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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sophisticated study of Dylan's multiple personalities
For anyone writing the life, or rather, The Lives of Bob Dylan, the beginning is terrific. Great songs, brilliant albums, big historical moments (which Dylan has a tangential relationship to) appear on almost every page. Volume One of Ian Bell's study of Dylan began when he arrived out of nowhere in Greenwich Village in 1961 and then unleashed a series of revolutions in...
Published 11 months ago by Mick Gold

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Dylan Devotees Only.
There's a One Star review here which speaks about "waffle". Whilst I think that judgement a little strong, I know what the reviewer was getting at. The problem for me with the book is Bell's writing style. Where most might use one comma in a sentence bell will sneak in about four. Even his "sub-sentences" have "sub-sentences". So, especially when...
Published 1 month ago by Harry Boxx


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Dylan Devotees Only., 27 July 2014
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There's a One Star review here which speaks about "waffle". Whilst I think that judgement a little strong, I know what the reviewer was getting at. The problem for me with the book is Bell's writing style. Where most might use one comma in a sentence bell will sneak in about four. Even his "sub-sentences" have "sub-sentences". So, especially when the analysis of a song like Isis gets complicated, one tends to lose track of what he's talking about without repeated readings. Even then it isn't always clear. For example, just exactly what Norman Raeben's art theories were which are said to have influenced "Blood On the Tracks" so much remains a mystery. Or maybe Bell, like me, considers the connection fails to stand up to any degree of scrutiny.

If you're a hard core Dylan fan and want to debate the "hidden (and not so hidden) meanings", and judge the merits of songs accordingly, this is well worth a read. Personally I don't. For example, the "Desire" album gets hammered here, but I only have to put it on the CD player and I'm happy.

For me, Clinton Heylin's "Behind the Shades" remains definitive. This one comes a lot further down the list. A "heavy" read, but worth a look. I suggest getting a sample on Kindle first.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sophisticated study of Dylan's multiple personalities, 9 Sep 2013
By 
Mick Gold (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Time Out of Mind: The Lives of Bob Dylan (Hardcover)
For anyone writing the life, or rather, The Lives of Bob Dylan, the beginning is terrific. Great songs, brilliant albums, big historical moments (which Dylan has a tangential relationship to) appear on almost every page. Volume One of Ian Bell's study of Dylan began when he arrived out of nowhere in Greenwich Village in 1961 and then unleashed a series of revolutions in popular music. It ended 14 years later with the triumph of Blood On The Tracks.

Volume Two covers the next 38 years and they aren't filled with fun. Dylan makes dreadful albums. He makes mean-spirited and incomprehensible remarks at important public events, such as Live Aid. He tours endlessly, as if on a treadmill he cannot get off. More perplexingly, Dylan makes great albums and then nearly destroys them, as if uncertain what to make of his own gifts. So Bell's second volume not only ploughs its way through Down In The Groove and Knocked Out Loaded. It also tries to come to terms with the way Dylan almost wrecked Infidels by withholding the genius of Blind Willie McTell and, instead, inflicting on us the dreadful Neighbourhood Bully. (Even Bob's Israeli fans were dismayed, writes Bell.)

Bell doesn't come across as a fan of the musicians Bob consorts with. He tell us Santana are "a band so dull they seem to make an entire art form out of the many possibilities of tedium." He writes the Grateful Dead "possessed a significance - arrived at through a lot of drugs, a lot more hippie twaddle and a seemingly infinite tolerance for the zero-sum pastime called jamming." Bell also displays a dour attitude to the community of Bob, those myriad fans who endlessly exchange Dylan data and rumours. He could accept that this incessant internet babble has contributed to important resources such as Expecting Rain, Bob Links, and Olof Bjorner's website. Dylan's fans occupy a continuous spectrum reaching from Christopher Ricks at one end to the aptly named Dead-Heads at the other. The capricious way in which Dylan created and then discarded a masterpiece like Red River Shore is one reason why Dylan's fans are still obsessively searching for gems.

Bell has a lot more enthusiasm for American politics than for writing about Dylan's fellow musicians. He mentions Springsteen a couple of times but does not make any comparison with the very different way Bruce has handled his fame and wealth. Instead Bell tells us a lot about presidents. He has interesting thoughts about Reagan, Clinton, two Bushes, and Obama, and in teasing out these insights, he argues that Dylan's songs never abandoned politics. He gives us a terrific account of the Hurricane Carter case, the conflicting evidence, the stages of judicial review, and Dylan's relationship to the cause of this ambiguous victim of injustice. In a similar legalistic vein, Bell examines the allegations of plagiarism that have swirled around Chronicles and Bob's later albums. He concludes that the charges are a misunderstanding of Dylan's creativity, which I think is true.

Bell also insists it's a big mistake to think that Bob suddenly got religion for three albums and then dropped his love affair with Jesus. Dylan had a huge amount of prior form with Jesus and the Bible before Slow Train Coming, and Bell follows Dylan's dual identity as both a Jew and a follower of Christ with surprising sympathy. His analysis of Jokerman and the songs on Desire and Time out Of Mind are marvellous. He's interesting about both of Dylan's much-mocked films, Renaldo And Clara and Masked And Anonymous. Finally, Bell writes convincingly about the renaissance Dylan has achieved since 1997, and he ends by suggesting there is more than meets the eye to the seemingly misogynist language on the album Tempest.

Meanwhile Bob goes on his merry way: he appears in an ad for erotic lingerie with a Brazilian model 40 years younger; he sings for the Pope; he copies some old photos of the Far East and exhibits the results in one of Manhattan's top dollar art galleries. So after a career lasting more than fifty years, what does Bell make it of all? He thinks the idea of a person called Bob Dylan is a fiction: there are many Bob Dylans, and Dylan as a person goes where his music leads him. As his epigraph, Bell gives us a quote from Allen Ginsberg: "I don't know him because I don't think there is any him. I don't think he's got a self!"

"If there is truth in art, each and every Bob Dylan might count as a product of the imagination, with Robert Allen Zimmerman its first page and its first canvas," writes Bell. Maybe. I still think the figure on stage with the cracked voice is recognisable as the young man who tried out Song To Woody on John Hammond a long time ago. Bell's interrogation of the myth of Dylan, and the many meanings he uncovers in Bob's art, are evidence of his astounding creativity across five decades. And if Dylan can be an old curmudgeon, this book explains why he is also one of the most audacious and inspiring artist the 20th and 21st centuries have produced.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars ideas based biography of bob dylan - part two, 15 Sep 2013
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This review is from: Time Out of Mind: The Lives of Bob Dylan (Hardcover)
This second volume of Ian Bell's life of Bob Dylan follows the same pattern as the first volume: exhaustive knowledge of the written record, and of the discussions to which Dylan's work has given rise, extensive listening to bootlegs, and some really serious work on the historical context, in terms of US politics and culture, for Dylan's work.

As with volume one, Bell has not gone out and talked to those who know or knew Dylan - though he has read all the other biographies and interview. This means that your sense of what Dylan's actual lived life was like tends to tail off as we reach the present - and stir beyond the confines of eg Sounes' biography which claims to be based on 250 interviews.

As with volume one, art of the charm is brining home the reality of the puzzles in understanding this subject - rather than solving them. Time after time, Dylan makes very odd choices about what work should see the light of day - and we don't really know why - except that his critical faculty is not the equal of his creativity. Nor do we really understand why Dylan has had three main creative bursts with long fallow periods in his life. (Nor of course do we really know that this is the whole truth of the matter - the Self Portrait period suddenly looks a lot more vibrant and creative with the release of the Bootleg Series Vol 10 than it did when Bell wrote Volume 1 of this biography.) Nor do we really understand why he tours and tours - we do learn that he really is interested in the money, but even Bell doesn't really think that's the whole story.

Especially noteworthy features include a lot of background on born again Christians and Dylan's subsequent interest in the theory underlying Jewish beliefs; and discussions of the nature of Dylan's work - should he really be a candidate for the Nobel Prize for literature and does it matter?; also of the question what actually his genius consists in - is it the recreation of his work on stage each night, ever new? Is the appearance of new material these days just a sideline? As with volume 1, interesting discussions on all these points - but mostly inconclusive discussions.

Still, an enjoyable and interesting reading experience.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A suberb analysis, 17 Jan 2014
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The most enigmatic poet songwriter of the 20th Century; here laid bare by an author at the top of his game. I trully think that he 'digs' Dylan.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Thanks to the author, 17 Aug 2014
This volume is as good as the first : comprehensive dweling more on the work and the ideas behind the work than the personal stuff. Great to see the later stages of the artists complex, varied and variable work considered in a balanced and interested way. Three volumes would work perhaps better. The first from dawn until the accident, taking Dylan from New York folkie to surrealist electric guru coming of his motorbike. Then the second could move from Nashville, John Wesley Harding and the Basement tapes perhaps into the early part of the more blatently relegious years - perhaps ending in the darkness of the eighties. The third the triumphant return to creative peaks and the balanced consideration of his approach to incorporating chunks from Ovid or the blues in his later masterpieces.
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5.0 out of 5 stars For proper Dylan fans, 30 Mar 2014
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If you love His Bobness, you'll love this thoughtful and extremely well-informed account of his work (mostly) and life (less so). If you don't, it is not for you! I can't say fairer than that it drove me back time and again to listen to the songs in new lights.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Load of tosh, 26 Feb 2014
This review is from: Time Out of Mind: The Lives of Bob Dylan (Hardcover)
Mad that I actually purchased the download version of this, after reading a sample, which seemed OK, if a little wordy. Had to stop at second chapter, just couldn't stand all the waffle any more, pages of words with hardly any substance, on and on and on, like a school essay full of waffle. No first hand account, just read all the stuff on Dylan and rapped all is book around it. Seems to have it in for Dylan, if you haven't affection for who you're writing about why bother? One star for sample
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Time Out of Mind: The Lives of Bob Dylan
Time Out of Mind: The Lives of Bob Dylan by Ian Bell (Hardcover - 1 Aug 2013)
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