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on 10 May 2017
Good to dip into and cause you to rehear some older albums you may not have listened too for a while.

Opinions are of course opinions but they seem to accord well to my tastes.

The other handiness is that in getting an ordered history of the songs you can - nowadays - go back and digitally reassemble albums - for example chopping the last three songs from JWH and moving to NS and adding 'This Wheels on Fire'/'Tears of Rage'/'I shall be released' - which would make an already great album near perfect and improve a weak one imo.
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on 2 June 2009
I am going to give this book only three stars because I felt quite bored by the author's relentless self-promotion. I find arrogance difficult to take and, having read a whole stack of Dylan books where the authors are rather more interested in Bob than themselves, I find this one rather irritating. The issue of scholarship is significant: Heylin has spent a lot of time in the Colombia vaults and probably reads their system better than most, but his arrangement of the songs chronologically is very much a matter of opinion, informed as that opinion might be. That, effectively, is his one trick, and it is insufficient to carry this book since his critical skills are not of the same order. It becomes tedious that Heylin ends each section with a little twist that he presumably finds witty; I don't, at least after a few of them. He also seems to have much more respect for himself than for Dylan and, with an ego the size of his own should be more forgiving of both Bob's ego AND his libido. I also am much irritated by Heylin's lack of respect for other authors, I have met Michael Gray and find him an interesting, insightful and pleasant man. I am SURE that Gray would not speak of Heylin in the way that Heylin does of Gray and everyone else. In my opinion, the best thing to inform anyone wanting to find out more about Dylan is to read another book, so long as it is intelligently written. Heylin doesn't agree with this, thinking most other writers inferior to himself, and it is to his detriment. In a few word, I will state with certainty; Song and Dance Man 3 is MUCH better than this book, though much more demanding intellectually to read. I would like to test Heylin's knowledge of American roots music; I suspect it would NOT be great, and certainly would not match Gray's.
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There's no denying that this is a very impressive book, documenting Bob Dylan's first 300 songs in the order of which they were written, from 1957-1973. Unfortunately, I found the massive ego and high self-importance from the author Clinton Heylin to be very off-putting, and his bitchiness about other 'Dylanologists' was particularly petty and unnecessary.

However, like I said, this is an impressive study, documenting every song Dylan penned from high school efforts through to the tracks that appeared on the 'Planet Waves' album. Incredibly well-research, and very informative, it provides some interesting information about the background and writing progress of many timeless songs, some very famous, others very obscure, and some which haven't even been unreleased.

A very useful book for avid fans. Personally, I found myself dipping in and out, 'Revolution in the Air' is certainly not a book that I could read cover-to-cover, but it did make me reach for my Bob Dylan albums, as well as go and purchase more of them.
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on 5 February 2012
The Bootleg series has been a superb listening experience.

This magnificent book puts all those out-takes and live versions in a concise historical context.

I totally disagree with some other reviews which make off-kilter character comments about the author. He does have strong opinions but the book would be sterile without them. There are numerous quotes from Dylan himself. Often Dylan is complaining of writers trying to analyse or decode his songs. Heylin largely tries to avoid Lit-Crit style writing but concentrates on verifiable details.

I have been a Dylan fan for 33 years and learnt a huge amount from this splendid book. The highest praise is that it makes you listen to the great songs again and again - in the many different versions available.

I bought this on Kindle. It was that good that I will have to buy the real deal now as well as it is an invaluable work of reference.
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on 13 May 2009
Echoing the other reviews of this book on here, this is a fantastic piece of work by one of the foremost Dylan experts and despite being chopped into individual songs it still manages to read like a cohesive whole. Even the most serious Dylan fans will find something new here and I for one can't wait for the next volume which will cover his less acclaimed but in many ways more interesting work.

Unfortunately however the author, rather than let the books obvious merits speak for themselves appears to find it necessary to tell us how good he is, frequently, and less forgivably how poor pretty much every other Dylan scholar throughout history has been. This monumental arrogance is pretty tedious at times and can become wearing but it shouldn't detract from what is a significant work. Heylin may be as he so often points out, the best there is when it comes to writing about Dylan but my God you wouldn't want to have him round for dinner.
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on 25 May 2009
Ain't Clinton Heylin Great' would have been a good alternative title for this book. Once one wades through the self-congratulatory, ego-driven 'Seems Like an Intro' the book is actually not to bad. Heylin obviously thinks very highly of himself and very little of any one else who has ever written about Dylan. He also fancies himself as something of a wit, unfortunately, Oscar Wilde he is not.

However, beyond Heylin's obvious shortcomings as a writer the book is enjoyable and where he fails as a writer Heylin does seem to be a half decent researcher. The reasonably informed and educated reader will doubtless see through the tabloid standard assumptions that populate almost every page and enjoy the history and origins of the songs.
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on 30 March 2009
Clinton Heylin is the world's foremost Bob Dylan chronicler, researcher, biographer and author. But don't take my word for it - ask Mr. Heylin yourself. Actually you don't need to ask him; he'll tell you on his own or certainly strongly imply it. After reading dozens and dozens of Dylan books over the years, and being completely burned out on reading about Bob, Heylin is the only author that I will certainly read when he comes out with a new Dylan book. That being said I was concerned that Heylin's seemingly increasing arrogance and ego would mar this new book. Most people didn't think much of Clinton's recent book on The Beatles' Sergeant Pepper, which revealed more of the author's tastes than anything else. Happily he has reined things in here and produced an incredible book for enjoyment, information and even research. The first of a 2 volume series Heylin has taken on the task of discussing every single known Dylan-written song in the order they were written. This includes unofficial and even unheard songs. This volume covers 1957 - 1973. He discusses everything from Dylan's and others comments at the genesis of each song, early performance, influences and anything you can think of. It is a fascinating book. What sets Heylin apart from most other Dylanologists is his attention to detail and the truth, as well as his own dogged research. Instead of regurgitating popular opinions on Bob he takes nothing for granted. Heylin did not write this book because this is his latest project. It is my impression that he wrote this be read as THE definitive commentary on Bob Dylan songs 100 years from now. I believe that he has succeeded.
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on 27 May 2009
One of the better recent books that's joined the others on my sagging and straining "Bob Dylan" shelf. Heylin's a master at dissecting Dylan and offering new ways to consider songs that you might have heard a thousand times or more. What he isn't is a prose stylist. This book could've done with some editorial streamlining to take out some of Heylin's clunky turns of phrase or semi-jokes. But its probably unfair to carp too much about that when the essence of the book is so strong. I've probably got 30 or 40 Dylan books and I am glad I got this one. If you only have a handful then this is a good addition to your collection.
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on 13 October 2012
This is a superb and thorough document, tracing and accounting for all Dylan's songs, released and unreleased, in the period under study. The writing is easy to read and consistently informative. I find no evidence at all of the author's "relentless self-promotion" which other reviewers have complained of. It's simply not there. (He is scathing about some other writers in the intro, but it's just the intro - and anyway, he may be justified!)

The beauty of this book is that the insights and connections make you want to dig out the music and listen in the context of the points the author raises. Difficult to put down (sorry for the cliche) - and getting volume 2 is a certainty for me.
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on 25 April 2009
The previous reviewer has it right; the author is quite intrusive (puts 'boom boom' after a feeble pun, for example) but his heart seems to be in the right place. The book would be greatly improved by the full lyrics to each song; it succeeds in demystifying a few things while leaving the genius of Dylan to speak for itself; a good place to start would be with Stuck inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again where he describes how it is possible to hear the song evolve on CD and then to hear the definitive version. People who don't like Dylan (or Shakespeare) must be avoided at all costs. Recommended.
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