By Stephen Pate – When Jon Bream’s Dylan: Disc by Disc arrived by mail I knew instinctively it was a great book and even better gift.
I was so excited my wife said “Hold that feeling and write a story. It’s Christmas after all and people are looking for great gifts for you Dylan fans.”
My initial enthusiasm was fostered by the quality of the book, its size look and feel. Dylan: Disc by Disc is a discussion album by album of Bob Dylan’s 36 studio recordings with album artwork and great photographs by Landy, Cohen and others. From “Bob Dylan” to “Shadows in the Night” the studio albums are all here.
Jon Bream, the music journalist at the Minneapolis Star, invited two Dylan critics, songwriters and other musicians to discuss each album. Altogether 55 people contributed to the album-by-album discussion. Richie Unterberger, a frequent contributor to ALLMUSIC, wrote the introductions to each record.
Bream is a grounded rock journalist who avoids either slavish fandom or vitrolic criticism of artists. He has that American mid-western sensibility many of us consider balanced. John Bream has seen a lot of music in his 40+ year career at the Star Tribune.
It’s always helpful to remember that Dylan is a fellow Minnesotan and shares the same roots and sensibilities.
Bream brings that balanced sensibility to the total body of Bob Dylan’s work, certainly an ambitious and perilous journey. Dylan has being nothing if not prolific but also uneven at times. He is the artist.
Many critics, people of lesser talent, find it necessary to heap scorn on great artists when they see lapses in their output. Bream wisely avoids tacking his boat in that direction.
The articles inform, provide new insights and encourage us to re-hear the music again. I started a thoroughly enjoyable project of reading a chapter then listening to the album with quality headphones which brings out interesting nuances I had forgotten. Then I go back the Bream’s book to scan the chapter again. This will take many enjoyable months.
Who is this book for? Dylan: Disc by Disc will be enjoyed by any and all Dylan fans because it takes us back to the music. At $30 retail ($21 on Amazon.com) it’s a stocking stuffer, a birthday gift or whatever gift you want to call it. If no one takes the hint, buy it for yourself.
It is the perfect large format without being huge. Feels great in your hands.
Compared to the 100+ other Dylan books I’ve read, I rank it in the top 10 for being entertaining and informative. Highly recommended.
Jon had his publisher send a review copy of the book and I thank him. He interviewed me several years ago and got the admission I listen to some Dylan music every day.
Also available in Kindle although I think Kindle does not deliver the same experience with a book this gorgeous.