Bob Dylan: Highway 61 Revisited, by Colin Irwin

April 1, 2012 at 19:50 (Biography, Book Reviews, Mediocre Books, Music) (, , , , )


A good solid look at a classic album, although it is questionable as to whether or not this book was really necessary. There isn’t much here that one couldn’t find in a good biography of Dylan, save for a very in-depth treatment of the session musicians (who might be given their own sentence or paragraph in a full-fledged biography) and producers  (who are certainly covered in detail in most biographies) involved in the album, and maybe a little more record company politics than you’d otherwise expect to find. Colin Irwin obviously likes the album a great deal, and is a little embarrassing in the praise he slathers all over the pages of his book, but it’s not his job to make value judgements, and he tells the story he’s here to tell very well.

“Dylan once claimed he wrote ‘Desolation Row’ in the back of a cab on the way to the studio, but as the song clocks in at over 11 minutes and contains 659 words, that must have been one hell of a cab ride.”

-Highway 61 Revisited (Colin Irwin)

There is a great deal of commentary on Dylan’s lyrics, and Irwin is also smart enough to stick to the facts and not use this book as a pulpit for his own ideas. Rather than use this book to tell his own theories about what certain songs mean, he finds some excellent soundbytes from interviews with Bob, and allows himself just a little educated guesswork, more often than not ending in a shrug. The book is written like a review in a music magazine (coherently, but packed with journalese), and provides few surprises, pleasant or otherwise.

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