Category Archives: Bob Dylan

Which is the best Bob Dylan box set? And which is the worst?

Which is the best Bob Dylan box set? Which is the worst? And how good are the in-betweens?

There have been eight official Bob Dylan box set releases (on CD in the UK)  – in addition to the Bob Dylan Bootleg Series standard box sets and their Deluxe Editions, both recently reviewed here on ROCK ART EDITIONS.

If you can, for a moment, ignore the music of each Bob Dylan box set and judge it purely as an artefact – that is, the packaging, cover art, books and memorabilia – you’ll find that they range from the excellent, through the good (but not great), to the disappointingly half-hearted.

Most aficionados already owned much of the music in every Bob Dylan box set, long before they were released. So, many bought each box set as an artefact, not a collection of music. (The sonic quality of Bob Dylan albums is expertly documented by Derek Barker of Isis in a lengthy survey, Bob Dylan Remastered, compiled with the help of Alan Fraser of Searching for a Gem.)

The Complete Album Collection Vol. One – the best Bob Dylan box set

Bob Dylan box set

Bob Dylan The Complete Album Collection Vol. One

The Complete Album Collection Vol. One, comprising 47 CDs, is the best Bob Dylan box set. It’s a fitting package for a peerless collection of music.

Joe Marchese was absolutely right in his perceptive review on The Second Disc: “excels in a flawlessly designed presentation worthy of its subject. It’s housed in a box with a lift-off cover, and every album is presented in a faithfully-reproduced LP mini-sleeve… the 268-page hardcover book is also a wonder to behold… track listings… original liner notes for every album… great selection of photographs and memorabilia images… Clinton Heylin has written an album-by-album chronology of over 40 pages’ length. As none of Legacy’s past Dylan reissues has included liner notes from a historical perspective, Heylin’s analyses are a crowning touch here.”

if you want to check out the package before buying, you can see the artwork, including the entire book, on the wonderfully detailed Discogs.

The Original Mono Recordings – another excellent Bob Dylan box set

Bob Dylan box set

Bob Dylan The Original Mono Recordings

The Original Mono Recordings is another superlative artefact. It delivers the first eight albums, from Bob Dylan to John Wesley Harding, in replica LP covers, original inserts and sleeves, housed in a slip holder which slides into a striking monochrome slipcase. The full colour book has new Greil Marcus liner notes.

Many will be hoping that it will eventually be discounted: the almost-identical Miles Davis mono box, which launched at the same high price (about £100), now retails for about £20.

Biograph – a good (but not great) Bob Dylan box set

Biograph (1985) included 21 rare/unreleased songs. A dummy run for The Bootleg Series, Biograph is – musically – a key Bob Dylan box set. The 3CD triple jewel box wouldn’t win any prizes for package design, but its 64pp booklet, with Dylan’s own “Deluxe Notes” (!) on each track, was revelatory. Cameron Crowe’s extensive essay take up the booklet’s first 41 pages. And the photos include work by luminaries like David Gahr, Ken Regan and Daniel Kramer.

The original release also has three picture discs, each with a different Dylan portrait.

Subsequent reissues of Biograph have different formats. The 1991 version is a true box set, with each of the three discs housed in its own card cover, all in a rigid cardboard box. The bookset edition (2011, pictured below) is equally tempting, though the bookset format has its critics.

Bob Dylan box set

Bob Dylan Biograph

Collectors’ Box – another good (but not great) Bob Dylan box set

Sonically innovative – it tested the viability of the SACD and Surround Sound formats – Collectors’ Box (2003) is another good but not great Bob Dylan box set.

Its 15 albums – selected who knows how? – are packaged in delightful digipak gatefold sleeves, with the original vinyl LP artwork enclosed as individual leaflets.

But the attractive design of the digipak sleeves is compromised by their being packed into an open-ended box, which is both rudimentary and a bit too small. There’s no accompanying book/let, disappointing in what was intended as a high-ticket premium product.

Bob Dylan box set

Bob Dylan Collectors’ Box

DYLAN Limited Edition Deluxe – yet another good (but not great) Bob Dylan box set

DYLAN, the “Limited Edition Deluxe” 3CD box, packages its discs in fine original card covers, complete with inner sleeves. The set of 10 photo cards is memorabilia worth having.

But the package is a misfire: the box has a bizarre combination of a cloth exterior and a (faux) velvet lining. The 40pp booklet is thin and over-reliant on photos at the expense of text. The CDs are disguised as mini-vinyl discs. Oh dear… .

And the “Limited Edition” has no indication of how many were made: 50,000? 500,000? 5 million?

For me, DYLAN, the package, doesn’t work.

Bob Dylan box set

Bob Dylan box set: DYLAN

50th Anniversary Collections – the worst Bob Dylan box sets

The three successive 50th Anniversary Collections contain some desirable music, and they are collectable, because of their tiny edition sizes.

As artefacts, though, they hardly warrant discussion. Their packaging is perfunctory. They are lo-cost packages housing music released, we are informed, by Sony, to ensure that their 1962, 1963 and 1964 Dylan recordings didn’t fall into the public domain, following changes in European copyright law.

Sony reportedly manufactured just 100 copies each of the four-CDR “1962” set and the six-LP “1963” set, and 1000 copies of the nine-LP “1964” release and sold them only in Europe. (Buyers and traders should not rely on these second-hand figures: I have no way of checking their accuracy.)

Bob Dylan box set

Bob Dylan The 50th Anniversary Collection 2012

Bob Dylan box set

Bob Dylan 50th Anniversary Collection 2013

Super Deluxe Edition has a review of the 1963 release by astute Editor Paul Sinclair which has more information, including a track list.

Bob Dylan box set

Bob Dylan 50th Anniversary Collection 2014

In safeguarding its 1965 recordings, Sony got wise and made money, too. The result: the The Bootleg Series Vol. 12 The Cutting Edge Collector’s Edition, 18 CDs in a sumptuous, ultra high-priced limited edition box.

So, to sum up: the Complete Album Collection Vol. One is the best Bob Dylan box set (as an artefact); the 50th Anniversary Collections are the worst.

Are any of the Bob Dylan box sets a worthwhile investment? Because of their rarity value, the 50th Anniversary Collections could appreciate significantly in value. Ditto The Bootleg Series Vol. 12 Collector’s Edition.

Is any other Bob Dylan box set likely to grow in value? I don’t see much evidence so far.

Copyright: text © Gerald Smith, ROCK ART EDITIONS 2016; pictures © Sony Music Entertainment. Unauthorised reproduction prohibited.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Deluxe box sets: desirable? Good value? Worthwhile investment?

How desirable are the Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Deluxe box sets?  Do they offer good value?  Are they a worthwhile investment?

The last Bob Dylan article in ROCK ART EDITIONS concluded that the ten standard releases in the Bob Dylan Bootleg Series are noteworthy for their “definitive photos and exquisite packaging”, as well as their music.

This follow-up article turns to the visual art of the four Deluxe box sets, focusing on their “rock art” – slipcases, books, photos and packaging.

The music – which ranges from very good to celestial – is largely ignored in this article.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Deluxe box sets: Vol. 8 Tell Tale Signs

After releasing Vols. 1-7 in a standard 2CD-in-slipcase format, Columbia Legacy innovated for Vol. 8 with an added-value option, an “Expanded Deluxe Edition”, with a third CD and more artefacts.

The release introduced a handy new format in a rigid card slipcase, in an attractive new size, 8 5/8″ square x 1 5/8″ thick. The slipcase holds two hardcover books. A 60pp book with liner notes and photos is a bigger version of that in the standard-size 2CD release. The extra book, Collected Single Sleeves, is a 160pp hardback, with reproductions of the paper covers which housed Dylan vinyl 45rpm records released around the world.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series deluxe box sets

Tell Tale Signs Deluxe Edition

The Bob Dylan online store offered an incentive to customers ordering from them: an exclusive 7″ single. And the first 5,000 orders were also rewarded with a Theme Time Radio Hour poster.

Sony probably had mixed feelings when evaluating the success of the release. It must have been a commercial success – it seems to have sold out pretty quickly. But it attracted hostility from some hardcore Dylan fans. Many, perhaps shocked by the novel nose-bleed price level, labelled it a “rip-off” – bad news if the intention was to roll out subsequent releases.

The naysayers perceived Vol. 8 as an attempt to extract an unwarranted premium price for CD3. The problem was probably not the new price level (about £100 in the UK, from memory), but limited added value: the extras didn’t warrant the price differential over the 2CD release.

The music on the standard Tell Tale Signs is among the high points of the whole series. CD3 in the Deluxe Edition was, frankly, rather marginal. And the second book was an odd choice, appealing to a minority of purchasers. The book was also sold separately as a “limited edition”, undermining further the allure of the Deluxe box. I bought (for £15) the copy I happened upon in London.

The release of a single CD version of Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Vol. 8 Tell Tale Signs – another  novelty – probably confused buyers further.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Deluxe box sets: the template is fixed

In hindsight, Columbia Legacy made errors with the Deluxe edition of Vol. 8.  But they proved there’s a market for high-priced, added-value product and worked out a template for subsequent releases: a rigid card slipcase, measuring 8 5/8″ square; two hardback books, the first an expanded version of the mainstream CD-sized version, also housing the discs, and a second with extra photos, vinyl cover art, studio logs and the like. They probably learned that they needed to offer more obvious added value.

Columbia Legacy also demonstrated their marketing nous by standardising the size and formatting of deluxe boxes.  It tempts collectors to buy the complete set… by buying Vol. 8 Deluxe Edition, many Dylan fans unconsciously signed up for subsequent deluxe box sets.

The next Bootleg Series release, Vol. 9 The Witmark Demos, probably came too soon to apply these lessons. It was only released as a CD-sized two disc package with card slipcase and matching booklet: a first-rate release, but not Deluxe. (In Concert – Brandeis University 1963, a seven track promo CD was offered as an exclusive incentive by Amazon, but it wasn’t part of the Vol. 9 package).

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Deluxe box sets: Vol. 10 Another Self Portrait

Vol. 10 Another Self Portrait improves on the Deluxe model established with Vol. 8. It has two extra CDs of music, “the first complete release of the August 1969 Isle of Wight Festival performance newly re-mixed from the original source” and a “remastered version of the 1970 Self Portrait album, in its entirety with original sequencing.”

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series deluxe box sets

Another Self Portrait Deluxe Edition

The musical extras might be underwhelming, but the packaging isn’t. The attractive rigid slipcase houses two excellent hardcover books. A bigger version of the standard version liner notes includes the revisionist essay by Greil Marcus (author of the notorious “What is this shit?” 1970 Self Portrait review in Rolling Stone).  It has the same exquisite front cover photo as the CD-sized booklet (uncredited, but probably by John Cohen). The second book, Time Passes Slowly – Photographs And More, is an “Exclusive Deluxe-Bound Book” of 127 pages of rare and unseen photographs, as well as magazine covers and sleeve art from worldwide Dylan releases.

The first 5,000 customers ordering from the Bob Dylan online store also received a fine poster promoting the original release of Self Portrait.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Deluxe box sets: Vol. 11 The Basement Tapes Complete, Limited Deluxe Edition

With Vol. 11 The Basement Tapes Complete, a “Limited Deluxe Edition” of 6CDs, Columbia Legacy perfected the deluxe edition format. And hit the mother lode, commercially and creatively. Sony’s bean counters must have been as pleased as the legions of Dylanistas.

Steve Berkowitz, Sony’s Co-Producer for the whole series, claims that The Basement Tapes is the most sought-after bootleg in all rock music.  He’s absolutely right: gems from The Basement Tapes kick-started the (unofficial) bootleg industry nearly 50 years ago.  It has engaged hardcore rock fans ever since.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series deluxe box sets

The Basement Tapes Complete (Deluxe Edition)

Vol. 11 The Basement Tapes Complete sets a new benchmark for deluxe back catalogue product.  The musical content of The Basement Tapes Complete is so important, so revelatory, that Columbia Legacy could probably have sold the CDs in plain paper bags, without any embellishment. To their credit, they created a very high spec package, too.

The slipcase holds two books. The one holding the six CDs has the liner notes, with several long features including a nine-page essay by Dylan guru Clinton Heylin on the origins of the recordings. The cover has the original Reid Miles artwork from the 1975 album release, with Dylan pretending to play a mandolin. (The same cover is used on the standard-sized booklet of the 2CD “Raw” version of Vol. 11.)

The second book in the package, Lo & Behold: Photographs & More has exquisite photos by Elliott Landy, as well as pictures of tape reels, record sleeves and magazine covers. The “exclusive 120 page deluxe-bound book containing rare and unseen photographs and memorabilia” is a beauty, a very desirable bonus.

If I were to buy only one of the Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Deluxe box sets, it would be The Basement Tapes, because of its essential, often unheard, music and fine packaging. In my view, it’s the Deluxe Edition with most added value.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Deluxe box sets: Vol. 12 The Cutting Edge Deluxe Edition

The music of The Cutting Edge is an alternative history of Peak Dylan, out-takes from his top three albums, all recorded in a whirlwind of creative genius in a short period in the mid-1960s.

The Deluxe Edition’s six CDs consist of alt versions of songs that were immortalised on the trio of albums, Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde On Blonde. One disc is devoted entirely to different versions of Like A Rolling Stone.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series deluxe box sets

The Cutting Edge Deluxe Edition

Alone among the Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Deluxe box sets, The Cutting Edge gives you an entrée into Dylan’s creative process, as he chops and changes between different tempi, instrumentation, arrangements and lyrics.

The packaging follows the by-now-familiar deluxe format: slipcase, two hardback books, one with liner notes and the CDs, the other a collection of Bob Dylan photos. The first book is a bigger version of the liner notes booklet issued with the 2CD version and the bonus  book is the 120-page Mixing Up the Medicine: Photographs and More.

Having cemented the high value deluxe format with The Cutting Edge, Sony pushed the envelope again with an ultra deluxe edition, pitched at an atmospheric price point. The Collector’s Edition 18CD version was released in a numbered limited edition of 5,000, complete with the package number on the Certificate of Authenticity, and only available from the official Bob Dylan website.

Packaged in an attractive, hefty box, the Collector’s Edition comes complete with the two books of the Deluxe Edition (though Mixing Up the Medicine: Photographs and More is longer – 170pp).

Its massive collection of 18 CDs is housed in a third “book”. The product is enhanced by memorabilia, including nine x 7″ vinyl mono singles, housed in repro paper sleeves; a piece of celluloid with a few random frames from Don’t Look Back; and semi-transparent item separators featuring artwork promoting the mid-1960s releases.

The music of Bob Dylan has always been at the centre of music biz innovation: Great White Wonder kick-started the bootlegging revolution.  The Bootleg Series created a new “official” product category.  The Bootleg Series Vol. 8 opened up a higher value niche.  Vol. 12 Collector’s Edition has kick-started yet another segment of the market, for very high value product.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Deluxe box sets: desirable?  Value for money?  A worthwhile investment?

So, are the Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Deluxe box sets desirable?

Yes: very desirable, both as beautifully designed artefacts and as collections of music.  They have found a ready market among Dylan devotees.  Some are more desirable than others, of course.  My favourites are Vols. 11 and 12.

Good value for money?  Deluxe Vol. 8 was released at the new high price to a chorus of outrage. But it quickly sold out. Subsequent releases contain rather more added value.  The Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Deluxe box sets are affordable.

Value is in the eye of the beholder: if you think these box sets will give you pleasure, you’ll probably buy them.

But are they a worthwhile investment?  How likely are they to rise in value?

One or two might.  The first of the Bob Dylan Bootleg Series deluxe box sets – Vol. 8, Tell Tale Signs – has (limited) potential for growth – because it was released as a “limited edition”. Since its 2008 launch, it has roughly doubled in value. But only to about £160, according to the Discogs website. Hardly an “investment”, unless you risked buying a few cratefuls at discount on release!

It’s difficult to see increases in value in the deluxe editions of the other volumes, certainly not while you can still buy them new, from major retailers.  They’re not my idea of a worthwhile investment.

The Collector’s Edition of Vol. 12 is a true limited edition – Sony pegged the edition size at 5,000 copies and indicated that it would never be exceeded. As it’s a definitive record of Peak Dylan music, as well as a very fine artefact, I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t appreciate in value.

Conclusions: Bob Dylan Bootleg Series deluxe box sets are desirable and reasonably good value, but they have limited investment potential.

Fans are eagerly awaiting the release of many more volumes in the Bob Dylan Bootleg Series. Most will buy the standard 2CD versions, but a growing number will switch to the Deluxe Editions. And I’d guess Columbia Legacy will roll out the ultra deluxe format of Vol. 12 Collector’s Edition: expect more very high-priced limited editions.

Columbia Legacy/Sony Music Entertainment are outstanding curators of Dylan’s legacy. Their Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Deluxe box sets are fine luxury products. Though it’s unfashionable to heap praise on record industry “suits”, I raise my glass to Sony’s long-term Bootleg Series Co-Producer, Steve Berkowitz.

Copyright of this article, Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Deluxe box sets: text © Gerald Smith, Rock Art Editions, pictures © Columbia Legacy/Sony Music Entertainment. Unauthorised reproduction prohibited.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series: definitive photos, exquisite packaging

The Bob Dylan Bootleg Series is a superlative collection of music. Its studio and live recordings underline Dylan’s status as the benchmark musician of the rock age.

The Bob Dylan Bootleg Series also has definitive photos and exquisite packaging.  Beautifully designed slipcases, jewel case inserts and booklets turn all ten releases into cherishable artefacts.  The Bootleg Series is a visual feast.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series volumes 1-3 Rare & Unreleased 1961-1991

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series volumes 1-3 Rare & Unreleased 1961-1991 is an astonishing collection of great music. On release in 1991, it was welcomed by most Dylan fans as the Holy Grail.  Many of its tracks were greeted as equals of those which had been released on the first thirty years of Dylan albums.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series album covers

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series volumes 1-3

Michael Gray, the highly regarded Dylan commentator, waxed lyrical about it: “… 58 recordings, almost every one of which is of numinous excellence… could, of itself, establish Bob Dylan’s place as the pre-eminent songwriter and performer of the age and as one of the great artists of the 20th century.” (The Bob Dylan Encyclopaedia).

I’m with Gray: he wasn’t exaggerating.  For once, I can’t accept Greil Marcus‘s view: “A lot of it is dross… ” – Bob Dylan by Greil Marcus: Writings 1968-2010.

The artwork and packaging of volumes 1-3 are almost as impressive as its music. The 3CD set, originally released in an LP-sized box, has a front cover monochrome portrait by Don Hunstein which is one of the most recognisable, most intimate Dylan images ever released.

The long-form 72-page booklet is outstanding. A detailed track-by-track analysis by pioneering Dylanologist John Bauldie fills out a fabulous collection of photos by many of the big names who documented Dylan’s first thirty years of performing, including Joe Alper, Don Hunstein, John Cohen, and Ken Regan, as well as Howard Alk, Joel Bernstein, and some uncredited Columbia staff photographers.

Later versions of Bob Dylan Bootleg Series volumes 1-3 Rare & Unreleased 1961-1991 have different formats. As Alan Fraser shows in his commendably exhaustive Searching for a Gem  website documenting Dylan rarities, even the UK releases have at least three formats:

  • the original 1991 12″ x 12″ box, with 12″ x 6″ 72-page book and three CDs in separate jewel cases
  • a 1997 remastered version, housed in what became the Bob Dylan Bootleg Series standard format of CD-sized card slipcase with matching booklet, and
  • (least desirable from the perspective of this article) the 2010 version, housed in a 3CD jewel case, without a slipcase and with a shortened booklet, which has John Bauldie’s text, but only a single photograph.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Vol. 4 Live 1966: The “Royal Albert Hall” Concert

Bob Dylan’s performance captured on The Bootleg Series Vol. 4 Live 1966: The “Royal Albert Hall” Concert is one of the high points of rock music – rock’s ne plus ultra – It simply doesn’t get any better than this.  You could even argue that Vol. 4 is one of the high points of all music, sitting comfortably alongside the other high peaks of the musical canon like Bach’s B Minor Mass or Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series album covers

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series vol. 4

So the artwork and packaging had to be special.  It is.

Jerry Schatzberg‘s Dylan portrait on the slipcase front cover is appropriately ethereal – one of the defining images of the singer’s career.  And Schatzberg’s portrait is complemented by telling images by Don Hunstein, Barry Feinstein and several other, slightly less familiar, photographers.

The package design for Vol. 4 established the template for future releases in the Bob Dylan Bootleg Series: two CDs in a jewel case, plus a substantial booklet with expert text and a cornucopia of photographs, both housed in a striking CD-size card slipcase.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Vol. 5 Live 1975: The Rolling Thunder Revue

The packaging artwork of Vol. 5 Live 1975: The Rolling Thunder Revue is remarkable, even by the high standards of the Bob Dylan Bootleg Series. It’s the work of only two hands: liner notes are by Larry “Ratso” Sloman, and his text is as entertaining as you’d hope from the author of the wonderful On The Road with Bob Dylan. Uniquely in the series, all the marvellous photos are by a single photographer, Ken Regan.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series vol. 5

Portrait by Ken Regan – Bob Dylan Bootleg Series vol. 5

Regan had a very photogenic subject – creative adults at play. He certainly made the most of his opportunity. Many of his shots are magnificent. The definitive close-up of Dylan in face paint and cowboy hat, cropped for use on the inside of the jewel case front insert, is among the best-liked of all Bob Dylan photos. It’s a breathtaking image.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Vol. 6 Live 1964: Concert at Philharmonic Hall

Vol. 6 Live 1964: Concert at Philharmonic Hall’s haunting slipcase cover photograph of a vulnerable, callow Dylan is the work of  Hank Parker. The bulk of the photographs in the package are by Daniel Kramer and Douglas Gilbert, with contributions by Barry Feinstein and Slinky Speiser.

Long-form liner notes, by Sean Wilentz, combine the passion and insights of a long-term fan with the analytical skills of a leading academic historian. Wilentz actually attended the Philharmonic Hall gig, aged 13! He is, of course, “Historian-in-Residence” of the official Dylan website, so is also privy to insider information. His text and the super photos make the Vol. 6 56-page booklet into a fine snapshot of early Dylan, an appropriate complement to the precocious music.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Vol. 7 No Direction Home: The Soundtrack

Like the revelatory Martin Scorsese film it accompanied, the artwork of the No Direction Home CD package is a telling document of crucial early-to-peak-period Bob Dylan.

The slipcase, like the DVD box, has Barry Feinstein’s shot of listless traveller Dylan in front of his car and film-maker Howard Alk, waiting for the Aust Ferry to take them across the River Severn to the next gig, in Cardiff.

The jewel case front cover has an intriguing variant of Daniel Kramer’s cryptic set-up used on the front cover of Bringing It All Back Home. The inside cover reproduces  Jerry Schatzberg’s era-defining Blonde on Blonde cover shoot.

Reinforcing the scope of the Scorsese project, the 60-page booklet’s front cover is an out-take by Don Hunstein from his Freewheelin’ shoot, Suze Rotolo on Dylan’s arm. The booklet is a near-perfect photographic sketch of Bob Dylan, from Hibbing High School to the 1966 European tour, including work by many of the key Dylan photographers of the era – Joe Alper, John Cohen, Barry Feinstein, David Gahr, Jerry Schatzberg, Daniel Kramer and John Launais, as well as the unnamed staffers of Sony Archives (including work recognisably by Don Hunstein).

The liner notes are a personal memoir of the period by sometime Rolling Stones manager Andrew Oldham and a track-by-track analysis by Dylan associate Eddie Gorodetsky. The highlight is the entertaining insider essay by the ever-reliable Al Kooper.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Vol. 8 Tell Tale Signs: Rare & Unreleased 1989-2006

Bob Dylan photos from the 1960s are very familiar – some readers will have been seeing them for over half a century!  But photos of the later Dylan – since his mid-1980s fall from grace (surely you remember albums like Knocked Out Loaded and Down In The Groove!) are less well-known.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series album covers

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series vol. 8

The packaging of Tell Tale Signs fills a gap, with its definitive collection of late Dylan photos, not least the dignified William Caxton portrait of Bob as middle aged-going-on-old man on the slipcase front cover. This wonderful portrait says to me: “listen very carefully to this wise man… for he has many things to teach you.”

The 64-page booklet also has many highlights, not least the trio of shots by Ana Maria Valez, portraying Bob Dylan in top hat and coat on a publicity walk around London’s Camden Town.

Liner notes by Larry “Ratso” Sloman, both the essay and the track-by-track analysis, are entertaining bonuses in this key volume of the Bob Dylan Bootleg Series.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Vol. 9 The Witmark Demos: 1962-1964

The artwork of Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Vol. 9 The Witmark Demos: 1962-1964 stands as an impressive photo album of Bob the folkie. Photographers John Cohen, Ted Russell, Don Hunstein, Daniel Kramer, Barry Feinstein and Douglas Gilbert make up a virtual Who’s Who of early Dylan chroniclers.

The most striking photo in the package is the 60-page booklet’s front cover shot of Dylan playing in a smokey folk club in The Pindar of Wakefield pub in Gray’s Inn Road, King’s Cross, London on 22 December 1962. It was his first visit to England, and the native folkies, who reportedly gave him a less-than-ecstatic welcome, seem slightly perplexed. Dylan seems hesitant but defiant. You can almost smell the beer and cigarette smoke. If the original photo hadn’t been cropped for Vol. 9, you might also detect the whiff of sweaty, smug purism rising from the self-regarding audience.

It was shot by Brian Shuel (“Schuel” in the Vol. 9 credits), a photographer who produced fine portraits of Shirley Collins, doyenne of the English folk revival, and contemporaries like Bert Jansch and Anne Briggs, as well as showbiz celebs. London’s National Portrait Gallery has over 50 of Shuel’s portraits.

The expert liner notes, by Colin Escott, explain the music, its derivation and commercial context.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Vol. 10 Another Self Portrait (1969-1971)

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series album covers

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series vol. 10

The striking slipcase front cover of Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Vol. 10 Another Self Portrait (1969-1971) is, appropriately, a recent self-portrait painted by Dylan.

His original self-portrait, on the cover of Self Portrait (1970), attracted derision, much like the music it introduced. The 2013 self-portrait, like the reworked music within, was received far more favourably. It’s a commendably painterly painting which will cement Bob Dylan’s reputation as an artist deserving serious attention.

Most of the photographs in the 56-page booklet are by folk singer/photographer John Cohen. Freezing Dylan in home surroundings, both in upstate New York and in the city, Cohen’s series captures the Zeitgeist. His masterful shots are complemented by some fine work by Elliott Landy.

Liner notes by Greil Marcus place both the 1970 and 2013 releases in their historical context. Michael Simmons’ notes are a more straightforward critique of the new collection.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Vol. 11 The Basement Tapes Raw

The Basement Tapes Raw booklet includes two early examples of (unrelated) Bob Dylan’s faux-naïf Woodstock-era paintings – the album cover for Music From Big Pink by The Band and the cover of Sing Out! magazine.

Nearly all the photographs are by Elliott Landy. His work is particularly evocative, especially the familiar shot used on the slipcase front cover, a portrait of country boy Dylan in white hat and matching shirt and the booklet’s striking shot from the same session which has Dylan leaning on a car, framed by the vibrant reds of maple trees in autumn.

The booklet also reproduces the inventive narrative cover shot used for the 1974 LP release by Reid Miles (best known as the creative force behind the famed covers of Blue Note jazz albums).

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series album covers

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series vol. 11

The 56-page booklet’s liner notes has an instructive context essay by writer/musician Sid Griffin, track-by-track notes by Ben Rollins and data on the technical production of the restored Basement Tapes by Jan Haust.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Vol. 12 The Best of the Cutting Edge 1965-1966

The music of the most recent release, Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Vol. 12 The Best of the Cutting Edge 1965-1966, is probably the most talked about since the release of volumes 1-3.

Understandably, as it documents in detail the creative process of peak Dylan. Hence, it illuminates one of the key periods in twentieth century culture.

The photography and packaging of Vol. 12 is appropriately impressive. My favourites photos include shots by Jerry Schatzberg, especially the slipcase front cover; work by Columbia staffer Don Hunstein, including the iconic photograph of Dylan at the piano, on the back cover of the jewel case; and lesser-known shots by French photographer Jean-Marie Périer.

The 60-page booklet’s liner notes include a long essay by renowned historian of contemporary USA Sean Wilentz, an insider muso’s view from the irrepressible Al Kooper, plus short pieces by Ben Rollins, Rowland Scherman and Angeline Butler.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series: many versions

The albums described above are the original UK CD releases. Other territories and later re-releases have different artwork and packaging. The 2010 Europe re-releases, for example, present the great music in its entirety, often at a very low price, but their photos and packaging are inferior to the originals: they come without slipcases and include cut-down versions of the booklets, often without photos, making them less attractive to anyone buying the collection for its visual art.

And, starting with Vol. 8, Sony have also released enhanced versions of most new volumes, targeting hardcore fans and collectors with deep pockets. Thus Bootleg Series Vol. 8 Tell Tale Signs was issued as a Deluxe Edition, with an extended hardback book, plus a second hardback of the sleeves of Dylan vinyl singles (as well as a third CD). Vols 10, 11 and 12 were also released in Deluxe versions, with attractive additional packaging and artwork, as well as extra music.

Catering for the recent re-emergence of a significant market for vinyl, several of the Bootleg Series volumes are also available in boxed collections of LPs.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series: overview

Reviewing The Cutting Edge, Bootleg Series vol. 12, in The Guardian newspaper, top writer Richard Williams praised the package’s “meticulous assembly and handsome design”.

You could say the same of every release in the Bob Dylan Bootleg Series: it’s outstanding visual art. While the different releases vary in musical value – vols 1-3 and 8 are the key releases, but even the weaker volumes, such as 6 and 9, are indispensable – the packaging and artwork of all the volumes is uniformly desirable.

The slipcases, jewel case inserts and especially the ten booklets, running to almost 600 pages, are key Bob Dylan collectables. Their rich array of photographs, insightful prose from a galaxy of expert writers, and level of technical detail could keep the Dylan nut happy for weeks.  Even in the unloved CD format, the Bootleg Series offers the tactile pleasures that many music lovers get from vinyl LPs.

Bob Dylan’s management, notably Producer Jeff Rosen – presumably the driving force behind The Bootleg Series since its inception – and record label Columbia/Legacy Recordings/Sony Music Entertainment‘s Steve Berkowitz, are diligent, often inspired, curators of the Dylan legacy; the Bootleg Series must be one of their finest achievements. It’s an exemplary blend of fine rock art and smart commerce.

If you haven’t explored The Bootleg Series recently, you might consider setting aside some quality time to dig into its photos and packaging while you listen to the peerless music.

Copyright: text © Gerald Smith, ROCK ART EDITIONS Ltd 2016; record artwork © Columbia/Legacy Recordings/Sony Music Entertainment 1991-2015. Unauthorised reproduction prohibited.

Bob Dylan art: Brazil Series prints – second release, 2015

The Bob Dylan art portfolio – accessible to Everyman – just keeps on growing.

The latest release – a second trio of prints from the Brazil Series – was recently launched into what looks like a receptive market.

Bob Dylan art, Brazil Series, Wagon Master

Wagon Master from the Brazil Series, © Bob Dylan 2010

Bob Dylan art: three new Brazil Series prints

The new limited edition prints reproduce three paintings – Grande Arvore Beachfront, Wagon Master and Favela Villa Candido.  They continue the themes introduced by the first three Brazil Series prints, released in May 2015.

Grande Arvore Beachfront and Wagon Master are, like the first three prints, narratives documenting ordinary lives. The new Favela print, best described as a townscape, is similar to that in the earlier release.

The three signed prints are available individually and as a Portfolio Set of three.

Bob Dylan Brazil Series: accomplished, realistic

The new Brazil Series prints are an accomplished trio, likely to raise Bob Dylan’s stature as an artist among critics and potential buyers alike.  The works are technically proficient: Bob Dylan’s draughtsmanship, questioned by some on the release of his Drawn Blank series, is no longer an issue.

And their more realistic style will reassure those discomfited by the Expressionism of Dylan’s Drawn Blank works.

The three new prints, giclee on paper, with an image size of 30″ x 26″, cost £1500 each (framed).  The Portfolio Set of 3 is priced at £3500.

When I last checked (in early November), the new signed, limited edition prints seemed to be selling quickly.  After only a couple of weeks on sale, Castle Galleries (linked to publisher Washington Green) had sold out.  Indie galleries in the distribution network were also reporting low stock levels.

Bob Dylan art: how the new Brazil Series prints fit in

The latest Brazil Series prints follow a May 2015 release of three different prints.  They are the latest examples of a growing body of visual art by the septuagenarian musician.  Make no mistake – Bob Dylan is a prolific artist.  His creativity has found expression – so far – in no fewer than ten different series, outlined in an earlier article,  here.

Bob Dylan art: are the new Brazil Series prints worth collecting?

Potential buyers usually ask two questions of a piece of art: how good is it?  And how much is it worth?  My opinion?  Regarding these three prints: they’re fine, enjoyable pictures, although I prefer the key works from Drawn Blank, notably Man On A Bridge (2008).   And you’ll only know how much they’re really worth in a few years, when they start appearing in the secondary market.

To buy or not to buy?  In the end, of course, it’s a very personal decision.  If you need help before taking that decision, you might find it handy to consider this article from ROCK ART EDITIONS.

Bob Dylan art: the low-cost Brazil Series option – the catalogue

If you’re keen to explore or own Bob Dylan art from the Brazil Series but are not in the market for these new prints, remember that the excellent catalogue (published by Prestel) of all 40 Brazil Series paintings exhibited at the Statens Museum for Kunst, Kopenhagen in 2010/2011, is widely available, often at a knockdown price.

Bob Dylan art - The Brazil Series Copenhagen exhibition catalogue 2010

Exhibition Catalogue © Bob Dylan/Museum for Kunst/Prestel 2010

Copyright: Wagon Master print © Bob Dylan 2010/2015; book cover © Prestel 2011; text © Gerald Smith, ROCK ART EDITIONS 2015.  Unauthorised reproduction prohibited.

Bob Dylan photos: early New York portraits by Ted Russell

Connoisseurs of Bob Dylan photos will want to see the exhibition of early portraits by Ted Russell, currently on show in Bob Dylan: NYC 1961-1964 at the Richard Goodall Gallery, High Street, Manchester, England.

But you’ll need to hurry – the exhibition of Bob Dylan photos was advertised as closing this Saturday, 14 November. (And I’d check with the gallery before travelling.)

The 33 Bob Dylan photos on display include historic shots of the young singer at Gerde’s Folk City and the controversial National Emergency Civil Liberties Committee Bill of Rights dinner, where Dylan received the Tom Paine Award and delivered an address which reportedly upset some fellow diners.  Ted Russell took the Bob Dylan photos in various assignments for Life magazine.

Limited edition prints of the images are on sale at £950-£1,900. The exhibition is due to travel to venues in Ireland and LA – watch ROCK ART EDITIONS for details.

Bob Dylan photos 1961-1964: new book

If, like most readers of ROCK ART EDITIONS, you can’t get to the Manchester or subsequent exhibitions, you can still enjoy the 33 images – plus 50 or so more – in the splendid book on which the show is based – Bob Dylan: NYC 1961-1964, by Ted Russell, with Chris Murray, Foreword by Donovan (NYC, Rizzoli International Publications, 2014, hardback).

Bob Dylan photos 1961-1964

Bob Dylan NYC 1961-1964, © Ted Russell/Rizzoli International Publications 2014

Bob Dylan: NYC 1961-1964 is a desirable, handsome collection, evoking a time and place which now seem shrouded in the mists of history.

Bob Dylan photos 1961-1964: my favourites

A few of the book’s Bob Dylan photos are familiar, but many others were new to me. I particularly like three sequences:

* the shots of Dylan with Suze Rotolo in their Greenwich Village apartment,

* the half dozen shots of the NECLC Bill of Rights Tom Paine Award dinner, showing Dylan being scrutinised by, and engaged in deep conversation with, radical novelist James Baldwin, an influential spokesman for the civil rights of African-Americans, and

* the pensive two-shots with tour manager Victor Maymudes, showing them (presumably) plotting Dylan’s guerrilla attack on the citadels of American popular music.

My favourite Bob Dylan photo in this lovely collection is the final shot, a grainy, gloomy shot of Dylan, guitar case in hand, marching purposefully towards the camera down a Village street: on the road again… .

Shortcomings of this wonderful collection? Very few and very minor. An additional page at the end labelling the different shoots, with captions, would enhance the book – although most aficionados of Bob Dylan photos, the audience for this fine work, will have little trouble identifying the people accompanying Dylan.

Bob Dylan: NYC 1961-1964 is a fine portfolio of Bob Dylan photos. Ted Russell’s documentation of the crucial early days of one of the greats of 20th culture places him in the premier division of early Dylan photographers, alongside better-known chroniclers like John Cohen and Don Hunstein.

Bravo Ted Russell (and collaborators)!

Copyright: book cover illustration © Ted Russell/Rizzoli International Publications 2014. Text © Gerald Smith, ROCK ART EDITIONS 2015. Unauthorised reproduction prohibited.

Bob Dylan poster by Milton Glaser: at auction this week


Bob Dylan poster by Milton Glaser

Bob Dylan poster by Milton Glaser, © Milton Glaser 1966

A copy of the celebrated Bob Dylan poster by Milton Glaser is being auctioned this week by New York specialists Poster Auctions International, via Invaluable.

The Bob Dylan poster – one of the finest pieces of rock art available to man  – was produced by Milton Glaser in 1966, at the peak of the singer’s creative powers.

Here are the details of the Bob Dylan poster from Invaluable:

invaluable for Poster Auctions International, Lot 313, NYC 16 Oct

Estimated Price: $1,200 – $1,500

Description: Artist: MILTON GLASER (1929- ) Size: 22 x 32 3/4 in./55.6 x 83.4 cm Originally included in Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits-Volume 1 album on vinyl, this image of the singer is possibly Glaser’s most iconic design. When speaking of it, the artist mentions being influenced by Duchamps and Islamic paintings, resulting in “a style some now consider peculiarly American” (Glaser, p. 50).

Condition Report: A/ Usual fold marks.  Dimensions: 22 x 32 3/4 in./55.6 x 83.4 cm.  Artist or Maker: MILTON GLASER (1929- ).  Medium: Poster.  Date: 1966.

Bob Dylan comic books: three little-known rarities

Bob Dylan comic books

Bob Dylan comic books: Rock N’ Roll Comics #50 © Revolutionary Comics 1992

The three Bob Dylan comic books published in the Rock N’ Roll Comics series in 1992 are pretty rare.  And they are little-known: I stumbled across them for the first time a month ago – nearly a quarter of a century after they were published.

Bob Dylan comic books are a growing niche, increasingly popular among Dylan collectors. Most of the recent titles are best described as graphic biographies. They are modern, hardback, long-form books, rather than the traditional thin, paper bound magazines like Rock N’ Roll Comics.

Rock N’ Roll Comics pioneered a cartoon approach to their biographies of musicians, including their three on Bob Dylan.  They were an imprint of Revolutionary Comics (slogan: “Unauthorized and proud of it”) of San Diego, California. The company also published comic book series on pop music and sport, notably baseball. Sadly, it went out of business in 1994.

As a collector of Dylan books, I bought the three Bob Dylan comic books because I was intrigued to find out whether mixing genres – applying the avowedly lowbrow Batman-type treatment to a serious subject like Dylan – would work.  It does.

These three comic books are rare – and little-known – certainly to this English collector. They are delightful artefacts – collectable Bob Dylan art at a cut-down price.

All three Bob Dylan comic books in the series were written by Jay Allen Sanford and illustrated by Blackwell. Scott Pentzer painted the cover of #50; it’s not clear who did the other two covers.

Bob Dylan comic books #1: Kingdom Come (1961-1965)

Bob Dylan, Part One: Kingdom Come (1961-1965), Rock N’ Roll Comics #50, August 1992 tells the story well of peak period Dylan.  And it has the most striking cover (above) of the three.

Bob Dylan comic books #2: The Jester’s Thorny Crown (1966-1976)

Bob Dylan comic books

Bob Dylan comic books: Rock N’ Roll Comics #51 © Revolutionary Comics 1992

Bob Dylan, Part Two: The Jester’s Thorny Crown (1966-1976), Rock N’ Roll Comics #51, Sept 1992 handles a complex decade of Dylan’s development with assurance. To my eyes, its cover is the weakest of the three.

Bob Dylan comic books #3: Hard Rain A Comin’

Bob Dylan, Part Three: Hard Rain A Comin’, Rock N’ Roll Comics #52, Oct 1992, the concluding part of the Bob Dylan comic books trilogy, is my least favourite.  But it’s still good enough to make you wish for a sequel to bring the story up to date.

The cover of #52 has a wistful, middle-aged Bob, looking perplexed, staring into the distance. You’ll probably know where it originated.

Bob Dylan comic books

Bob Dylan comic books: Rock N’ Roll Comics #52, © Revolutionary Comics 1992

Bob Dylan comic books: overview

These three comic books are worthwhile additions to any Bob Dylan art library: as a collector, I’m pleased to have acquired them.

The Rock N’ Roll Comics concept – comics for grown-up music fans – is both ambitious and compelling. It elevates the art of the comic book above the pulp level aimed at children or poor adult readers. The comic books tackle serious subjects, give them context and present them in a format which will satisfy even the demanding reader.

You could take the view that, judged against the best books on the musician, these Bob Dylan comic books are relatively weak – presenting a slightly juvenile, dumbed-down version of the Dylan story.  But judged on their own terms, as cheap pulp non-fiction extolling a cult figure revered by a cult audience, they work well.

Bob Dylan comic books: the words

The comics’ texts give you a reasonable summary of a (then) 30-year career, covering many key aspects of the musician’s life and achievements.

The device of inserting “Chronolog” sidebars on each page enriches the Dylan narrative – they contextualise his creativity through a (US-centric) diary of what else was happening at the time.

The text of the comic books isn’t the strongest, however.  The dialogue doesn’t always flow like natural speech. And there’s the odd factual error – Dylan’s 1962 trip to London to record Madhouse on Castle Street was for a BBC TV show (not a radio show, as claimed).

Spelling errors occasionally pop out – “wierd”, “recieved”, “disguarded”, “course-ground”… .

Bob Dylan comic books: the pictures

The best illustrations in the three books are impressive. I enjoyed the quartet of startled folkies realising that they’d stumbled into a rock show at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival.

Overall, though, the illustrations are a mixed bag. Bob Dylan can often seem like a different person from page to page. And you occasionally need the text to work out that you’re looking at The Beatles… Mick Jagger… The Band… .

The art doesn’t match the excellence of the three comic books reviewed here a few weeks ago.

But comic books in general have moved on since 1992. Series like Rock N’ Roll Comics were necessarily produced at a great lick, to tight deadlines.  More modern comic book creators can lavish more attention and take longer over their work.  Hence, the books cost more to produce.  And are more expensive.

The cover artwork of the three Bob Dylan comics is variable. The first cover of the trio (#50), head and shoulders of Dylan looking arrogant, smoking, with a background of him walking the streets, somewhat wistfully, is my favourite.  Number 51 is the weakest. Number 52 is an attractive reworking of the album cover of Under The Red Sky.

This rarely seen trio of Bob Dylan comic books is both desirable and collectable.

It’s complemented by issues in the series covering several key rock bands, notably The Rolling Stones (#6), Led Zeppelin (#13), The Doors (#26 and 27) and The Grateful Dead.

If you know of similar Bob Dylan comic books from other publishers, please share your expert knowledge with readers of ROCK ART EDITIONS – Leave a reply at the top of this post. Thanks in advance,

Copyright: Rock N’ Roll Comics covers #50, #51 and #52 © Revolutionary Comics 1992; photos © Gerald Smith, ROCK ART EDITIONS 2015; text © Gerald Smith, ROCK ART EDITIONS 2015. Unauthorised reproduction prohibited.

Bob Dylan art: Face Value portrait “contemptible” – Brian Sewell, top English critic

ROCK ART EDITIONS published an earlier version of this post in October 2014. It’s republished here to commemorate Brian Sewell, art critic of the London Evening Standard. He’s the best-known English critic, particularly among those who share his rejection of much contemporary art. Brian Sewell died last weekend, aged 84.

Bob Dylan art gets the thumbs down: his Skip Sharpe portrait is “Contemptible.  Just rubbish”.  It should not have been exhibited by the National Portrait Gallery, according to top critic Brian Sewell, in his Pop Goes The Easel, a scathing survey of rock musicians who paint.

Q magazine published Sewell’s damning piece in November 2013, to coincide with the Bob Dylan Face Value show at the National Portrait Gallery, London.

Bob Dylan art: Face Value

Skip Sharpe by Bob Dylan, Face Value exhibition 2013. © Bob Dylan 2013

Bob Dylan art “just rubbish”, Macca paintings “childish rubbish”

The critic goes on to lambast other rock-musicians-turned-painters. He dismisses artwork by Beatles bassist Paul McCartney as “childish rubbish”. Edwyn Collins’ artwork shows promise… when judged as the work of a 14-year old! Daniel Johnston’s Captain America is “… just awful.  Utter, utter rubbish”.

Funny, that.  I enjoyed the Bob Dylan art in the Face Value exhibition, a small gallery of distinctive portraits, held in 2013. The portraits are representative Bob Dylan art – they successfully capture Dylan’s penetrating, sceptical, questioning worldview. My only criticism was that the show didn’t have enough pictures.

Bob Dylan art: judge for yourself – catalogue still available

You can judge for yourself the Bob Dylan art dismissed by Sewell. Bob Dylan Face Value, a handsome, collectable catalogue, published by the National Portrait Gallery, London, is still widely available.

Bob Dylan art: Face Value catalogue

Bob Dylan Face Value catalogue © National Portrait Gallery 2013

I was also impressed by Paul McCartney: Paintings, the 1999 and 2000 catalogues of the Beatle’s artwork: I’m not keen on Macca’s music, but I do like his painting.

Brian Sewell is a celebrated London-based art critic known for his lively journalism and entertaining TV appearances. He tends not to, er, sit on the fence.

The dismissive tone in his Q article was echoed in the recent assessment of some rocker-painters by Guardian critic Jonathan Jones, covered here last week. (Bob Dylan got off lightly.)

I’m collecting critical commentaries – positive and negative – on Bob Dylan art and work by other rock musicians who paint, to discuss on ROCK | ART | EDITIONS.  If you come across any critiques, please Leave a reply, at the top of this article.  Thanks, in advance.


Copyright: images © Bob Dylan and © National Portrait Gallery, London, as indicated in captions.  Brian Sewell quotations © Q magazine.  Text © Gerald Smith, ROCK ART EDITIONS 2015.  Unauthorised reproduction prohibited. 

Bob Dylan mural: bravo Minneapolis!

Bob Dylan mural in Minnneapolis, Minnesota, USA

New Bob Dylan mural in Minneapolis, MN © Eduardo Kobra/StarTribune/Tom Sweeney 2015

A wonderful new Bob Dylan mural has just been unveiled: bravo Minneapolis!

The enormous Bob Dylan mural, realised in a just couple of weeks, is now the world’s largest, most impressive piece of Bob Dylan-related art. It also becomes the planet’s most prominent, most exciting piece of public rock art.

The new Bob Dylan mural is a fine work. Its composition, portraying three different Bob Dylans, sensibly resists the temptation to show Dylan only in his mid-1960s pomp. It reflects the fact that Bob Dylan has been a major creative force for over half a century. Good call.

Its enormous scale, vibrant colour palette and mixture of realistic portraiture and abstract embellishment make it a pleasure to look at.

Its prominent location lends the Bob Dylan mural an appropriate grandeur. You wouldn’t miss it while pounding the city streets. According to StarTribune, the Minneapolis daily newspaper, you can see the new Bob Dylan mural on the corner of 5th Street and Hennepin Avenue.

Fans of rock art – and Bob Dylan – are indebted to artist Eduardo Kobra and his team for delivering such a striking piece. And to Goldman Sachs, owners of the wall, and Hennepin Theatre Trust, who managed the project.

The lovely photo (above) by Tom Sweeney captures the piece in its virgin state and places it in context, its urban setting in Minneapolis. The StarTribune has a gallery of photos of the Bob Dylan mural in various stages of completion. It’s a telling, historic sequence of pictures. They would make the centrepiece of a fine collectable book celebrating the magnificent artwork.

Bob Dylan mural – the world’s premier public rock artwork?

But is the new Bob Dylan mural really the world’s premier public rock artwork?

Well, I can’t think of a better piece. Can you?

Public rock art is a newish medium. So there’s not much competition. Not yet. Rock musicians are being celebrated in public artwork, as more towns and cities around the world start chasing the tourist dollar. The new Bob Dylan mural could persuade many other communities to celebrate their local musical heroes.

In London, the pieces of street rock art I’m familiar with include: Amy Winehouse statue in Camden; Billy Fury mural in nearby West Hampstead; Smiths mural on the South Bank; and numerous blue plaques such as that commemorating Bob Marley’s brief stay in Bloomsbury.

If you know of other public artworks in your part of the world, please Leave a reply, above, and I’ll be pleased to cover them in ROCK ART EDITIONS. Thanks in advance.

Copyright: artwork © Eduardo Kobra 2015; photograph © StarTribune/Tom Sweeney 2015; text © Gerald Smith, ROCK ART EDITIONS 2015. Unauthorised reproduction prohibited.

Bob Dylan comic books: three must-buys

You could have almost predicted the arrival of Bob Dylan comic books: the growing popularity of Bob Dylan art and the boom in comic books made them virtually inevitable.

I’ve recently stumbled across – and snapped up – three must-buys.  All three of these Bob Dylan comic books are worth the serious attention of rock art fans.

Bob Dylan comic books #1: Bob Dylan 1961/1963, by Pablo

On a recent trip to Paris, I came across Bob Dylan 1961/1963, by Pablo, a strikingly beautiful little artefact. It has 15 of Pablo’s expressive charcoal sketches of Bob Dylan, all inspired by song titles, plus a couple of artist-enhanced colour photos.

Bob Dylan comic books: Pablo

Bob Dylan 1961/1963 © Pablo/BDMUSIC

The drawings are accompanied by a biographical text, in both French and English. And you get two CDs – the first two Bob Dylan albums, plus bonus extras: The Freewheelin’, for example, has six tracks from the well-known Cynthia Gooding radio show.

Pablo is a multi-faceted artist who has previously contributed similar work, on Mozart and Serge Gainsbourg, for publisher BDMUSIC, who have been publishing for a couple of decades in this attractive, innovative format – hardback comic book, plus CDs.  They usually cover jazz and blues musicians. This Bob Dylan comic book is the first title I’ve seen featuring a rock musician.

BDMUSIC’s Bob Dylan comic book, on sale last week in Gibert Joseph, my favourite Paris retailer, as well as FNAC, is priced at 20 euros.

Bob Dylan comic books #2: Dylan Faces Book, by Smudja

On a previous Paris trip, I happened across another little gem, Dylan Faces Book by Smudja, published by Zanpano (2009) in a limited edition of 1,000.

Not strictly speaking a Bob Dylan comic book, Dylan Faces Book by Smudja is a series of about 150 portraits of the ever-changing icon, reproductions of the artist’s moody water colours.

Bpb Dylan comic books: Smudja

Dylan Faces Book © Smudja/Zanpano

The copy of Dylan Faces Book that I bought at Librairie Paralleles, near les Halles, for 22 euros, is the only copy I’ve ever seen.

Bob Dylan comic books #3: Bob Dylan Revisited

Bob Dylan comic books: 13 artists

Bob Dylan Revisited © Guy Delcourt Productions 2008

Artist Smudja also contributed to the third of my must-buy Bob Dylan comic books, Bob Dylan Revisited: 13 Graphic Interpretations of Bob Dylan’s Songs (WW Norton, 2009).

Smudja’s drawing, evoking the celebrated Savoy Hotel (London) video, adorns the front cover. He also contributes the chapter interpreting the song Hurricane.

The thirteen artists contributing to Bob Dylan Revisited exhibit a remarkably varied range of visual styles in their evocation of Dylan songs, from Blowin’ In The Wind to Not Dark Yet.

Bob Dylan Revisited is the richest, most ambitious of these three Bob Dylan comic books. The thirteen different artists’ styles are consistently outstanding. If I were forced, at gunpoint, to choose a favourite, I’d probably plump for Francois Avril’s Girl From The North Country.

Bob Dylan Revisited is also the most widely available of these three Bob Dylan comic books, thanks to the distribution reach of its US publisher WW Norton, who created the work by adapting an earlier French version.

I’ve occasionally seen Bob Dylan Revisited heavily discounted – surprising, considering its high quality.  My photo, above, shows a window display copy at The Last Bookshop, the Oxford remainders outlet. When I visited – some time ago – they were selling from a big pile, at a giveaway £3 per copy.

The Pablo, Smudja and Norton books are all highly recommended.

Bob Dylan comic books?  Or graphic novels?  Or even bandes dessinees?

But I’m unsure of the best term to describe these types of book.  Comic books?  The most common, but these books aren’t comic!  Graphic novels?  Graphic certainly, but they’re hardly novels.

I’m comfortable with the French term, Bandes dessinees, but I’d welcome your guidance on the best English-language term to use to describe this desirable new category of Bob Dylan art.

Publisher links:
WW Norton


Copyrights: text – © Rock Art Editions 2015; book covers – as indicated in captions. Unauthorised reproduction prohibited.