Highway 61 Revisited, new University of Minnesota book: recommended, B+

July 29, 2009

Highway 61 Revisited: Bob Dylan’s Road From Minnesota To The World is an intermittently fine addition to the Dylan bookshelf.

Inevitably in a collection of 20 essays (originally delivered as papers at a 2007 symposium), it’s patchy, its chapters veering from the must-read to the, frankly, risible.

Half a dozen of Highway 61 Revisited’s articles cover important aspects of Dylan’s art, and do it with enviable expertise.

The star piece is Bob Dylan’s Memory Palace by Robert Polito, a minute dissection of Dylan’s literary references on the last few albums – from Ovid, Timrod, but oh so many more.

David Yaffe on Dylan’s debt to black musics, Charles Hughes on Civil Rights, Marilyn Chiat on the Jewish settlement of the Iron Range and Anne Waldman on the Beats are original and illuminating.

A second group of papers is solid, workmanlike, without adding much to the knowledge or perspective of the seasoned Dylan buff, though they will inform the book’s primary (student) market.

Several contributions are so peripheral that it crossed my mind that they might be put-ons.

As the Dylan book market grows, the rock scribes with limited horizons who used to rule the roost are being elbowed out by salaried intellectuals; many of them, bright and well-educated, have a lot to offer the seeker after Zim Truths.

Highway 61 Revisited is a welcome addition to the library. Place its best pieces alongside the pick of the recently published Cambridge Companion (reviewed on The Dylan Daily on 29 May) and it’s clear that Dylan Studies is coming of age, successfully addressing the mass market as well as the callow strollers in the Groves of Academe.

Recommended: B+.

Highway 61 Revisited: Bob Dylan’s Road From Minnesota To The World, edited by Colleen J Sheehy and Thomas Swiss, Minneapolis, University Of Minnesota Press, May 2009, pbk, 278pp, $22.95. ISBN 978-0-8166-6100-8

Gerry Smith

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Dylan: A Man Called Alias, by Richard Williams: yes, it is worth buying

March 2, 2009
* Thanks to Johanna Moore:

“In reply to you reader Pauline’s question I’d like to say that “A Man Called Alias” is a very nice coffee table book, though neither the written nor the photo content will be new to the avid Dylan reader.

“It is nice though to have some of the familiar photos well reproduced in large format though, like the picture of Bob’s young family in Woodstock in 1968.

“I picked up a (translated) copy of the book a couple of weeks ago on ebay at a decent price, read through it in two days, learned nothing new… but enjoyed it nonetheless. (Well, I aim to read as many Bob books as possible.)

”A journey to the bookstore might not even be necessary, as new and used bookselling website abebooks.co.uk /.com – both have copies available at decent prices, so you don’t even depend on ebay. Hope that helps.

”Now, if anyone could help me decide whether to get the Bob Dylan Copyright Files book that amazon (.de) is just selling out, I’d appreciate any advice.”

* And thanks to Martin Cowan:

“In response to Pauline Brett’s recent posting, I’ve just been flicking through the Richard Williams book.

“While not a great addition to the Dylan library (its brief sketchy text is forgettable), it does work, thanks to its lavish illustrations.

“At nearly 200 pages, with large black and white and colour photos on every page, the pictures alone probably make it worth picking up. Some of the pictures are ones we have seen elsewhere but it does also include more unfamiliar photos.

“So I’d say to Pauline – for the pictures, take a punt!”

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Dylan: A Man Called Alias, by Richard Williams: is it worth buying?

Thanks to Pauline Brett:

“I’d welcome advice from fellow readers.

“Is Dylan: A Man Called Alias, by Richard Williams and published as a large format book in the early 1990s, worth buying?

“I ask because a friend told me that a local used bookshop has a copy. Problem is, it’ll mean a dedicated journey, which could eat up half a day and I’m not sure it’s going to be worth it.

“If any Dylan Daily readers think the book is “vital” or “indispensable”, or similar, I’ll gladly make time…”

Dylan: A Man Called Alias, by Richard Williams: is it worth buying?

February 27, 2009
Thanks to Pauline Brett:

“I’d welcome advice from fellow readers.

“Is Dylan: A Man Called Alias, by Richard Williams and published as a large format book in the early 1990s, worth buying?

“I ask because a friend told me that a local used bookshop has a copy. Problem is, it’ll mean a dedicated journey, which could eat up half a day and I’m not sure it’s going to be worth it.

“If any Dylan Daily readers think the book is “vital” or “indispensable”, or similar, I’ll gladly make time…”

Bob Dylan’s albums: another beautiful little artefact… Dylan Bookshelf #143

February 6, 2009
At the same time as I bought the beautiful little Lyrics book (below) at Dussmann on Berlin’s Friedrichstrasse, I also picked up the earlier companion volume, Bob Dylan, a monograph covering Dylan’s album output, and also by Heinrich Detering.

It’s also a beautiful little artefact, clearly designed as a companion volume.

Bravo author Heinrich Detering and Reclam publishers!

Bob Dylan by Heinrich Detering, 2007, Philipp Reclam jun Stuttgart, 184pp, euro4.80, ISBN 978-3-15-018432-5

www.reclam.de

Bob Dylan by Heinrich Detering is the 143rd book added to my groaning Dylan bookshelf.

Gerry Smith

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EARLIER RELATED ARTICLE:

Bob Dylan Lyrics – for German speakers: a beautiful little artefact
Dylan Bookshelf #142

On a recent trip to Berlin – surely Europe’s most exciting city – I picked up Bob Dylan Lyrics, a tiny book which reproduces the (English) lyrics of about 50 songs, with a short essay on each.

I bought the book simply because it looks so good – of all the volumes on my Bob shelves, it’s one of the most striking.

(Like most readers of The Dylan Daily, I already have all the lyrics in the official books and would struggle to understand the German text anyway, so I bought it purely as an attractive artefact.)

It’s always been a puzzle just how listeners can fully appreciate great writing in a language other than their mother tongue – for example, my French is fairly good, but there’s no way I appreciate the subtlety of great French writers like Camus, Baudelaire or Balzac.

This book shows the way, by translating key words and phrases, especially those which might prove difficult for German readers.

Bravo Heinrich Detering and Reclam publishers!

Bob Dylan Lyrics, translated by Heinrich Detering, 2008, Philipp Reclam jun Stuttgart, 155pp, euro4.60, ISBN 978-3-15-019741-7

www.reclam.de

Bob Dylan Lyrics, translated by Heinrich Detering is the 142nd book added to my groaning Dylan bookshelf.

Gerry Smith

Bob Dylan Lyrics – for German speakers: a beautiful little artefact

February 5, 2009

 On a recent trip to Berlin – surely Europe’s most exciting city – I picked up Bob Dylan Lyrics, a tiny book which reproduces the (English) lyrics of about 50 songs, with a short essay on each.

I bought the book simply because it looks so good – of all the volumes on my Bob shelves, it’s one of the most striking.

(Like most readers, I already have all the lyrics in the official books and would struggle to understand the German text anyway, so I bought it purely as an attractive artefact.)

It’s always been a puzzle just how listeners can fully appreciate great writing in a language other than their mother tongue – for example, my French is fairly good, but there’s no way I appreciate the subtlety of great French writers like Camus, Baudelaire or Balzac.

This book shows the way, by translating key words and phrases, especially those which might prove difficult for German readers.

Bravo Heinrich Detering and Reclam publishers!

Bob Dylan Lyrics, translated by Heinrich Detering, 2008, Philipp Reclam jun Stuttgart, 155pp, euro4.60, ISBN 978-3-15-019741-7 www.reclam.de

Bob Dylan Lyrics, translated by Heinrich Detering is the 142nd book added to my groaning Dylan bookshelf.

 

Gerry Smith

Series Of Dreams: a stimulating new study of Dylan the songwriter

January 7, 2009
By Anne Ritchie

Listeners who enjoy dissecting Dylan’s lyrics will be stimulated by Series Of Dreams, the new critical study by John Burns.

Compared with the heavyweight classics of Dylan Lit (notably Gray and Ricks), Burns’ book might be slight, but it’s an accessible way into a study of Dylan’s art – which can be as daunting as starting to study Shakespeare.

Burns applies his well-honed critical insight by focusing on what he calls “vision songs” – a couple of dozen classics from across the catalogue.

His antennae are mostly well-tuned – I particularly like his appreciation of the imagery in Chimes Of Freedom. And his comments on TOOM, especially Not Dark Yet, are revelatory. His discussion of Highlands made me reassess it – I’d always switched off half way through what I heard as a tedious shaggy dog story. And Burns’ appreciation of Dylan’s voice and his performance art, throughout the book, is right on the money.

I have a few misgivings. The author struggles to justify his “visionary songs” theme – “songs which open our eyes and help us to see” – for example when discussing Isis.

Burns can also be dogmatic, at times committing the cardinal sin of deciding what Dylan means or is trying to say. On a few occasions, he misses the obvious – for example, the nuances of the looks on Dylan’s face during the musical jousting with Donovan in the hotel room jamming scene in Don’t Look Back. And familiar rock hack prejudices crop up in the author’s ignoring of the achievements of great pre-Dylan pop writers such as Cole Porter.

But I combed Burns’ text closely enough to unearth such reservations, which suggests that he successfully engaged me in a serious discussion about Dylan’s art.

Series Of Dreams is a stimulating new study: recommended.

A round of applause for Glen Murray Publishing, too – this handsome, well-designed volume is a pleasure to handle.

DETAILS: Series Of Dreams: The Vision Songs Of Bob Dylan, by John Burns, published by Glen Murray Publishing, November 2008, 136pp, £12.99, pbk, ISBN 9780955318351.

Available from:

www.glenmurraypublishing.co.uk

Yet more new Dylan books in 2009

January 5, 2009

With the Dylan bookshelves already groaning, many more new titles are scheduled for 2009. I’ll be buying (probably from Amazon): 

Jan
* The Cambridge Companion to Bob Dylan (Cambridge Companions to American Studies) by Kevin J. H. Dettmar (hbk/pbk – 31 Jan)

Feb
* The Political Art of Bob Dylan by David Boucher and Gary Browning (pbk)

March
* Bob Dylan: The Illustrated Biography (Classic Rare & Unseen) by Chris Rushby (hbk, 1 Mar)

* Bob Dylan (Music Icons) by Luke Crampton and Dafydd Rees (pbk, 25 Mar)

April
* Revolution in the Air: The Songs of Bob Dylan, 1957-1973 by Clinton Heylin (hbk)

* Dylan: 100 Songs and Pictures by Bob Dylan (pbk)

May
* Bargainin’ for Salvation: Bob Dylan, a Zen Master? by Steven Heine (pbk)

* Highway 61 Revisited: Bob Dylan’s Road from Minnesota to the World by Colleen J. Sheehy and Thomas Swiss (pbk)

June
* Real Moments: The Photographs of Bob Dylan by Barry Feinstein (pbk)

Gerry Smith

Hidden riches on your Dylan shelves

December 30, 2008
Becoming acquainted with Tell Tale Signs – the packaging as well as the CDs – reminded me that I routinely overlook hidden riches on the Dylan album shelves.

Quite apart from the high quality recordings, the various album and DVD box set products include well-executed, extensive booklets full of expert discussion of the music, plus beautiful photographs.

I have a high regard for this aspect of Columbia/Sony’s tending of the Dylan legacy.

In case you also tend to overlook these riches, here’s details of what’s under your nose, but largely invisible:

* CDs
Biograph
Liner notes pp4-41 by Cameron Crowe; About The Songs pp42-62,
Cameron Crowe with Bob Dylan, 64pp, 1985

Bootleg Series vols 1-3
Liner notes by John Bauldie, 72pp, 1991

Bootleg Series vol 4 Live 1966
Liner notes by Tony Glover, 56pp, 1998

Bootleg Series vol 5 Live 1975
Liner notes by Larry ‘Ratso’ Sloman, 56pp, 2002

Bootleg Series vol 6 Live 1964,
Liner notes by Sean Wilentz, 56pp, 2004

Bootleg Series vol 7 No Direction Home: The Soundtrack
Liner notes by Andrew Loog Oldham, Eddie Gorodetsky and
Al Kooper, 60pp, 2005

Bootleg Series vol 8 Tell Tale Signs
Liner notes by Larry ‘Ratso’ Sloman, 64pp, 2008

The Essential Bob Dylan
Liner notes by Patrick Humphries, 12pp, 2001

DYLAN Limited Edition Box Set
Liner notes by Bill Flanagan, 40pp, 2007

* DVDs
Bob Dylan – Don’t Look Back (‘65 Tour De Luxe Edition)
Reprint of 1968 book, by D.A. Pennebaker, 159pp, 2007

The Other Side Of The Mirror:
Bob Dylan Live At The Newport Folk Festival 1963-1965
Liner notes by Tom Piazza, 20pp, 2007

Masked And Anonymous: music from the motion picture
Liner notes by Alan Light, 16pp, 2003

I’ve purposely excluded the Traveling Wilburys box, but probably missed some gems – please let me know.

Gerry Smith

Paul Williams book series heavily discounted

December 19, 2008
Thanks to Andrew Kelly:

“Waterstone’s (ex-Dillons) in Malet/Gower Street, London yesterday (17th Dec) had four copies each of Vols 2 + 3 of the ‘Performing Artist’ series, and a Vol 1, all at £2.99 each in the 2nd hand/ remainders section on the first floor.”

(Other parts of the HMV empire – notably HMV, the former music now mainly games chain – as well as high street remainder shops and supermarkets have also been offering the Williams series – all fine books – at these silly prices for a few years. If you spot any discounted Dylan product in these straitened times, please let me know – Gerry Smith, Editor)

Hollywood Foto-Rhetoric: a nice addition to the Christmas stocking

December 16, 2008
Thanks to Tricia J:

“I chanced on Hollywood Foto-Rhetoric: The Lost Manuscript, by Dylan and Barry Feinstein recently at my local bookstore and was very pleased with it, especially since it was a spur-of-the-moment purchase.

“The photographs are excellent and the accompanying words by Dylan work in sometimes unexpected ways. A quirky, poetic treat for anyone with a taste for black and white photography and the grungy underbelly of LaLaLand.

“Would be a nice addition to the Christmas stocking!”