Monday, April 13, 2015

Roads Rapidly Changing, Bob Dylan In & Out of the Folk Revival 1961-1965, DVD

Bob Dylan in his early career as a folk artist did as much as anybody in the '60s to change the way we thought of "popular music." He hardly was on a pop level in the early period yet he ultimately got the ear of pop-rock listeners and forever changed our view of what could be done. That may be a tall assertion, but watch the bio-DVD Roads Rapidly Changing, Bob Dylan In & Out of the Folk Revival 1961-1965 (Sexy Intellectual DVD 582).

The format is again typical of such bio-DVDs, chronological narrative, critical dialog and commentary from contemporaries, and performance clips. The subject is an important one and the DVD handles it well. We get an extended two-hour presentation that shows how in only five years Dylan managed to craft a revolution in what folk could be. It starts with his arrival in New York as a somewhat green, raw talent, goes on to talk about his friendship with the ailing Woody Guthrie, Dylan's first attempts to gain recognition and success on the folk circuit, his signing to Columbia and the first album, which was mostly folk covers with a pretty strong bluesy orientation.

The influence of the political activism of his then girlfriend was to have a huge influence on the startling series of originals that he brought to the world in his second and third albums, Freewheeling and The Times They Are A Changing. The idea that a folk artist crafted contemporary originals was much his own doing, but of course the incisive sublimity of the total Dylan package, unique and ever-shifting vocal style, harmonica and acoustic guitar accompaniment, the unforgettable poetic protest lyrics and compositional memorability are dealt with in some depth. As the story goes, the assassination of JFK affected Dylan heavily, as did a study of symbolist poets. With Another Side of Bob Dylan we get an ever more poetic, less politically engaged Dylan, culminating of course in the shock (to many folkies) of his electrification and seeming abandonment of the folk scene.

The DVD deals with all these developments in depth, raising questions as to whether he was as committed politically as was thought, or was he finding in the political upheavals poignant subjects that satisfied his need to tell an unforgettable story? Regardless the remarkable music of his folk period is celebrated as it deserves. No one could touch his artistry in those days and the lyrics and music stay with us today as some of the most significant of the era, masterpieces.

If you want a thoughtful, detailed overview of this critical period in the Dylan story you can scarce do better that this DVD bio. It raises issues, praises the originality and gives you a good feel for the folk scene of the era and Dyan's incredibly strong impact on it all.

Watch this one and you will doubtless get much to think about. Well done!

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