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Hard Rain: A Dylan Commentary Paperback – July 27, 1993
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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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Top Customer Reviews
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.