Tuesday, June 27, 2006

no direction home

I’ll admit it: I’ve never been much of a Bob Dylan fan. I don’t like his voice, and I never understood why he is the object of so much worship. Martin Scorsese’s masterful No Direction Home is changing my mind, though, and I encourage you to see why. Part 1 will be re-broadcast on PBS nationally tomorrow evening, and part 2 follows on July 5.

No Direction Home (amazon) is 3 ½ hour documentary that debuted in September to great acclaim. It focuses on Dylan’s emergence and rise to stardom, first as a hero to the folk movement and then as a “sellout” when he goes electric. It covers the period between 1961 and 1966, and it tells its story with reels of expertly edited, never seen before footage. Home movies and early interviews fill in the human side of Dylan as he tries to cope with his sudden and immense fame. And, rare performance film keep the focus on the music while setting the cultural context.

Each Dylan album sold millions of copies and the lyrics were carefully studied for hidden meaning, but all but the most famous songs are unknown to most my age and younger. No Direction Home is great way to discover his mid-1960s work, and its soundtrack (amazon) contains wonderful alternate versions.

As a companion to this post I’ve created a new iMix: Dylan and Covers. I’ve selected 10 recordings from Dylan and 10 covers of his songs – that’s 20 chances to find something you like. The more famous tracks are included, but must listen to performances include:

Bob Dylan – She Belongs to Me (alternate take)
Bob Dylan - Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again
Nina Simone – Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues
Aaron Neville – With God on Our Side

No Direction Home Part 1, Wednesday, June 28 (KQED 9p)
No Direction Home Part 2: Wednesday, July 5 (KQED 9p)