The groaning Dylan shelves house a few books that are virtually unreadable, many that are merely OK, and a few which are, appropriately considering their subject, so well written that reading them is an unalloyed pleasure.
The new Highway 61 Revisited, by Mark Polizzotti (Continuum 2006, 162pp, 33 1/3 series, no 35, £6.99/$9.95), is a welcome addition to the pleasure givers.
Polizzotti’s analysis of Dylan’s landmark 1965 album, one of the most important releases in popular music history (and ranked third in the recent poll of Dylan Daily readers), speculates on the genesis of the songs, examines their lyrical content and, more prosaically, outlines the recording process. Crucially, he places the great album in the context of what was happening in Dylan’s world in the mid-1960s.
This might seem like an oft-ploughed furrow but, thanks to a formidable intellect, Polizzotti makes some telling observations not encountered elsewhere. He writes with intelligence and flair. And his text has a depth which would fully engage you over several slow, careful reads.
Highway 61 Revisited is more convincing than the other books I’ve read from the 33 1/3 series (Harvest, Exile On Main St. …), and I preferred it to Like A Rolling Stone, last year’s Greil Marcus book covering similar territory.
A fine new book: highly recommended.