on February 1, 2005
I just received this pretty good-looking book of Bob Dylan's lyrics, a volume which I had been waiting for for many years, ever since I became a Dylan fan in 1998 when I was just 16 years old. After the excitement of receiving the book and giving it a few quick but careful glimpses in the past couple of days, I felt it was appropiate to review the book for the fellow customers.
Some good things to say about this book:
First, the book is beautifully presented in a high quality hardcover. It is not a cheap-looking book by any means. Lyrics are sorted chronologically by LP (contemporary non-album tracks from each LP's timeframe are put as if they were "bonus tracks", at the end of the respective albums), respecting the running order of the albums, rather than putting the songs in the order they were written. That's a plus when you're reading the lyrics book while playing the respective record, especially if you are one of those -like myself- who usually have a hard time trying to decipher what Mr. D is singing. Another reviewer complains that this volume is not presenting the songs individually instead of album-by-album, but to me that is definitely not a problem.
Second, this is a lyrics collection, not a description of them or anything like that. If you're looking for any kind of analysis or lyrics dissection, look elsewhere. This is "just" a lyrics book, and I'm pretty happy for that. Some people have argued that this book is not necessary, because anybody can download the lyrics from the internet. That statement is as reasonable as saying that there's no need to buy Bob's albums because you can download the albums in mp3 format stolen for free. Absurd.
Third, the lyrics are many times different from the lyrics you hear on the records. That's pretty logical, considering Dylan has rewritten his songs many times throughout his career, even before they appear on the record. That's why they appear here as they were published, and not necessarily as they were recorded. If one version was to be chosen, many of us would go for the songs "as recorded", but maybe Bob thought otherwise. It's not a problem, in my opinion, as the differences are -in most cases- not substantial at all.
Now, I'll point out a few flaws I found in this set:
First, the book is very big sized, so it's hard to transport it without damaging the paper that wraps up the hard covers. Even if you take out that wrap, the book is not one you could bring to the bus to read while you are listening to Dylan on your stereo. It's not a big deal after all, since I couldn't think of any alternative solution to this that satisfied me.
Second, the albums are supposedly put chronologically by recording date. But the album "Basement Tapes", which was recorded between "Blonde On Blonde" (1966) and "John Wesley Harding" (1967) and released between "Blood On The Tracks" (1975) and "Desire" (1976), is included -unexplainedly- between the albums "New Morning" (1970) and "Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid" (1973). I don't have a clue for this decision. I think this was simply a mistake.
But, the biggest flaw I saw was that this Lyrics book is criminally incomplete. While it has most of the songs Bob put his name on as a songwriter -alone or with others-, the omissions are unforgivable. To name a few:
--"Got My Mind Made Up", from Bob's album "Knocked Out Loaded", had music from Tom Petty and lyrics written by Dylan and Petty. This song is nowhere to be found on this book.
--"I Don't Want To Do It", written by Bob and given to George Harrison, was released on the "Porky's Revenge" film soundtrack, as well as on the A-side of a single by Harrison in 1985. However, it was omitted.
--"Jammin' Me", was written by Tom Petty, Bob Dylan and Mike Campbell, and it was released on Petty's 1987 album "Let Me Up (I've Had Enough)". It was a hit single, by the way. But it's not here.
--"Walk Out In The Rain", was written by Bob Dylan and Helena Springs, and released on Eric Clapton's "Backless". Where is it? Not on this book.
While these omissions might not seem relevant, I was looking for a COMPLETE BOB DYLAN LYRICS book. That's what I paid for, but many songs were simply omitted, for no particular reason. I could go on with at least half a dozen Dylan-signed compositions with lyrics that are not included. Sad, especially when you can find non-Dylan compositions included on the book, like "Corrina, Corrina". Why would anybody include a Traditional folk song like "Corrina..." in this book? Oh, because it was ARRANGED BY DYLAN. If that made this song eligible for this book, why all the traditional folk songs arranged by Bob from "Good As I Been To You" and "World Gone Wrong" were omitted? Simply because Bob didn't write them. I think that "Corrina, Corrina" was included by mistake, just as all those other Dylan compositions listed above (as well as others) were omitted. Many songs gave away to other artists are indeed included, but not all, and in the case of "Got My Mind Made Up", which is on a Dylan album to begin with, the absence is fully unjustified.
My verdict: While this release takes many steps forward to become the ultimate edition of this book, by largely updating the 1985 edition, I find it sad to say that this is far from its goal of being the definitive edition of the complete Dylan lyrics, and mainly that's because of a negligent (or lazy) compiler. If you really need to have (almost) all of Bob's written songs printed in one place, elegantly presented, then you will be glad to purchase this. But, when you find that a certain Bob Dylan song you know is missing, remember this warning.
I had the first edition, which covered up to '85. I recall the book was quite an event at the time, and yes, pricey, but this was pre-web days and, for all the inaccuracies, it was still impressive
to read through. Dylan's words, more than most songwriters, work on a number of levels as prose/poetry as well as lyric (there's a real difference, as any good lyricist/songwriter can tell you). I can understand the reviewer who wonders how the cost can be justified now when more complete versions are available online for free. I can only suggest that, for the majority of Dylan fans who came of age in those murky pre-internet years (not to mention Amazon's accountants), there's still a strong attraction to words on paper and the romance of books.
on December 7, 2004
While I am very happy to have this book, I am also disappointed. Reading songs while listening to them I find frequent small differences in the printed lyrics from those on the studio recordings. For example, in the song "Senor" from Street Legal, the first line goes "Can you tell me where we're headin'" but the printed lyric is "Do you know where we're headin'". One of Dylan's finest lines from the song "Man in the Long Black Coat" is "People don't live or die, people just float." The printed version is "I went down to the river, but I just missed the boat." One could argue that original notes or frequent performance better define the songs than the studio recordings, but there should be some introductory note that tells us this. This book does not identify an editor and has no introductory note. Other than these complaints, I love it!
Addendum: October 2, 2010
I have seen the German version of this book with lyrics in both english and German. It shows the line "People don't live or die, people just float.".