This is a review of ''All The Songs'' by Margotin and Guesdon and is subtitled ''The Story Behind Every Track'' and is not a book of Dylan''s lyrics to which reviews of this book sometimes seem to be attached in Amazon. This book is a mighty tome - almost A4 format, 2.5 inches/...See more
This is a review of ''All The Songs'' by Margotin and Guesdon and is subtitled ''The Story Behind Every Track'' and is not a book of Dylan''s lyrics to which reviews of this book sometimes seem to be attached in Amazon. This book is a mighty tome - almost A4 format, 2.5 inches/ 6cm thick, running to around 700 pages. It covers every track on every one of Dylan''s 36 studio albums from ''Bob Dylan'' to ''Shadows in the Night''. There is one chapter per album. Each starts with a description of the album, the context of Dylans'' life in which it was made, how, where and when it was recorded, details of the recording equipment used (especially on the earlier albums), the specific instruments played by Dylan (where known) interesting biogs of the producers, their relationship with Dylan, description of all the artwork on the album cover and sleeves. In all but a few cases, the album artwork itself is not reproduced, but the book is well illustrated with many photos of Dylan and the numerous other musicians he worked with, often taken in recording studios. There then follows a section on each track on the album, giving some context to world events, events in Dylan''s life and relationships that were relevant at the time and notes on the production itself. Except for occasional snippets, the lyrics themselves are not reproduced. In addition, there are occasional call outs boxes for ''Dyalanologists'' containing a short paragraph with additional details, some of which are more relevant than others, boxes titled ''In your headphones'' with comments such as '' A noise in the studio can be heard at 2.10'' The most interesting of these points out that the sound of Dylan''s jacket sleeve buttons can be heard repeatedly clicking against his guitar, most notably in sessions for Blood on the Tracks. As well as all the tracks recorded for each album, those tracks that were not eventually used on the album but which can be heard on the many ''Bootleg'' albums are also described. For me, having come to Dylan relatively late in both our lives, this book is a revelation. I had not been enthused by much of his earliest works, but reading about each track as I listened to them, opened up a whole new dimension to me, and understanding the context of the times and Dylan''s life has increased my appreciation exponentially! What do we learn of Dylan himself form this book? Clearly, a towering genius poet and musician who has been pretty much at the top of his game for more than 50 years. In fact, and especially, considering that his singing voice isn''t his strongest attribute, the longevity of his success is all the more remarkable. As a person? Well, to me, it seems he may not be the most approachable of individuals. He appears not to have formed many really long-term musical relationships - numerous musicians and producers have come and gone. To be fair, he has outlived many of them! Also, I get the impression he is not that approachable even to people working closely with him at the time. He didn''t join the tribute ''Concert for George'' in 2002 which, on the surface, seems unforgivable. The oft quoted occasion where he kept his musicians waiting for 10 hours until 4am whilst he completed the lyrics to ''Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands'' and than failed to disclose to them the number of verses before they started recording is indicative to me of his distance. Back to the book - if you''re interested in gaining more understanding of his work, get this book. Don''t forget to strengthen your bookshelf first!