Here is a collection of the currently available reviews of ‘Determined to Stand’. All extremely positive I’m happy to report!
Scott Beauchamp https://www.splicetoday.com/music/there-are-two-ways-to-write-about-bob-dylan
Den Browne https://louderthanwar.com/determined-to-stand-the-reinvention-of-bob-dylan-book-review/
Anne Pritchard https://number9reviews.blogspot.com/2021/05/book-review-determined-to-stand.html
Bonnie De Moss https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/57795771-determined-to-stand?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=DUX7NvARSz&rank=2
Betanda Shaman https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/57795771-determined-to-stand?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=DUX7NvARSz&rank=2
Amazon Reviews (13) https://www.amazon.co.uk/DETERMINED-STAND-Reinvention-Bob-Dylan/product-reviews/0955751217/ref=cm_cr_getr_d_paging_btm_prev_1?ie=UTF8&reviewerType=all_reviews&pageNumber=1
SCOTT BEAUCHAMP in ‘SPLICE TODAY’
There Are Two Ways to Write about Bob Dylan: A review of Chris Gregory’s Determined to Stand: The Reinvention of Bob Dylan, a masterful combination of the genres.
How do you carry your perceptions of Bob Dylan across the cultural and existential barriers which separate fans from non-fans, fans of one version of Dylan from fans of another, and the generations which divide all of us? People who write books about Dylan typically use one of two methods for smuggling their perceptions about Dylan and his work. We might call the options Old, Weird, America vs. the Song and Dance Man. In the first, pioneered by Greil Marcus, the author presents themself as a character in Dylan’s imaginative universe, with the book itself acting as a kind of found object picked up on a park bench in a place where Dylan lyrics are eternally recurring. A cinematic example of this method is I’m Not There, where different actors play different Dylans, each living out the mood and spirit of his various phases. The mid-1960s Dylan, played by Cate Blanchett in drag, runs around with the Beatles like a Mod Looney Toons character unhinged on dirty biker crank. The mid-70s Dylan is a sad and oblivious Christian Bale, imprisoned by the vapidity of celebrity and powerless to stay faithful to his long-suffering wife. Each shows more than it tells.
The second kind, named after the book by Michael Gray, gazes on Dylan’s work from the outside rather than speaking as his work, from within. It’s a quest, perhaps Quixotic, for the ideal perspective on Dylan. What it gives up in lifeblood, energy, and creativity, it makes up for in exalting Dylan’s work as a proper object of “serious” contemplation. Dylan might typically give his patented sneer at the dipped-in-concrete reifications of the normies “at the old folks home and the college,” people who need “roadmaps for the soul,” but it’s also true that his work deserves to be contemplated in both places (and everywhere: jails, ballparks, playgrounds, whorehouses) as something which stands alongside the Constitution, the detective story, and Lord Buckley’s monologues as the best American culture has to offer.
The second kind of Dylan book, which appears on the surface to be more straightforward than the Greil Marcus fever dream, is much more difficult to pull off. First, there’s more competition. Publishers aren’t willing to roll the dice on experimentation in American writing, much less a text that tries to channel Dylan’s orphic energy. So there are just a lot more “straight” books about Dylan making it to print each year. But what this means is that when you actually get around to chronicling your foolhardy but loving attempt at saying something new about Dylan you have to be really, really good just to separate yourself from the heat of the herd. And you have to have something unique to say. That might seem all but impossible when it comes to Dylan, a quarry that has been mined about as thoroughly as Lincoln or Churchill, but as poet and novelist Chris Gregory proves with Determined to Stand: The Reinvention of Bob Dylan, Dylan’s radioactivity is still hot enough to give off waves of invisible energy. And Gregory’s case is simple: the late Dylan, early-1990s to present, is as living a creative force as any incarnation of him yet. And maybe even more so, since the Dylan of “Not Dark Yet” and Shadows in the Night continues to beguile while the long-dead Dylan is waxed over nostalgically by members of the local Elks Club.
Lester Bangs said that the 1960s were dead when it was okay for a kid in the Midwest to have long hair. What do you do when the louche, self-indulgent rebellion you helped to midwife has itself become commodified into popular culture? You put on a bolo tie and sing a lyrical collage of Henry Timrod and Robert Burns.
I first started getting into Dylan as a teenager, when I bought Time out of Mind as a freshman in 1997, a moment when popular music was so rancid that the small platoon of sensitives I was marooned with in the Atlanta suburbs were forced to turn to the older gods for spiritual succor. There was a moment when The Doors and Pink Floyd were communicating to us from some place where “time is dead and all things stand still, and always will,” and Dylan was obviously the Poet Laureate of the divine cohort. His album, the best he’d released since Blood on the Tracks, saw me across the hard transformational lines drawn in the sand of young experience: love (“…I’d go crawling down the avenue…”), heartbreak (“you left me standing in the doorway crying…”), drugs (“Reality has always had too many heads”), mayhem (“I’m twenty miles outside of town and cold irons bound”), political cynicism (“someone just asked me if I’m registered to vote…”), and moving to an even duller suburb of my hometown, St. Louis (“When I was in Missouri, they would not let me be / I had to leave there in a hurry, I only saw what they let me see”).
Early in my senior year, 9/11 happened on the same day that Dylan released his arguably even more powerful follow-up, Love and Theft. The towers fell on Tuesday. I had the album on Wednesday. “Summer days, summer nights are gone…” The world was shifting, and it felt like Dylan had not only anticipated the tectonic force but created an album to guide us through it. He’s always existed within a kind of double vision, simultaneously inside of, but antagonistic towards, the prevailing times. His cold eye unmoved by the vapid assumptions of the moment. People wanted reassurance after 9/11, a triumphant counterpoint to accompany their stadium flyovers and Hummers. Instead, Dylan reminded them that “The emptiness is endless, cold as the clay / you can always come back, but you can’t come back all the way.” Every Dylan song is a protest song against something.
Which is what makes Chris Gregory’s book so radical. It’s hardto see how Dylan singing the Great American Songbook works against the prevailing winds. As Gregory points out, Dylan justified his 2015 American Songbook album Shadows in the Night by explaining in an interview that the old pop standards “…have been covered enough. Buried, as a matter of fact. What me and my band are doing is ‘uncovering’ them. Lifting them out of the grave and bringing them into the light of day…” It’s something that Dylan has always done, to some extent, but lately he’s seems to be making a studied practice out of necromancing, not simply the past, but specifically the American musical past that Dylan’s earliest and most foam-at-the-mouth fans first picked up Highway 61 to escape. The smokey lounges and crowded ballrooms of their parents’ courting years, replete with well-oiled crooners, orchestration, and lyrics that even your math teacher could understand. As Gregory explains, and it’s worth quoting at length:
“Dylan has often professed considerable admiration for the disciplined economy of the work of lyricists such as Johnny Mercer and Ira Gershwin, whose songs have been recorded by multiplicity of artists but have often been ‘smothered’ by orchestration and over-emotive singing. His approach has been to present ‘stripped down’ interpretations, using his own touring band to provide very minimal musical settings in order to rescue them from over familiarity and ‘schlocky’ musical presentation and thus to ‘uncover’ the skill of these writers. By removing the music’s usual framework, his aim has been to deconstruct the audience’s preconceptions of mainstream pre-rock popular songs, demonstrating that they can—if presented sympathetically and sparingly—subtly convey real rather than fake emotions in a way that is just as ‘authentic’ as any folk song. In ‘stripping down’ these songs he is also able to expose and emphasize the music’s root in the jazz and blues traditions which have always formed a backdrop to his own work.”
The abundance of scare quotes aside, Gregory is really good at explaining the method behind Dylan’s misleadingly late-in-life (one assumes) turn towards the past. I was skeptical at first myself, but Gregory does such a top-notch job at building his case through analysis after analysis of individual songs and performances, that anyone who doesn’t come away a convert probably has some secret vested interest in safeguarding the status of their own personal favorite “Dylan” and weren’t really going to change their mind anyway. How could anyone resist this: “Dylan’s main interest in ‘uncovering’ these songs seems to be in unearthing their tragic essence. In the performance, stepping up to centre stage without and instrument, the songs operate in this deliberately theatrical setting almost as soliloquies—intimate revelations of the innermost thoughts of the singer. This creates a prevailing mood of despondency which is most explicit in his rendition of Melancholy Mood (on Fallen Angels).”
And then you check out the YouTube video of the specific performance that Gregory’s dissecting and you confirm: he’s right. There’s something there, and in order to really uncover and enjoy its secret power you’re forced to adjust your expectations of who Dylan is and what he’s doing onstage. This isn’t just a book written by another Dylan expert. This is someone with true insight gleaning a bit of what Dylan’s doing and then sort of recreating the process on stage, utilizing a profound knowledge of musical and cultural history to perform a kind of intellectual necromancing:
“I Made Up My Mind” is arguably the supreme achievement of Dylan’s engagement with the sentimental tradition. He uses language that is relatively straightforward, but which recalls the subtlety of expression of the more personal songs of lyricists like Ira Gershwin, Johnny Mercer, or Oscar Hammerstein II, to take us on a journey through a range of different emotions. Despite the pain and anguish that he—like all of us—may have experienced in life, which is conveyed eloquently in his expansive vocal performance, he expresses a wonderful positivity here. He transforms what appears to be a hopeless lover’s plea into a transcendent message directed at all of creation.”
That gives a perspective of Dylan from a remove while also simultaneously doing what Dylan is doing with the songs. As such, Determined to Stand is a hybrid of the two types of Dylan books. It’s the rare book that’s so unique in its ambition it reveals typology for the oversimplification it is, simply by existing. Again, just like Dylan himself.
CHRISTOPHER ROLLASON in ‘BILINGUAL CULTURE BLOG’
Posted 7 June, 2021
This year of grace 2021 is also the year of Bob Dylan’s 80th birthday. The occasion is being marked with the appearance of numerous books, new or updated, on the great songwriter, and over what remains of this year I shall be noting some of them on this blog, beginning with the volume by Chris Gregory which I examine below.
Chris Gregory, Determined to Stand: The Reinvention of Bob Dylan, London: Plotted Plain Press, 2021, 336 pp., ISBN 978-0-955-7512-1-9
The addition to Dylan lore that Chris Gregory offers us is nothing if not ambitious. Its title reflects something of that ambition: it is a quotation not from a song, but from a 1997 Newsweek interview in which Dylan declared: ‘I’m determined to stand … I’ve got to go out and play these songs. That’s just what I must do’ (42-43). The resulting title has an air of resilience and ‘Restless Farewell’-type defiance about it, which feels appropriate too for the subtitle, ‘The Reinvention of Bob Dylan’. For Gregory, ‘the extent of the cultural impact of Bob Dylan’s work is almost impossible to measure’ (6), while Dylan as artist ‘remains so much more than just a « popular entertainer »’ (15), and the focus of his book implies that such statements are as valid for the later as for the earlier work.
The ‘reinvention’ referred to concerns the period from 1997 to the present day, in other words the creative renaissance which is generally seen as first manifesting itself with the release of Time Out Of Mind. The author takes this period as a whole as constituting the ‘later Dylan’, and proposes a reading of that period that throws light on it by alternating two different types of text. The first type takes the form of close textual analysis of, if I mistake not, every single song from the period’s six albums of originals (Time Out Of Mind, ‘Love and Theft’, Modern Times, Together Through Life, Tempest and 2020’s Rough and Rowdy Ways), supplemented by a number of non-album songs (‘Things Have Changed’, ‘’Cross the Green Mountain’, etc). The second text type consists of concert narrations from what until recently we knew as the Never Ending Tour: Gregory sets the scene for a given concert and, typically, then offers a detailed appraisal of a particular song (famous or otherwise) performed within it. Structurally, the book thus alternates between lyric analyses and concert recollections.Report this adPrivacy Settings
The song analyses are arranged not chronologically but thematically, with songs juxtaposed according to their subject-matter (dream narratives, murder ballads …), rather than which album they are on. They consist of a mixture of source information and textual exegesis. The author is commendably careful not to identify the songs’ narrators with Dylan himself, correctly reading them as invented characters – and by no means always sympathetic or reliable. Thus, following Michael Gray’s pioneering lead from years ago, Gregory locates these songs (albeit he does not actually use the term) in the genre of the dramatic monologue, à la Robert Browning. For certain songs (‘Workingman’s Blues #2’, ‘Beyond the Horizon’ …), lyric variants are important, and the analyses take due account of such variants, be it in live performance, in released outtake versions or found on the official website (though the Christopher Ricks variorum edition has not been used).
A substantial part of many of the analyses is taken up with the identification of sources, musical, biblical or literary. Alongside Robert Johnson and Hank Williams, Shakespeare and Keats are there, and Edgar Allan Poe, seen as ‘the master storyteller of American darkness’ (46), gets frequent mention, notably for his use of the unreliable narrator. This is the aspect of the book probably most useful to students of Dylan. Intertextuality is a later Dylan watchword: as Gregory states, ‘the fact that his [later] songs were partly constructed of quotations from and references to other songs, works of literature and even obscure informational texts [has] become common knowledge’ (185), and to have the source information at one’s fingertips can only improve our appreciation of songs like ‘Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum’, ‘Highlands’ or of course the recent ‘Murder Most Foul’ (which song, as is only fitting, gets the book’s longest analysis).
The concert sections interspersed with the analytic parts range from the well-known (the 1995 Sinatra birthday event, the papal gig in 1997) to what might seem the randomly selected (indeed. the book opens with 11 March 1995 in Prague and homes in on that night’s ‘Man in the Long Black Coat’ – not the most obvious of choices).
There is much to be harvested from Chris Gregory’s study. The live accounts are richly atmospheric, and the song analyses seek (and attain) a comprehensiveness not always to be found in Dylan studies. I do, however, feel that while the book has considerable potential as a research aid, its effectiveness in practice is somewhat limited by the organisation the author has chosen. The book’s structure privileges what might be called the ‘poetically effective’ over considerations of practical utility. There is a (not always reliable) index and a bibliography, but no footnotes. Equally there are no subheadings or detailed chapter breakdowns, and with the songs not being arranged by album navigation is not always easy. Cavils apart, however, Chris Gregory is to be praised for paying so much detailed attention to the later Dylan, and for the freshness and sheer interest of the interpretations that he offers, in a book that needed writing.
DEN BROWNE in LOUDER THAN WAR
There’s never been any shortage of books about Dylan but this is the first time someone has focussed on Dylan’s late period of work, basically taking in the period from 1997’s Time Out of Mind, and taking us up to last year’s Lockdown triumph, Rough and Rowdy Ways. That album was proof – if needed – that you write Dylan off at your peril. Equally, as soon as one tries to pin him down, as ‘interpreter’ rather than songwriter (after the Fallen Angels/ Shadows in the Night and Triplicate albums of non-originals) he comes back with albums like Tempest or Time Out of Mind, bursting with lyrical skills and ideas.
The author argues that this later period of work stands alongside anything from the revered Classic Dylan period of the mid-60s. Those albums defined my teens, and although there’s been plenty of great music since, it’s hard to move beyond seeing the Holy Trinity of Highway 61 Revisited/Bringing it all back home/Blonde on Blonde as unassailable peaks. But the author makes a convincing case here that the later work is just as important. He acknowledges early on that the ’80s were a pretty disastrous decade for Dylan, as anyone spending their hard-earned on albums like Under the Red Sky or Down in the Groove would attest. There were albums like Infidels that briefly hinted at a return to form – a bit like the false flag of 1973’s Planet Waves, but often it was easier to turn away and assume that his interest and energy was now more in the Never Ending Tour.
Most of the 60s/70s ‘rock legends’ contemporaries of Dylan’s concentrate on greatest hits tours or slavish ‘Whole Album’ recreations – with a few honourable exceptions like Robert Plant and Neil Young, but after the lost years of the 80s, he made a massive return to form with Time Out of Mind/Love & Theft/Modern Times. No more scraping around for a couple of redeeming songs among the dross, these were albums devoid of any comfort zone as Dylan as he confronted the curses of midlife – age, loss, and waning powers.
But typically, he was soon to shapeshift again, demonstrating a fixation with Frank Sinatra. But as he pointed out, much as he loved Sinatra’s style and work, the attraction lay in the songs, drawn from the legendary Great American Songbook. I have to plead guilty to zero knowledge of these albums, let alone the Xmas album that came a few years later, or equally the Theme Time radio shows – life’s simply too short. The constant stream of excellent reissues in the so-called ‘Bootleg’ series have made it easy for the long term Dylan fan like me to carry on unconcerned with new offerings – until now.
Author Chris Gregory has written previously on the Beatles (“Who could ask for more? Reclaiming the Beatles” and addressed another classic 60s zeitgeist work, The Prisoner in Be Seeing You). In addition, he’s written about Star Trek, and also writes poetry and fiction. In this book, he goes in for some really in-depth analysis of the songs in themselves, and in their wider context. I found it quite amusing to read that the book is pitched at anyone doing Dylan as part of their uni studies, remembering the cries of horror back in the day when a couple of critics like Christopher Ricks dared to say he was as worthy of consideration as a writer as Shakespeare or Chaucer.
If this is starting to sound a bit academic or too Lit Crit, there are regular digressions to report on Dylan shows and they add a really nice personal and emotional aspect to the main theme of the book. This also connects to how Dylan’s music has evolved over the years to absorb all kinds of influences from gospel, country and blues to name a few.
There’s also some fascinating work on his non-musical influences, ranging from ancient Greek myths, through the King James Bible to Shakespeare, plus the Romantic and Symbolist poets, along with TS Eliot & especially William Blake. It all goes to emphasize one of the book’s key points – Dylan’s refusal to be typecast by his past. Along the way there’s an examination of his overtly religious phases, and how they inform the wider ranging look at belief since then.
Every so often mainstream media remembers he’s still around – as with the fuss around his Nobel Prize a while back, and no doubt there’ll be more with his 80th birthday on May 24th.
Chris Gregory shows that he should be looked at like we regard any artist who’s still actively producing work. It’s interesting too that the author sees the book as “Not so much a work of ‘criticism’ as a “poetic reflection on the work of Dylan”, or a kind of “alternate biography” of Dylan over the last 30 years, which gives an accurate reflection of how the book is able to move easily between serious analysis of the songs and their craft while allowing for spontaneity and real feeling, especially in the live gig interludes. And if you’re in any doubt, have a listen to Murder Most Foul from Rough and Rowdy Ways.
ANNE PRITCHARD in ‘NUMBER 9’
This in-depth commentary, by Chris Gregory outlines the manner in which Dylan has been able to reinvent his art and his persona, from the 1990s onwards, to create a new and unique body of work. He has concentrated on Dylan’s roots in folk, blues, country and gospel music. The main focus is on Dylan’s songs from ‘Time Out Of Mind’ (1997) to ‘Rough And Rowdy Ways’ (2020) and his captivation with the pre rock’n’roll ‘sentimental’ tradition is examined in detail.
The book also brings into context Dylan’s work as an artist and sculptor, a film maker, a writer of prose and a radio show host. Significance is given to how Dylan has continually developed his musical compositions during his ‘Never Ending Tour’ (1988 – present) and his ‘spiritual quest’ for the ‘perfect’ version of each song. Fans often marvel at how he can change the format of his many hit songs so that they are unrecognisable until the last verse or last lines.
Chris explains that, although Bob Dylan’s music of the 1960’s and ’70’s was vastly successful and innovative, by the mid-1980s his creativity had dipped so low that he was seriously thinking of retiring. What a disaster that would have been for his vast army of fans, should he had done so. The ’90’s songs are messier, but it isn’t quite a “lost” period, although there were far fewer songs in total. ‘Time Out Of Mind’, would prove to be his most widely acclaimed album. It marked Dylan’s artistic comeback after he appeared to struggle with his musical identity throughout the 1980s; he had not released any original material for seven years, since ‘Under The Red Sky’ in 1990. ‘Time Out Of Mind’ was hailed as one of Dylan’s best albums and went on to win three Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year in 1998. It was also ranked number 410 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time in 2012.
Dylan is the ‘Poet Laureate’ of rock ‘n’ roll. He is the voice of the promise of the ’60’s counter-culture. I remember ‘cos I was there! He is the guy who forced folk into bed with rock, much to the annoyance of some of his fans who called him ‘Judas’. He was almost written off as a has-been by the end of the ’80s but unexpectedly shifted gears, releasing some of the strongest music of his career beginning in the late ’90s when he began to produce work that was comparable in quality to that of his heyday. The songs reference a vast number of legendary texts, ranging from Ancient Greek classics and the King James Bible to Shakespeare and the Romantic and Symbolist poets. They tell the story of Dylan’s personal battle to regain a connection with his lyrical muse.
Dylan, who turns 80 years’ old this month (May 2021), has won the battle of remaining creatively original as well as staying ‘Forever Young’ in all but appearance. He has evolved from the young man of the 1960’s to the experienced showman of 2021. The release of ‘Determined To Stand: The Reinvention Of Bob Dylan’ written by Chris Gregory, coincides with Dylan becoming an octogenarian.
The first time I saw Dylan, I was entranced. After many concerts of enjoying his music I am still enthralled and amazed at how he can take a song and change it so that at the beginning it is almost unrecognisable until, after a few chords and lines of lyrics, the light dawns and the listener is able to identify it and sing along to it, albeit in its new rendition. I know of no other musical artistes who do this or do it so well. His passion and enthusiasm bring something new to each performance. I sometimes think he is toying with the audience. He is known for not often smiling but I have often thought I’ve seen the semblance of a smirk when delivering an old favourite in a completely different format to his adoring audience. I have experienced the roar of the crowd when, at the same moment, they have recognised a favourite melody delivered in an altogether different arrangement. He is a master of songwriting and a definitive performer, even with his lack of communication with his audience. He is ‘Mr Cool’ who doesn’t give a damn.
Bob Dylan Discography is included.
BONNIE DeMOSS in ‘GOODREADS’
Determined to Stand: The Reinvention of Bob Dylan by Chris Gregory is an in-depth look at Dylan’s work from 1997 to the present. It paints the picture of a gifted artist who was not content to just perform his already iconic songs of the 1960s, but who wanted to change, grow, and explore different types of music and art. This is an extensive review of Dylan’s work from 1997 to present, but it also looks back on his early work and rise to fame. There is in addition a comprehensive discography that includes detailed descriptions of Dylan’s later songs and the author’s review of their meaning and their impact. This is not a tell-all biography of the man. This is a thorough, comprehensive, and meticulously researched review of his work that will impress any Dylan fan and music fans in general.
I do not claim to be an expert on Bob Dylan or even a superfan. I am a casual fan who likes some of his iconic songs, but knew very little about his life and his eclectic body of work. I learned so much about him that I did not know, such as the fact that he became a Christian in the late 70’s and recorded Christian music until the early 1980s. I learned that he was an artist not just in music, but an author and painter as well. Among his many awards are both the Nobel and Pulitzer prizes. That is just a little of the vast amount of information readers will learn about Bob Dylan in this book. The discography is amazing, and the author provides beautifully thought out descriptions, insights, and reviews of each song. The author also walks us through Dylan’s live performances and provides perceptive commentary. This book is not a light read. Determined to Stand is an in-depth history and review of the later work of Bob Dylan, and could easily be used to teach a college course. I would take that class, and I think the author should teach it! I would highly recommend that fans and students of music history check this one out.
I received a free copy of this book from the author. My opinions are my own and are voluntary.
BETANDA SHAMAN in ‘GOODREADS’
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Determined to Stand (the reinvention of Bob Dylan). I found it to be inspiring and thought provoking. An excellent resource for anyone studying poetry or music. This book is more than a catalogue of Bob Dylan’s latest work, analysing his songs with a focus on the period between 1997-2020’s. Chris’ writing is almost poetic as he delves into Dylan’s different art forms giving meaning and understanding to Bob Dylan and the artist he is.
I personally had not given much thought to Dylan and his music over the past few years. I have heard of him–I think you would have had to have lived a very sheltered life not to–and knew and liked some of his music but that was about it. Whilst reading Determined to Stand, I listened to each song I didn’t remember or didn’t know. Each song took me back to a time of bittersweet memories reminding me of lazy hazy days spent in Somerset, where I would share an evening or two with my brother and his friends, jamming and sharing thoughts on different artists and their music. The poetry of Dylan’s songs relighted my love of music that looks straight into my soul. Chris wrote about this stage on Dylan’s career with deep knowledge and insight blending the book together with references to Dylan’s earlier work and comparison to other artists.
I thought the front cover and lay out of the book was engaging; however, I would recommend anyone who is dyslexic to use a coloured overlay as the pages are very white and the writing is detailed. I found the discography helpful as Determined to Stand caused several discussions among my family and friends.
I would definitely recommend Determined to Stand (the reinvention of Bob Dylan) even if you are just a little bit curious about Bob Dylan.
I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
AMAZON CO. UK REVIEWS
In this scholarly but accessible study, Chris Gregory forensically analyses the songs on Dylan’s six studio albums of new material from 1997’s “Time Out of Mind” to 2020’s “Rough and Rowdy Ways”. Along the way, he looks at the importance of the “Never Ending Tour”, focusing in on particularly crucial performances; examines what Dylan’s “Chronicles” says about his art; analyses his Christmas album; discusses the relevance and importance of his three “American Songbook” albums (the last of which was a triple CD); and dissects the films he has either written music for, acted in or both. He also looks back at Dylan’s catalogue from the 1960s onwards in order to show the similarities and differences between his earlier work and that of 21st century Dylan.
Rather than looking at each album individually and chronologically, he instead concentrates on themes, thus allowing him to compare songs from different albums. His in-depth commentary brings to the fore the myriad of influences on Dylan’s work. Along the way, key musical influences from the blues, country music, bluegrass, traditional British folk music, gospel, jazz, soul and rock’n’roll are given their places in Dylan’s muse. He also looks at the many literary influences on his work, from Homer and Ovid, through Shakespeare, Rimbaud, Burns, Blake and Dickens to American writers like Poe, Twain and Whitman and on to more contemporary influences such as Ginsberg, Corso and Kerouac.
He implicitly challenges the notion that Dylan is merely a plagiarist by showing how Dylan combines all these very different elements in order to create something totally new. As a Dylan fan since the 1960s, I have never accepted the plagiarist argument. Like Woody Guthrie, like Scotland’s bard Robert Burns and England’s bard William Shakespeare, Dylan doesn’t merely reproduce the work of others and claim it as his own, but creates new ways of seeing by combining disparate elements and mixing them with his own experiences, struggles and joys. Just as Shakespeare took existing stories to create his great tragedies, just as Burns took elements of traditional Scottish songs to create work of universal appeal like “Auld Lang Syne” and “Red, Red Rose”, in Dylan’s songs the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
Not every reader will agree with every aspect of the author’s analyses, after all poetics is in many ways a subjective discipline, but even the most well-read Dylan fans will find much in this book to think about. For example, for me “Roll On John” has always been the weakest song on “Tempest”, which is otherwise a great album, but the author’s breakdown of the song had me re-listening to it and being less dismissive of it. It will never be a favourite song, but I now understand it better.
Finally, it is so good to read a book about Dylan that concentrates on his art rather than indulging in gossip mongering. After all, what makes Dylan a great cultural icon isn’t what women he’s slept with when or how he’s treated other people or how many drugs he’s consumed. What makes him a cultural icon and a Nobel laureate is the amazing breadth, depth, poetry, musicality and pure imaginative range of his work. Chris Gregory brings all this light in his breathtaking study of the poetics of late period Dylan.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 28 April 2021
Having read this through, and added it to my hundred or so books about Bob, (a bit sad, but true), Determined to Stand is undoubtedly one of the very best. Well researched and written, it’s focus on later works makes it much more interesting for the seasoned admirer. The format -linking themes, interspersed with memorable concert performances is so much more interesting than the linear slog, evident in so many appraisals.
This is my second copy – to send to Australia’s foremost Dylan admirer, Prof. RH Trotter, who I studied under for many years.
Promptly sent again. Many thanks Chris.
DANNY PATRICK CLAYTON
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 29 April 2021
One of the very best studies of the art of the great rabbi that I have ever read,
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 18 April 2021
Different slant on Dylan’s later output.Arived before I expected. Brilliant service. Have ordered for a friends birthday.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 19 April 2021
Written with passion and brimming with insight, this book is a joy to read. Dylan’s late-period work is presented as a fascinating distillation of the blues, art, and literature from throughout the ages. Deceptively complex songs are analysed, showing how prescient Dylan remains as a contemporary recording and performance artist. Songs set in historical contexts exploring the corrosive impact of racism, war, and religion on the conscience and moral rectitude of one individual for example, become an allegorical critique of human civilisation and life in modern times: our collective values shaped as ever, not through social discourse but discord and violence . Dylan never abandoned ‘protest’. As he once said, “all of my songs are protest songs”. We also see how the frequent apocalyptic visions in Dylan’s later work are offset by immersion in the bitter-sweet romantic tradition, and relieved with much comedy. “Determined to Stand” separates and identifies the “themes, dreams and schemes’ of the contemporary Dylan canon and helps us to appreciate why far from being the spent force many might believe, he remains so vital and worthy of that Nobel Prize. Gregory guides us through Dylan’s various visits to the creative wellsprings of Greek mythology, Ovid, Shakespeare, the blues, and Sinatra via the Civil War and the great American poets. It is the story of an aging artist’s relentless and uncompromising pursuit of his muse, his quest for the holy grail that is his masterpiece, and ultimately, spiritual redemption. It took me back to the original records as if hearing them for the first time. Thanks to this book, I am better acquainted with classical literature, American social history, the politics of the blues, and even the King James Bible. Most of the live performances so vividly described are available on YouTube. Scholarly but accessible with an engaging and energetic style, Chris Gregory is like the inspirational school teacher you will never forget. I finished each chapter invigorated and renewed. Read it and you will feel better for it. This book is an antidote for any Dylan fan sufferin’ the pandemic blues
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 29 April 2021
This is the quesion posed by Dylan in Spirit on the Water from Modern Times. Determined to Stand provides a very persuasive argument that the answer is ‘No!’ This is one of the best books I have read on Dylan and it offers a cogent and insightful analysis of Dylan’s work from the late 1990’s onwards. With the passage of time, it is clear that that Dylan has produced material over the last twenty years that is as ground breaking and unique as he did in the 1960’s. Determined to Stand is highly recommended.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 9 May 2021
How refreshing to have a new Bob Dylan Book which is both new in relation to the subject matter, it’s style and is penned by a different author.
Determined To Stand explores the songs, from the time when Bob Dylan suddenly “shifted gears and released some of the strongest music of his career beginning in the late ’90s” and bringing us up to date through Tempest and concluding with Rough and Rowdy Ways and of note the tour-de-force which is Murder Most Foul.
Thorough; weighing in at 336 pages the text is considered and provides lyrical overlaps with Keats, Poe, Dickens, Shakespeare and the like. In addition, clarity is provided throughout for some of those unfamiliar references which at times appear within the artist’s verses such as St Herman’s Church, A Sharkskin Suit, A Rootless Tree and which so often, all to easily go unquestioned.
This is a book to savour, to inform and to enjoy as it takes what you thought you knew, adds depth and breadth and directs you back to the songs once again to listen and to enjoy afresh with a deeper perspective. Inciteful, visionary and highly recommended.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 9 July 2021
This book is likely to be definitive in its establishment of the links between Dylan’s lyrics and the myriad of sources he has utilized from folk, blues and literature in relation to the late work. As with his previous book, the excellent Who Could Ask For More? Reclaiming The Beatles, Gregory focuses on the music. In particular, the breaks into discussion of live performances through the years, and the contextual links to the main text, are riveting. The selections are entirely apposite and open up further discussion. For the most part the reader is guided through the songs with an instructive plethora of attributions which are direct and ultimately plausible, avoiding speculation for the most part. The technique of scrolling through the lyrics might have been tedious, but on the contrary I found it enlivening and instructive. 99% of the time the author’s references are compelling, especially given Dylan’s encyclopaedic knowledge of music (plus film and literature) as referenced in ‘Theme Time Radio Hour’ and ‘Murder Most Foul’. A dense but rewarding read.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 22 May 2021
Having read well over a hundred books on Bob this is one of the best. It focuses for the most part on the post 1997 work. The references to and context descriptions of earlier work/events are very succint.
An excellent read – prompted me to buy the authors book on the Beatles, even though i have read in excess of 150 books on them – high praise indeed!!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 5 May 2021
There are probably far too many books, podcasts, articles and reviews on all things Dylan but this thoughtful, well written and meticulously researched new addition is recommended. It gives numerous new insights into the man and his work and is guaranteed to send readers back to their album collections to listen out for all those things we’ve missed!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 5 May 2021
Very readable and an absolutely fascinating insight into later period Dylan. Up with the very best Dylan books I have read. Can’t recommend it highly enough.
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Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 17 May 2021
Certainly the most insightful and well-researched book on Dylan I’ve ever read.
It has prompted me to listen again and with more attention to much of the work from 1990 until today.
Every fan of Bob should read this book.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 5 May 2021
This is a fascinating analysis of Bob Dylan’s work . I highly recommend it .
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 5 May 2021
Literary but completely accessible. A real deep dive that sent me back to the records with a new appreciation of what Dylan was doing and where he was heading.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 12 May 2021
I would thoroughly recommend reading this book.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 5 May 2021
This is an interesting book which looks at the later work of Dylan. Thankfully he concentrates on tour versions of the songs alongside album versions. His analysis of the songs is very good.