Archive for the ‘Brian Hinton’ Category

Dylan discography – now almost a constant companion

September 22, 2008

I find I’m referring more and more to Brian Hinton’s fine book, Bob Dylan Album File & Complete Discography (Cassell Illustrated, 464pp, pbk, £14.99, 2006).

A handy compilation, packed with hard information as well as informed opinion, it’s now almost a constant companion.

If you don’t possess a recent Dylan album guide, Hinton’s is well worth seeking out. I keep seeing the UK edition (blue cover), discounted to about £5, in major London retail outlets. Somewhat surprisingly, I’ve also seen the US edition (brown cover) for £5 in London remainder shops.

Bargain of the year!

Gerry Smith

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New – Bob Dylan Album File & Complete Discography

Brian Hinton’s new book, Bob Dylan Album File & Complete Discography (Cassell Illustrated, 464pp, pbk, £14.99), is a welcome addition to my library: I’ll be referring to it often.

It’s the most detailed study of the Dylan oeuvre since Clinton Heylin’s Dylan – Behind Closed Doors was published ten years ago. It’s more detailed than the most recent competitor, Varesi’s The Bob Dylan Albums (2002). Oliver Trager’s Keys To The Rain – The Definitive Bob Dylan Encyclopdia also covers this ground (in less detail) but covers a multitude of other topics, too.

Hinton, biographer of Van Morrison and Joni Mitchell, among others, complements the discographical detail with an occasionally stimulating commentary on every track on every album, so the book is a uniquely systematic appraisal of Dylan recordings. And there’s a handy full-page reproduction of every album cover. So, Bob Dylan Album File & Complete Discography is worth having for its scope, utility and currency.

Reservations? I have a few. Concerning treatment, judgments and accuracy.

Whenever any rock writer starts to describe individual songs – “first we have the hushed drum intro…” – my eyes automatically jump to the next paragraph. This happened here, frequently. Writing about music in this fashion is like dancing about architecture, as the man said.

Once your text starts to judge creative work, you expect readers to demur. A sample couple of demurrals: Saved “sounds wonderful to contemporary ears…”; whaaa? It still sounds awful as ever to these contemporary ears. Hard Rain suffers because “it omits all of the duets with Joan Baez”. Hinton can not be serious? Surely?

In discussing Dylan’s songs, Hinton imports a succession of third party quotes, usefully widening the range of opinions in the book. But he frequently fails to explain who his commentators are – I happen to know of Jeff Tweedy and Derek Barker; many readers won’t. But “Paul Zollo” and “Robert Fisher”? Dunno, got me pal: Hinton’s drinking buddies? How do I know whether their opinions are worth considering?

More troubling are the errors. Spelling and grammatical errors might irritate only pedants, but they sow doubt about the accuracy of factual data. Checking the three small-format pages introducing Desire, I found seven spelling and grammatical errors. Elsewhere, glancing through the text, I stumbled across the World Gone Wrong photo shoot transposed from Camden Town to a neighbouring North London suburb, Crouch End. And Augie “Meters” playing organ on Time Out Of Mind. If these examples are typical, the book is seriously undermined.

And I wish I had a euro for every rock writer who claims that Dylan/The Beatles invented the concept album. Such albums had been around for years before Dylan ever entered a recording studio. Sinatra, anybody?

Bob Dylan Album File & Complete Discography: recommended, with reservations.

Gerry Smith