Hard Rain: A Dylan Commentary

Tim Riley, Author
Tim Riley, Author Alfred A. Knopf $23 (356p) ISBN 978-0-394-57889-7
Paperback - 356 pages - 978-0-679-74527-3
Paperback - 376 pages - 978-0-306-80907-1
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In Tell Me Why: A Beatles Commentary , Riley covered fewer than 10 years of diverse but demarcated music. His comprehensive examination here of rock legend Bob Dylan's three decades of inconsistent work, bootleg recordings and continuous concerts is somewhat less successful. Delving into Dylan's first albums, Riley explores such traditional influences as Woody Guthrie and notes Dylan's disregard for his fans' musical preferences, as established in his use of both acoustic and electric music on Bringing It All Back Home. Describing Dylan's distinctive voice as a ``barbed yawp'' or a ``yelping yodel,'' he explains the enigmatic troubador's early transformation ``from aspiring blues acolyte to creative iconoclast to facile cynic'' and beyond, and considers the frequent lyrical ambiguity of his songs. He also describes Dylan's post-1966 leanings toward country music and born-again Christianity, looking briefly at Blood on the Tracks . Glossing over numerous songs of the '70s and '80s, Riley concludes by mentioning Dylan's influence on such stars as David Bowie and Bruce Springsteen. Although written with eloquence, fervor and thoroughness, this treatise won't entirely satisfy Dylan fans, a notably ardent group. (July)
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