Monday, July 14, 2008

Bob Dylan 1978-1989 Both Ends of the Rainbow DVD

A documentary of Dylan’s most controversial decade

Bob Dylan 1978-1989 Both Ends of the Rainbow DVD
Producer: Chrome Dreams (www.chromedreams.co.uk)
Length: Main Feature - 127 minutes

Bob Dylan 1978-1989 Both Ends of the Rainbow is the third Dylan documentary in the series produced by UK-based Chrome Dreams. The first two are now part of a limited edition set titled Bob Dylan: The Golden Years 1962-1978. If you like documentaries and are a Dylan fan, you can’t go wrong by adding both of these to your DVD collection. It doesn’t get much better than this.

The DVD starts with extensive commentary on one of the most fascinating and controversial periods in Dylan’s career. It encompasses the period marked by the three recordings that made Dylan’s new Christian faith evident: Slow Train Coming (1979), Saved (1980) and Shot of Love (1981).

If Dylan’s emergence as an icon for the counter-culture in 1965 divided the hip from the unhip, his declaration of the gospel on Slow Train Coming divided the saved from the damned. Many saw this as a betrayal. Slow Train Coming went platinum, but his next two Christian recordings charted poorly in the US, which reflected the disenchantment of some of his fans. The opinion of a record storeowner that I spoke with during that time probably reflected the views of many Dylan fans. He liked the music but didn’t like the message. There was nothing subtle about it, and it was too much for many fans to handle.

What remains a mystery is where Dylan stands in relation to his faith today. One person reiterates that he has never renounced it. Dylan has chosen to keep this subject out of the limelight.

The film shows what a difficult time the eighties were for Dylan and other aging rock stars. MTV, disco and DJs took music in a new direction less favorable to rock. Dylan struggled to be successful in his recordings and performances.

Infidels (1983) was a departure from the Christian trilogy that preceded it. Dylan was once again becoming more subtle and poetic. Empire Burlesque (1985), Knocked Out Loaded (1986) and Down in the Groove (1988) charted poorly, but they contained standout tracks that are now revered as classics. The release of Oh Mercy (1989) was seen as a return to form.

The DVD feels a little long at 127 minutes, but the depth of analysis is excellent. It even provides a perspective on the politics of the time. The performance clips and appearances are brief but noteworthy, punctuating some of the highs and lows of Dylan’s career.

One of the highlights is a short segment of Dylan performing “Maggie’s Farm” with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. It makes you wish you could see the whole song, but this is a biography and documentary.

I think the producer gets the content right. Full performances are outside the scope of this independent review and critique. One interesting bonus is an audio interview of Dylan when he was in the most fervent phase of his Christianity.

This is a must-have for fans and anyone interested in Dylan’s music and career.
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