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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
Clinton Heylin's Bob Dylan: Behind the Shades: Revisited is an updated, revised and expanded edition of the long-out-of-print 1991 biography. Only the fourth comprehensive biography of the artist, Heylin's is the first ever to give equal weight to all phases of Dylan's sweeping 40-years-and-counting career.
Heylin's great area of strength is where many will feel it should be: the music. No Dylanist is more knowledgeable about the man's history in the recording studio, and Heylin appears to have seen about every Dylan concert since the '74 comeback. Of his many original sources, most are musical associates (Dylan's intimate friends have been famously protective of his privacy); the result is a definitive career study of Bob Dylan as working musician.
Thus we read in detail not only about Dylan's early life as a nonconforming teenager in Minnesota's Iron Range and about the first, meteoric stage of his career -- the extraordinary years from 1961 to 1967 -- but also of the many unpredictable turns his path has taken in the succeeding decades. Heylin gives equal attention to Dylan's post-motorcycle-accident retreat in Woodstock (where, working with The Band, he virtually invented "Americana" as a rock genre), the record-breaking 1974 comeback tour with The Band, the full resumption of his earlier powers with Blood on the Tracks, the troubled Rolling Thunder Revue and blows to his credibility with Renaldo and Clara, his wholly unanticipated turn to born-again Christianity and years spent spreading the gospel in concert; and finally his '90s re-emergence as a weathered, revered troubadour who, touring hundreds of nights a year, seems intent on bringing his music to every city and town in the United States.
There is, of course, a reason why that first phase of Dylan's career has always been given the lion's share of attention: It was a white-hot burst of unparalleled creativity that changed pop music for all time. In comparison, his work of the last three decades, while studded with many shining peaks, has often seemed haphazard and desultory to all except a diminished but loyal following. Heylin is by no means uncritical of the fruits of all those later incarnations; indeed, his judgements on some of Dylan's more dubiously canonical works can be harsh enough to strip paint. Yet he is so intent on making us see the career whole, with every chameleon twist related for better or worse to every other -- demonstrably the work of the same man, behind the shades -- that the final effect is not only revealing, but empathetic. (Edward Hutchinson)