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Hard Rain: A Dylan Commentary Paperback – July 27, 1993

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--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Riley eloquently but incompletely examines rock legend Bob Dylan's three decades of inconsistent work, bootleg recordings and continuous concerts.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Unlike most Dylan books--which are either biographies like Clinton Heylin's Bob Dylan: Behind the Shades ( LJ 6/1/91) or lists of some sort--Riley ( Tell Me Why: A Beatles Commentary , Knopf, 1988) here provides a critical examination of this thorniest of modern musicians. Riley goes beyond the obvious; for example, Woody Guthrie's influence on Dylan is well documented, but Riley examines not only how Guthrie inspired Dylan but what Dylan does differently from Guthrie and who else falls into his inspirational canon (Robert Johnson, Leadbelly, Hank Williams). Riley knows music, and his descriptions are marvelous, especially of the 1966-75 era ( Blonde on Blonde , The Basement Tapes , Planet Waves , Blood on the Tracks , and the 1966 and 1974 tours). He also is thankfully unafraid to be disparaging; unlike Heylin, he has very little that is nice to say about Dylan's post-1975 work. Riley's flaws are mainly stylistic; he tends to repeat himself and has an unfortunate fondness for the word bromide. Still, this is an incisive work. Essential for most music collections.
- Keith R.A. DeCandido, "Library Journal"
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (July 27, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679745270
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679745273
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 1.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,682,358 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

NPR CRITIC, AUTHOR, PIANIST, and SPEAKER TIM RILEY reviews pop and classical music for NPR's HERE AND NOW, the NEW YORK TIMES, the HUFFINGTON POST, THE WASHINGTON POST, SLATE.COM and SALON.COM. He was trained as a classical pianist at Oberlin and Eastman.

In 2009, Emerson College appointed Riley Journalist-In-Residence and then Assistant Professor, where he teaches Digital and Music Journalism while supervising the department's social media strategy.

Brown University sponsored Riley as Critic-In Residence in 2008, and his first book, Tell Me Why: A Beatles Commentary (Knopf/Vintage 1988), was hailed by the New York Times as bringing "new insight to the act we've known for all these years..."

A staple author in college courses on rock culture, he gave a keynote address at BEATLES 2000, the first international academic conference in Jyvaskyla, Finland. Since then, he's given lively multi-media lectures at colleges and cultural centers like the Chautauqua Festival on "Censorship in the Arts," and "Rock History."

His current projects include the music metaportal, the RILEY ROCK INDEX, and a major new Beatles textbook for Oxford University Press, and articles for Radio Silence and truthdig. See: http://timrileyauthor.com.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Brent Wittmeier on June 19, 2005
Format: Paperback
I am glad to see other reviewers found this book as dissatisfying as I did.
Dylan is an enigmatic figure whose appeal lies in lyrical ambiguity, lack of polish, unorthodox phrasing of his vocals, and his constant reinventions of himself. His output has been prodigious. Riley captures this well, at least for the first half of the book.
I have two major problems with this book:
1) Riley makes statements about authorial intent which simply can't be justified. When I listen to Blood on the Tracks, I don't contemplate it as a commentary on the end of the sixties. Riley makes these obtuse statements about what Dylan is 'really saying' with such fervour that you'd think he knew Dylan personally (and if he did, so what?). That other review about Visions of Johanna is right on on this point.
2) With only a few exceptions, Riley hates anything Dylan has done since Desire. Now this is not an uncommon opinion. Dylan's voice does go through a serious decline. Many of his albums since Desire have been uneven and lyrically weak. Riley, however, kicks poor Bob when he's down and is downright huffy about some of Dylan's better efforts. He pans Oh Mercy in favour of Under the Red Sky and the Traveling Wilburies recordings (has he actually listened to Red Sky? It's flimsy at best, especially in comparison to Oh Mercy). In his updated chapter, he chides Dylan for playing for John Paul II, for not being Sinead O'Connor, and for being 'grumpy' on Time Out of Mind (which despite Riley's objections, is a solid album full of humour and great vocal phrasing). Riley's sermonizing gets progressively weak and unrestrained...
I just get the impression that Mr. Riley loved the sixties so much he lives in paranoid denial that they're over. The Republicans may be in office, and Dylan may not be the trend-setting anti-hero that he once was, but please don't blame Dylan for the loss of your adolescent dreams, Mr. Riley.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A. Wolverton VINE VOICE on January 2, 2001
Format: Paperback
Tim Riley's commentary on Dylan focuses on the music rather than the man. This focus starts fairly well, aside from Riley trying to impress us with his vocabulary. Dylan's early work (from his debut until about Highway 61 Revisited) receives a fairly thorough treatment as Riley tries to "get inside" the mind of Dylan (which is probably not a very wise thing to do in the first place). Even if you don't agree with Riley, his ideas are interesting...at least for awhile. After reading the book, it seems that Riley believes that Dylan hasn't written anything worth listening to since "Blood on the Tracks." Unfortunately the author all but ignores some of Dylan's most significant contributions past 1975. (Riley spends nearly 250 pages on the period from Dylan's debut until 1975. From 1975 on only gets 50 pages.) This book was a super disappointment by an author who seems to have an axe to grind. The work is saved by giving a good bibliography and an even better discography.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Pate on August 12, 2006
Format: Paperback
Tim Riley's book on Dylan starts fresh. He provides one of the best appreciations of Dylan's voice I have read. OK so the guy has a fresh point of view. Then he weighs into Dylan's early work with gusto. Riley appreciates Dylan's socio political protest in the image of Woodie Gutherie and also gets into what he imagines is drug fueled creativity up to 1966. He finds a drug behind every bush though which is possible but misses the multiple layering of Dylan's work. Then like the folkies who dis Dylan at Newport he starts to turn sour on Dylan during the post-66 period and gets nastier as the book moves on. Until finally in the Epilogue Riley becomes the master of mean invective against Dylan and everyone, except Wilco? Oh yeah, they are singing Woodie Gutherie songs to new tunes - right. There's the connection.

My advice - borrow the book, read until Blood on the Tracks and quit. The rest will spoil your day.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 2, 1999
Format: Paperback
There are so many things wrong with this book that it is not worth my time listing them all. I could rant on and on about the inaccuracies in information, especially in the second half of this piece of rubbish that just falls apart when it comes to covering Dylans eighties and nineties work. Notable albums like Infidels are boiled down to a few sentances (whereas albums like Planet Waves recieve whole chapters). Riley uses a large portion of this increadibly opinionated commentary to discuss "notable" non-Dylan albums that are examples of Dylans influence (ranging from albums by Neil Young to albums by Prince) with a "why couldn't Dylan do this in the eighties" attitude. It is very difficult connecting with Riley's understanding of Dylan because it seems as though he is simply talking to himself, pointing out "good songs" and "bad songs" and offering up cute little explanations and analyses, making this a very boring read. Does Dylan really have to be dissected in such a way? In a nutshell, the "commentary" in this book, like that of a similar waste of paper called "Behind the Shades" by Clinton Heylin, is that Dylan was once a genious and is now a hasbeen with little to offer. Why do all these very dated books end the same? Because,they were premature and, as a result very pointless, considering how much has been added to the Dylan legacy in the seven years since this book was puplished. Wait till he'd dead and then make assesments of his career.
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