Dylan: Disc By Disc
Bob Dylan’s legacy is secure. His original songs have transcended the eras in which they were written, becoming timeless, while his later-era career has served as an interpreter and promoter of folk music and increasingly obscure popular song. Yet his songwriting has always been tempered by controversy, and his albums haven’t always been respected or liked. Additionally, there are hundreds–if not thousands–of books that have been written about almost every conceivable aspect of Dylan’s life–from his lyrical inspirations to the contents of his trash, all done to gain insight into the mysterious man.
Dylan: Disc By Disc is a different sort of book. Instead of a history of Dylan’s dozens of studio albums, the text offers analysis and discussion from a variety of subjects, from pop musicians, singer-songwriters, journalists, professors, and pontificators, as selected and paired up by mastermind Jon Bream.The effect allows for a free-flowing examination that is surprisingly enjoyable an enlightening, while never veering into sycophantic praise and fanboy glossing-over.
Bream’s subjects are definitely interesting and have much to say; one might not expect Charles Cross in discussion with Joe Henry about The Basement Tapes, while Suzanne Vega offers some interesting insights into her own artistry as she reminisces about The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. Many of the names might not be familiar to many—especially the academics and the journalists—but no matter; the chats all have something to offer, especially on the less beloved work—which is most anything from the 1980s, truth be told. The oversized book also offers a cache of rare photos of Dylan in concert and in more intimate surroundings, making Dylan: Disc By Disc a visually appealing text as well.
Dylan: Disc By Disc might not be particularly revelatory about its subject, but that’s okay. What it does offer is interesting conversation and food for thought about one of the greatest songwriters of all time.