Don’t Look Back
The Other Side Of The Mirror: Bob Dylan Live
Bob Dylan In Concert - Brandeis University 1963

Bob Dylan

They might as well call it The History of Bob Dylan 101. Lots of Dylan CDs, DVDs, and Blu-rays are tumbling down the pike in celebration of the Bard’s 70th birthday. Monumental stuff indeed, especially when you consider the historical ramifications behind the man and his music. D.A. Pennebaker's Don’t Look Back, and Murray Lerner's The Other Side Of The Mirror - Bob Dylan Live At The Newport Folk Festival 1963-1965 soak up Dylan’s mercurial style without reservation. And a singular performance of a 21-year-old Bob Dylan at the Brandeis First Annual Folk Festival in Waltham, Massachusetts on May 10, 1963 fills the CD comprising Bob Dylan In Concert - Brandeis University 1963. Brought together, these releases celebrate a turbulent, game-changing period when Bob Dylan had his thumb, index finger and (undoubtedly) middle finger on the pulse of popular culture.

Don’t Look Back (see previous review), which follows Dylan through England in 1965, is now available on Blu-ray and includes a brand new and exclusive interview with Pennebaker and critic Greil Marcus. The Blu-ray also has bonus material from the 2007 DVD release: Highway 65 Revisited, additional uncut audio tracks, commentary from Pennebaker and Dylan sidekick Bob Neuwirth, an alternate version of the “Subterranean Homesick Blues” cue card bit and the film’s original theatrical trailer.

The Other Side Of The Mirror - Bob Dylan Live At The Newport Folk Festival 1963-1965, also on Blu-ray for the first time, traces the evolution of the singer — from a smarmy farm boy with an acoustic guitar and a raspy voice to an ultra-cool hipster, dark shades, polka dot shirts and — gasp! — electric guitars. “You know him…he’s yours…Bob Dylan…” is how it starts and it’s 1965. A short wade through the yodeling vocalizations of “All I Really Want To Do” and no one’s the wiser. If only they knew what was coming later that day. Until that pivotal moment, Lerner shifts back to 1963, when Dylan was still freshly scrubbed and sang regularly with Joan Baez. The “Blowin In The Wind” finale with Baez and Peter, Paul and Mary more or less summed up the mood of the festival.

Come 1964, Dylan slovenly swaggered through “Mr. Tambourine Man” — with a shit-ringing grin, a bona fide endorsement from Johnny Cash, and a spot-on Dylan impression from Baez. At this point, she takes over the film, dueting with Dylan and espousing her views on the fans. Dylan began his appearance 1965 Newport Folk Festival on a windy afternoon by workshopping “If You Gotta Go, Go Now” and “Love Minus Zero/No Limit.” But then the rehearsals become intense with multiple musicians and the next day, July 25, 1965 to be exact, the atmosphere dramatically changed. That’s when guitarist Mike Bloomfield and others from his band joined Dylan for the first “plugged “performances of the singer’s career. The blazing versions of “Maggie's Farm” and “Like A Rolling Stone” were not well received and the folkies were not amused. Of course, when Dylan was in England filming Don’t Look Back, a fan called him “Judas” for going electric.

Bob Dylan In Concert - Brandeis University 1963 is the kind of all-acoustic, pure folk performance the devoted preferred. The tape was discovered in the archives of noted music writer and Rolling Stone co-founder Ralph Gleason and hatched upon the public. It is as raw and natural as Dylan could have been in 1963. If “Talkin’ World War III Blues” doesn’t put a smile on your face, then something’s amiss. This is Bob Dylan, sounding as wise and weathered as a man twice his age. But he was only 21, playing in front of a supportive audience two weeks prior to the release of The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan. Previously available the new Columbia/Legacy edition features liner notes written by noted Bob Dylan scholar Michael Gray. “This is the last live performance we have of Bob Dylan,” Gray writes, “before he becomes a star...” Who would have guessed that almost 50 years later, Dylan, at 70, is still a star, still on the road, still croaking out his songs and still making waves. We’ll save the rest for The History of Bob Dylan – The 2000s.

~ Shawn Perry

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