Bob Dylan – The Other Side Of The Mirror: Live At The Newport Folk Festival (Columbia)

The Other Side Of The Mirror collects seventeen live Bob Dylan performances at the Newport Folk Festival from 1963-1965, showing his transformation from traditional acoustic folk singer to the leader of a loud rock band. It was a bold move, especially in front of the Newport audience of hardcore folk traditionalists, but one that arguably changed the course of rock music forever. Although the DVD is bursting with great performances of historically important material, director Murray Lerner could have given more context on why these were important performances, or captured more behind the scenes activity. To be fair, there are some short interviews with festival-goers, but they don’t add much context. Without that level of depth, The Other Side Of The Mirror plays more like the supplemental materials that would be found on a better Dylan documentary’s bonus disc.

Bob Dylan – Dylan (Columbia Records)

Looking past the music (it’s great), this single disc Greatest Hits set is a bit of a mystery. After all, there’s a two-disc Essential Bob Dylan and three individually sold Greatest Hits discs already on the market. So why should people buy Dylan, when it offers no new songs, no unique angle, nothing that you can’t easily find elsewhere? Why even release an album whose liner notes begin with the self-defeating line, “Trying to fit the best of Bob Dylan on a single disc is a little like trying to fit the history of the world into a single textbook?” The answer is that Dylan exists to satisfy a very specific market of non-music fans: people who purchase less than five CDs a year and feel like they should have a Dylan CD in their collection. If you’re a real Dylan fan, this is not the disc for you. In fact, stay away from it completely or you’re likely to get upset with the ugly red packaging and rudimentary liner notes that seem hell-bent on mythologizing. The most egregious bout of bad taste is the mini-booklet whose cover declares “Dylan: Everything Except Compromise” – which then opens up to an advertisement for Bob Dylan ring-tones. Are you kidding me?