9780316353533The Basics: A song by song account of Bob Dylan’s musical canon to date.

In-depth: As a surprise birthday present this was right up there. Margotin and Guesdon’s collection is mightily impressive and as up to date as is currently possible (running up to 2015’s Shadows in the Night). It is also huge. At 703 pages and a fair weight this hardback is a goldmine for any obsessive Dylan fan or as the authors refer to them: “Dylanologists”.

Using each album as a chapter, with the more significant albums also receiving introductory chapters, Margotin and Guesdon work through song, via an order of technical details, song genesis and lyrics and production. Some outtakes of albums are also considered.

The focus revolves around Dylan’s own creative processes and the level of thought and slow burning genesis is fascinating. There are also little golden nuggets on most songs including noteworthy covers (who knew James Blunt has covered I Want You?) and trivia such as technical musical mistakes which are surprisingly commonplace on earlier tracks. Dylan’s creative processes and influences are so eclectic that the book can only naturally pose as many questions as it can answer, the eternally debated subject of Ballad of A Thin Man is not brought to an end.

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Naturally the best sections revolve around the readers own personal favourites of Dylan’s albums, my own being Blonde on Blonde, Blood on the Tracks, Desire and Time Out of Mind.

One slight disappointment is that the edition does not deal with the vast wealth of songs, covers and different versions, contained in the excellent bootleg series. Comment and analysis of say, Volume 8 (Tell Tale Signs) or the most recent Volume 12 ( The Cutting Edge) would have been a real treat, particularly the many brilliant songs which somehow did not make it onto studio albums.

This edition delivers on its subtitle of “The Story Behind Every Track” and for any fan of Dylan or indeed music itself is a real treat to be dipped in and out of.

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11 thoughts on “Review: Bob Dylan – All The Songs

  1. Dude, those are my favorite Dylan albums, too. It’s really a toss up between Blood on the Tracks and Blonde on Blonde for my number one favorite. I’m assuming you’ve read Chronicles, Vol 1.? Thoughts? I personally loved it.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I have not. I read it in high school, jeez, 10 years or more ago, and I liked it a lot then. I will have to revisit again to see how it stands the test of a pickier reader. 🙂

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  2. I am obsessed with Dylan!! I can’t wait to get this book and am disappointed I didn’t know this book was around. I have those albums but one of my favorite is Planet Waves and FreeWheelin. This has made my morning even better, thank you!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The book’s story about Dylan’s use of Dominic Behan’s “The Patriot Game” song as his melody and lyric pattern for “With God On Our Side” song seems inaccurate. If you check out the Dylan at Newport Folk Festival film footage, you’ll notice that when Dylan first sung “With God On Our Side” at Newport he actually, initially, acknowledged that it was derived it from Dominic Behan’s “The Patriot Game” song. The book also fails to indicate the degree to which Dominic Behan apparently felt that Dylan should have shared his “With God On Our Side” royalties with the composer of “The Patriot Game.” In a January 31, 1976 letter from Happendon, Douglas, Lanark, Scotland, for example, Dominic Behan wrote the following: “Thank you for the interest you are showing in my song, `The Patriot Game’. Some years ago I tried to get Dylan to settle the matter as one artist to another. I rang him at an hotel in London where he had been living then. Dylan’s reaction was that I didn’t have the resources to take any legal action against him, and he therefore replied, `Get lost, bum!. The songs I write make other people’s attempts at art good.’

    “Mr. Dylan was, of course, correct in his view of my financial state. I couldn’t take him to court, and, my publishers in America, `The Richmond Organization,’ think the whole matter too costly and not worth the candle.

    “I wrote the song (words and music) on the 1st January, 1957, after Feargal O’Hanlon had been shot dead the night previously.

    “Thanks very much for your interest, though, when dealing with folk as ruthless as Mr. Dylan, I doubt if you and the other honest people around can do a lot of good.

    “Thanks anyway and best wishes,

    “Dominic Behan”

    Liked by 1 person

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