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Revolution in the Air: The Songs of Bob Dylan, 1957-1973 (Cappella Books (Hardcover)) Hardcover – April 1, 2009

3.2 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Prolific Dylanologist Heylin makes his arguably greatest contribution with a painstakingly researched consideration of every song Dylan is known to have written, some 600, all told. Drawing from manuscripts, studio logs, concert recordings, and other sources, Heylin traces Dylan’s career by listing the songs in order of writing rather than public presentation. This first of two volumes collects everything from juvenilia predating his 1961 arrival in New York to his 1974 comeback album, Planet Waves. Even songs that were never recorded or performed are noted, but the major ones receive multipage write-ups that are, in essence, insightful, revelatory mini-essays. Documenting the mercurial performer’s transitions from Guthrie-influenced folkie to raging rocker to laid-back country singer, Heylin, who appears to have heard virtually all of the concerts Dylan has performed during the past 20 years of what has come to be known as the “Neverending Tour,” reveals how vintage songs take on new meanings as they’re recast by their author on stage decades later. --Gordon Flagg

Review

"Documents the nuts and bolts."  —Rolling Stone


"One of the most important volumes in the already groaning Bookshelf of Bob"  —Houston Press



True to form, Heylin digs deep—way deep—into the songs, mixing cold hard facts with illuminating anecdotes."  —Mark Smith, managing editor, Acoustic Guitar


"A magnum opus that anyone curious about, fascinated by, and devoted to His Master's Voice will want to read and ponder."  —Jonathan Cott, author, Dylan, and editor, Bob Dylan: The Essential Interviews



"An exhaustive look at one of the 20th century's best and prolific songwriters…uncovers tons of info about these timeless tracks."  —Cleveland Scene



"An excellent supplement to a good Dylan biography . . . including Heylin's highly empirical Behind the Shades."  —Arkansas Democrat-Gazette



"Comprehensive . . . obviously written very lovingly."  —PopMatters.com



"Revolution in the Air, like its precursor, Ian McDonald’s Revolution in the Head about the Beatles' recordings, is an invaluable guide to have by your side as you traverse this monstrous body of work."  —NUVO

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Product Details

  • Series: Cappella Books (Hardcover)
  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Chicago Review Press; First Edition edition (April 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1556528434
  • ISBN-13: 978-1556528439
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,665,911 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Manfred Helfert on April 6, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Just received this today (from amazon.de) - and I'm sadly disappointed by the pretentious and rather sloppy research.

Nothing really new here - no really new insights, but mostly a repetition of material found elsewhere already and treated in a more reliable and considerably more scholarly way in books like Michael Gray's The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia or Oliver Trager's Keys to the Rain.

Add to this Heylin's rather condescending tone, everybody else's research (in his eyes) seems to be faulty and cannot be trusted - just savor this rather pompous statement:

"Needless to say, the Internet has also provided endless opportunities for the unpublishable, self-appointed "expert" to pontificate on the man and his art, but I have felt little inclination to fuel their self-importance, with a citation here." (p. 451)

As condescending (or outright arrogant) Heylin is in (several) statements like these throughout the book whenever other people's research/work is concerned, he obviously has no scruples whatsoever to exploit the websites of these "unpublishable" peons (in his eyes) rather extensively, presenting their findings in a way that suggests that these are his own without crediting his sources appropriately, thus rendering his book as academically rather useless, even bordering on plagiarism.

A particularly blatant example is to be found on p. 136. Heylin writes that "Judy Collins, in a 1996 email regarding the two songs, confirms that 'the Seven Curses are related to Anathea'" and extensively quotes from this email, creating the impression that he had been the recipient of it, whereas he "lifted" this email (without credit to his source and proper attribution) verbatim from [...
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Dylan certainly wrote some of the most fascinating music of our time. But Heylin's treatise is so soaked in detail about the first performances and other technicalities that there appears to be little passion for the music itself. Other reviewers take Heylin to task for being factually incorrect; I do not know enough to judge that. I take him to task for making what should be a fascinating subject very dull and academic. After reading the book, I wondered, did Heylin actually like any of these 300 songs? If he did, I sure could not tell from this book.
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Format: Hardcover
I agree with part of the two previous reviewers' comments: Heylin is unnecessarily self-hyping, especially for a biographer. He inserted himself (and what appears to be a perpetual grumpy-older-guy persona) into his biography of Van Morrison ("Can You Feel The Silence?"), ruining what otherwise would have been an enjoyable read for me.

Similarly, he has so many axes to grind with other Dylan writers in his preamble to "Revolution In The Air," you feel he wants a fight with them more than to speak the truth about his subject -- which is Dylan, not those other writers.

Still... this book is so rich. First, it concentrates on the songs. Not "the legend." And it mostly leaves critical comments about specific songs behind, instead just detailing circumstances and background behind their writing. That levelheadedness is valuable in the hothouse bubble of Dylan criticism.

And this book just reminds you where the hothouse really was -- in Dylan's inspired brain. Especially in the 60s which is most of what this first volume covers. (A second volume is planned.) It focuses your attention on Dylan's amazing crawl from copying Woody Guthrie to... replacing him, if you will. An amazing journey.

And the journey is all about those songs. I found it a fascinating read and very hard to put down. I recommend the book highly, even with the caveats about Heylin's personality mentioned above.
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Format: Hardcover
Clinton Heylin is notorious for editorializing in works that are supposed to be scholarly, as well as for spending a lot of time bad-mouthing everyone ELSE who writes about Dylan. Here, he's in rare form, lodging one complaint after another about Dylan critics (who are, in many cases, actually better writers AND better historians than he is). While there is some new information here that will make the book useful for Dylan fans, there is so much inaccuracy among the known facts that the new information has to be considered questionable (in particular, when he mentions whether a song was performed on the Neverending Tour, when it was first performed, or how often it was performed, the information given is often demonstratably false, despite the fact that the information is VERY easy to obtain). As usual, though, it's not the inaccuracy that makes this book hard to read, it's Heylin's usual sniveling, self-satisfied tone. The act of writing a book about someone else is, by nature, something of an unselfish act, but Heylin manages to look like an egomaniac in the process.
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Format: Hardcover
Mr. Heylin's previous works on Dylan (three that I know of and own) are quite wonderful, despite what reviewers accurately point out as his arrogant, occasionally over-opinionated observations. This work is consistently informative, enlightening, and arguable. I like his use of language and the organization he's used here is especially conducive to examining BD's work as a songwriter. The factual lapses, which really aren't numerous, don't present an issue for readers. Heylin's knowledge and passion are unquestionable, as is his scholarly approach. The rather condescending comments he makes about other critics do not contribute in any positive way to Mr. Heylin's voice as a writer but they also don't seriously mar the the content of this study. He also has a habit of being rather nasty to musicians who Dylan himself holds highly and I do have a problem with that. I do wish that Mr. Heylin (and this goes for each book he's authored on Dylan) would curtail his comments a bit on The Grateful Dead, who he just doesn't get. (Even though almost no one holds the 1987 collaboration to any high estimation). Van Morrison, too. I also am puzzled at Mr. Heylin's negative feelings about Theme Time Radio. He doesn't really explain himself regarding that wonderful radio show. But these are minor quibbles in a work that is a brilliant critical canvas, covering the songs of the major artist of our time. I do look forward to Mr. Heylin's next volume, warts and all. It deserves five stars but I can understand readers who might be furious enough to give it two.
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