Bob Dylan - The fan's ultimate Christmas present
Like many people (men, mostly) of a certain age, Bob Dylan has been the most important musical influence in my life: hearing Like A Rolling Stone for the first time; the awful majesty of Blood On The Tracks; seeing him live for the first time at Earls Court in 1978; the long hard slog of following him through the not-so-wonderful 1980s; the more recent critical renaissance, based partly on the albums from Time Out Of Mind onwards, partly on the unreleased joys uncovered in the ongoing Bootleg Series. A few years ago I even contributed the words to an illustrated Dylan biography (now, quite criminally some would say, out of print). Many people say he can't sing - and people have been saying that since the 1960s - but at the Albert Hall last November I thought the ravaged old voice was being used just beautifully.
Every year brings its Dylan treats and this year there are two in particular. The first is the release, at last, of the complete Basement Tapes - those legendary recordings, made by Dylan and the group that would later become The Band, in the basement of a house in upstate New York in 1967. Some of them were released officially in the 1970s; many more have been available on variable quality bootlegs. At last, here is the complete set of tracks, many of them never previously heard even on bootlegs, remastered and in glorious rough quality. I could spend a long time explaining the significance and gloriousness of these recordings. If you're a fan you'll know already; if not, please listen.
The second treat is the publication in a sumptuous new edition of a comprehensive book of Dylan's lyrics, edited and introduced by respected Dylan scholar, Professor Christopher Ricks. One of the things that marks out this project is that it contains not only the official lyrics of all Dylan's songs, but also those from live recordings and selected variants (as Dylan fans will know, words are often changed intriguingly in performance and to have many of those changes documented is a joy).
I'd be the first to admit that not everyone is going to be quite as taken with the book as I am - and the recommended price of £125 makes it slightly more than a stocking filler of a present this Christmas - but if you, or your loved one, is as dedicated a Dylan admirer as I (and some of those other men of a certain age) then look no further for the perfect gift.
The Lyrics: Since 1962 by Bob Dylan
Jarrold price £100
Published 6th November 2014