Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Tales From a Golden Age - Bob Dylan - 1941-1966|
Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Documentary
The legends and myths surrounding the early life and career of Bob Dylan are so ingrained in the fabric of Rock music's history that getting to the truth is no mean feat. Tracing his career up to the point of his 1966 mot... more »
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Desolation Row for Sure
Daniel Moore | Philadelphia, PA USA | 11/02/2004
(1 out of 5 stars)
"Excited as I was to order and receive this DVD, at first viewing I was astonished to find out that none of Dylan's actual playing, nor even any of his own music, because of copyright reasons no doubt, appears on the DVD. Instead the soundtrack has a kind of generic guitar chording, that could be an intro to a Dylan song, but never is... The DVD is comprised of stills, a bit of bio, talking heads, this and that, and I've been so disappointed that I haven't really watched the whole thing. It's a kind of opportunistic concoction, many removes from the heart of the voice and genius reality of Dylan. When I look at the whole thing, steeling myself, if I've changed my mind at all, I'll do another review to correct this one. But buyer beware, it's not what it's cracked up to be from the title and the cover..."
Long-overdue intro to a major pop artist
Paul Kesler | Bridgeport, PA United States | 04/27/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Despite the lack of Dylan music, I found this documentary valuable. First, as the liner notes indicate, no company had previously bothered to compile a history of Dylan's career in video format. Many books have been published, however, and for those content with the print medium, they more than suffice. Obviously, a single good biography offers more information on Dylan than any video can approach. Ergo, those who don't mind reading should simply seek out a book if they want detailed knowledge of the man.
Nor did I find the absence of Dylan's music particularly bothersome, except at first. Mainly it's because it was clear why the music was missing, since the notes indicate that this is an "unauthorized" documentary. But that doesn't mean the basic facts are absent, or that they aren't reliable as far as they go. "Unauthorized" simply means that no one consulted Dylan or Sony Corporation.
Beyond that, I found the interviews quite interesting, because they come largely from people who knew him during grade school, before he made his professional mark. They help reveal that during the 1950s Dylan was essentially just a rock `n roll fan who admired the work of Little Richard and Bobby Vee. Additionally, their descriptions of Dylan's amateur high school bands, and the reactions they evoked, make it clear how Dylan was already working against the grain. It's difficult for people to realize just how radical rock `n roll sounded to audiences during the fifties, and to local audiences in a conservative town like Hibbing, Minnesota, anyone who belted out loud rock `n roll as Dylan did was not warmly welcomed.
Just how Dylan transformed himself from the crude rock `n roller of the late fifties to the culturally sophisticated wunderkind of the sixties is not fully explained in this disc, but we do get some hints. In Minneapolis, for example, Dylan started frequenting some of the local folk spots, having already heard Leadbelly's blues and picked up a copy of Woodie Guthrie's "Bound for Glory." Dylan, according to one interviewee, started to ape Guthrie's mannerisms and musical tropes, even changing his speech to a large extent and adopting an early pseudonym. According to a friend, Dylan probably drew his ultimate moniker from "Matt Dillon," the marshal in the TV western, "Gunsmoke." A Dylan critic contradicts this, claiming it was taken from the poet Dylan Thomas. My personal theory is that Dylan DID take the name, originally, from the TV "Dillon," and later, after establishing himself in more sophisticated circles, changed the spelling to "Dylan."
What emerges from the interviews is that Dylan grew miraculously as a songwriter between his self-titled debut album in 1962 and the 1963 release of "Freewheelin'". During this period, Dylan had been honing his skills at the Bitter End and other coffee house venues in New York (the period was chronicled amusingly by Dylan himself in "Talkin' New York Blues," where he recalls a house manager telling him: "You sound like a hillbilly. We want folk singers here.") As a result, by the time "Freewheelin'" appeared, many of the New York influences surrounding him had already been assimilated, fusing with his earlier grounding in blues and the practical need to create something innovative merely to survive.
I believe, too, that it's the last-mentioned element in Dylan's early growth that's the most important. What's shown, in other words, is that Dylan has always been more interested in music as self-expression than as political or social commentary. Mickey Jones recounts audience reactions to Dylan's world tour of `66, for example, and recalls how Dylan essentially told the audience to go to hell, upping the volume and channeling his stratocaster into the earliest strident incarnation of "folk rock." That, in retrospect, portrays Dylan well, because it not only was the first announcement of a new musical phase, but showed the typical manner in which Dylan has always followed his own inclinations rather than those of his fans.
Dylan will always be famous for introducing serious meaning into pop music, and for embodying the "conscience of a generation." But the mantle of political activist has always sat uneasily on his shoulders, since he was never a genuine "New Leftist," or any other kind of reformer. Compared to passionate activists like Pete Seeger or Joan Baez, he's always been a maverick within his own musical sphere. When he says to an interviewer in D.A. Pennebaker's "Don't Look Back": "I don't know anything about these songs I write!," it suggests that the inspiration for his work comes, not through rational insight, but from "divine afflatus" in the tradition of Romantic poets and musicians. My suspicion, therefore, is that Dylan during his early professional period was simply a better "channeler" of social and political trends than those around him, but that his rational commitment was slight.
However that may be, the documentary suggests that Dylan's personal stance doesn't matter. His songs will live for the same reason they've always lived: as enduring messages of the underclass and the brutality of power. Dylan's fortune is that his music gestated in a folk world that helped galvanize his brilliance as a songwriter, providing a medium in which it could thrive. His paradoxical gift --- to some extent his "curse" ---- is that his genius for assimilation created a form of "activist" songwriting more powerful than that of the many folk singers whose commitment to social causes was far greater than his own.
Fascinating Information About A Legend
Westexed | texas | 01/02/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
This excellent documentary answers questions some of us have had for 40 years. It is also an excellent compliment to the new Dylan autobiography "Chronicles."
Bob Dylan was not "born" a legend - he worked hard at becoming one. Most fascinating to me is the fact there was a lot of luck involved in his success. His skills on the harmonica got him a job as a musician on another artist's album; during that job, he got noticed by Columbia records. The Columbia recording contract bought him some time to develop his own style and write his first songs. At the same time, there was a generation of American youth searching for the songs he was about to write.
Buy both the "Chronicles" book and Tales From A Golden Age DVD. Whether you are a Bob Dylan fan or not, you will most likely enjoy seeing how the legend got started."
A superb documentary on Dylan
Alex Stripe | UK | 02/09/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This DVD really is a fantastic insight into Dylan and his work, it explores the early days of Dylan which are rarely documented. Some fascinating interviews with old school friends and teachers, and early colleagues that played with him in Greenwich Village. Great footage and photos and also a discography from this period. Well recommended!"