This tome contains all of the lyrics up to and including "Love and Theft". Dylan's lyrics have always been held in high esteem, but usually as performed with music. Most of Dylan's albums don't come with lyric sheets, so this is the only way to study the lyrics in depth. The question is, how do they stand up on their own in a chunky book like this?
The answer is quite well. Many of the lyrics are too familiar to read without hearing the music that goes along with them as you read them. It is difficult, for instance, to read Mr Tambourine man without that melody floating to the surface.
Presented in this naked way it is easier to see the influence of figures like Walt Whitman and Allen Ginsberg on some of his work.
Can you read this book as poetry? In most cases you can, the familiarity of the songs not withstanding. The effect of lyrics as varied as "Desolation Row" and "Every Grain of Sand" take on new resonances when read in this way. Reading them allows you to go back and hear the songs with new insight.
So, who is this book for? Well the obvious group is Dylan fans. For them this is an essential companion to the albums. Fans of poets like Ginsberg and Whitman would also find much that is rewarding in this volume. Its variety of lyrical approaches makes this a useful demonstration on how to construct an effective lyric.
The book is well presented sectioned into the albums with addenda of lyrics associated but not included on the relevant album. There is an index of Publishers and Copyright Dates at the back of the book which serves as an alphabetic list of songs so you can find them quickly.
All in all a quality, well bound book that is well worth the price tag.