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Bob Dylan - No Direction Home Print E-mail
Tuesday, 30 August 2005

Bob Dylan

No Direction Home
format: 16-bit stereo CD
label: Columbia/Legacy
release year: 2005
performance: 11 (really)
sound: 8
reviewed by: John Sutton-Smith

Image It is hard to imagine what can be said about Bob Dylan that hasn’t already been said or written or explicated before in one fashion or another. Even the great movie maestro Martin Scorsese, in his remarkable new four-hour filmic biograph (to use a Dylan word), doesn’t dare try to re-invent poet-icon. And yet he comes remarkably close.
Although “No Direction Home” contains no new material – indeed, the most recent track stems from 1966 – the soundtrack, like the documentary itself, presents Dylan in such startlingly new contexts that it almost seems like we are seeing and hearing him for the first time. So many songs from Bringing It All Back Home and Blonde on Blonde, of which every wacky vocal whirl and sarcastic intonation is etched in our consciousness and in the marrow of our memories, are presented here in new versions, with often markedly different tone, words, melody and rhythm, even meaning sometimes.

Lennon, Marley, Garcia, Van, Neil – of all the icons of the rock music era, there is no poet that has touched the core of the collective consciousness like Dylan; from Blake to Whitman to his namesake Thomas, there is no more shining symbol of populist possibilities; from Chaplin to Woody to Ali, was there ever such a man of words who was such a man of the people? Dylan said it like it was, yet his words had the imagery and impressionism of Rimbaud and Van Gogh – “To dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free/Silhouetted by the sea/Circled by the circus sands with all memory/And fate, driven deep beneath the waves/Let me forget about today until tomorrow…” Whew, enough said. A master at work in the prime of his powers: you simply must experience it for yourselves.

Hearing these original songs in versions anew kind of puts you off your axis. As with the Beatles’ Anthology, did we know there were other possible versions of these indelible tunes? It’s like everything you’ve ever known is different now.

Sound? You ask about sound. That’s like asking if Bob has a nice singing voice. As it happens, the tapes, like the footage, much of which have been secreted in Dylan’s vaults all the while and never seen before, have been meticulously restored and mastered, and are just a joy to behold.

Because the album is pretty much, although by no means completely, the soundtrack to the documentary and it is all from the ‘60s, there are therefore no extra DVD features nor 5.1 sound manipulation. However, the mastering of these alternative versions to the indelible recordings is clean, clear and faithful – Bob on his own against the diamond sky, one hand waving free. “I’ll let you be in my dream if I can be in yours. I said that.”

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