What is never in doubt is Dylan’s enduring ability to connect with a new audience who are discovering his older classics for the first time. Still alive, still active, still Number One, he is taking us into uncharted territory in what was once considered a young man’s game. Together Through Life, indeed. The new record is lazy and charming, full of riffs borrowed and blue, befitting a songwriter with nothing left to prove. For someone who never looked back, and advised against it, most of the “late style” lyrics are nostalgic, as are the accompanying interviews: radio isn’t as good as it was when he was young, people aren’t in love like they used to be. In fact, quite how much of the album Dylan wrote is obscure. Those lines not purloined from old blues songs may well have been written by The Grateful Dead’s lyricist Robert Hunter, whom Dylan “hired” as a collaborator. So now is the perfect time to take stock of the catalogue. Clinton Heylin has been an indefatigable chronicler of Dylan since the 80s when he co-founded Wanted Man, The Bob Dylan Information Office, with its fanzine/journal the Telegraph, under the editorship of John Bauldie. In the world of Wanted Man, Heylin was an extremely affable and opinionated conversationalist, always the man most likely to turn his passion into a career. He has written the best Dylan biography (Behind The Shades, 2001, since revised as Behind The Shades Revisited, 2003) and a day-to-day guide (Stolen Moments, 1988). His Bob Dylan: The recording sessions, 1997, followed soon after Marc Lewisohn’s classic The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, and the new book capitalizes on Ian MacDonald’s song-by-song Beatles book Revolution In The Head (to the title of which Heylin’s obviously alludes).
more from Wesley Stace at the TLS here.