer -- are among his best ever. The Dylan shows I've seen in the last few years have, in my opinion, been awful --"

I have also seen both somewhat recently. The last Dylan show he played keyboards all night. Rip-off. I don't mind that he can't play his own songs the same way twice, that's a decent groove to anticipate. But he's a helluva guitar player and to sit through a stringless Dylan was disappointing. Prior ensembles with his 'goth-country' band were excellent with him leading on accoustic and electric. Maybe the current ballpark tour with John and WIllie returns to that.

The Continental Tour on the other hand has had Neil doing it all! True to form (solo/monster electric, piano, organ, banjo...) So, there's an observation of where these two stand as current performers. One seems tired, the other fresh.

At 7/30/2009 02:17:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Time out of Mine" is a fabulous album in every respect - song writing (although Bob was accused of ripping off some Japaneese guy's novel), musicianship, breadth of different styles, and (yes) Dylan's singing. Bob does a decent job (with his limitations) on record.

I have been SOOOOOOOOO disappointed when I've seen him in concert. He tries. It just doesn't work. He could be anybody (except anybody would sing better live).

The best concert I've ever been to was Neil's tour of smaller venues right after Chrome Dreams II was released. He pays attention to the performance, the audience, the acoustics, the arrangements, the pacing.

In the big scheme of things, Bob is greater - no doubt about it. But there is "no one greater than yourself". But the Bob Dylan of 1965-1966 (or even Blood on the Tracks) doesn't exist and hasn't for a long time. The Neil of EKTIK is still with us. Neil's latter career has more relevance.

At 8/03/2009 01:46:00 AM, Blogger ned said...

A comment above states that "neither wanted to be famous".

That is not at all true! Both were seething with ambition. Both aggressively sought success and the fame and wealth that came with it. And once famous, each exerted an iron grip on their career.

Without Bob Dylan there would have been no Neil Young. Bob created being a "singer/songwriter".
Even the Beatles thought so.

Neil's voice has held up better and his guitar playing has always been better though.

At 6/23/2011 03:32:00 AM, Anonymous stampschick said...

Saying that without Dylan there would have been no Neil is a loaded remark. MANY performer/ songwriters would not have come into existence without someone, or others, that came before. You could even say that there would have been no Bob Dylan without Dylan Thomas--after all that's where his professional name came from, and who he drew his early inspiration from. EVERYperformer or songwriter was inspired by SOMEONE. Even those who have no peer in the music industry say they were inspired by those who came before them, such as The Beatles. When asked, they always named performers such as Little Richard, The Shirells, Marvin Gaye, Hank Williams, etc. So, to say that Neil isn't as great as Dylan because he sites Dylan as an inspiration, therefore, isn't necessarily so, then is it?

At 6/21/2012 06:47:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

I'll take Bob in his "born-again" phase and Neil in his "Republican" phase anytime over what either of them are doing now.

At 5/30/2016 06:10:00 PM, Blogger Ensino quem não sabe said...

Love them both, but i would put Neil with Lennon or maybe Marley, with other 3/4 names after, i ´m thinkin about JJcale, Buddy Guy, Eric Clapton, Jonh Foggerty, Bob Seger, Ottis Redding...Don´t forget the bands, The Stones, Zeppelin, Beatles, The Doors, The Band, Pink Floyd, Creedence, and what about Deep Purple or Whitesnake, Dire Straits or Lynard Skynard, The Eagles & Supertramp, Tom Petty or Hendrix, George Harrison or Ian Hunter, there are so many...I´m thinkin about Neil at Bob Dylan 50th anniversary, just look at the guy´s face, that say´s enough. Bob is head & shoulders above anyone else, Tom Petty said that. I´ve listen almost every Neil Young album, Neil was a big part in my musical life and still is, i´ll be seeing him 3 weeks from now, my 4th time, but for me his last amazing album was Ragged Glory 1990, last Bob amazing album was Love&theft 2001, and yes Bob has 60 great songs BEFORE Neil appeared on the scene, after that 200 more. The question in my oppinion about this debate is that usualy people who like Dylan know more about Neil´s music than the opposite. Most of the people i know who are big Neil Young fans, don´t have enough knowledge about Bob Dylan music. That said love both guys & their music.


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