by Richard Lewis

One of the presents I found in my stocking on Christmas morning was "ISIS A BOB DYLAN ANTHOLOGY" Edited by Derek Barker. This anthology was published to celebrate 100 issues of the Dylan magazine ISIS and is a kind of best-of, though it includes a few new pieces, that is arranged chronologically according to Dylan's career rather than the issue of ISIS in which it first appeared. This means that it can be read as a kind of biography or dipped into according to what period interests you.

I've not yet read it all but have thoroughly enjoyed the sections I have dipped into. In common, I imagine, with most of you, one of the things that I enjoyed about getting new Dylan albums was not only the music on the vinyl but the cover it came in. Today CD booklets can also bring their rewards even if nowadays I sometime need a magnifying glass. It has always been the same for me with music books. I love studying the introductions, credits, acknowledgements, contents, notes, appendices, index and epilogue.

The ones in this anthology yield their own delights. It is good to see that long time Freewheelers Chris Cooper (with his fascinating Dave Kelly interview from 1987) and Mark Carter (with a couple of his cartoons including a new one especially for this book) are included in the book itself. It is also nice to see Mel Gamble and John Green mentioned for past help and assistance above and beyond the call of duty. Newer Freewheelers Andrew Muir (with a fine piece on the four songs from Time Out Of Mind that really move him) and CP Lee (with two pieces on the electric Dylan in 65 and 66 in the USA and UK -the 66 article being a new one commissioned for this book). I enjoyed the short quotes that precede the contents page (all by Dylan) and the ones that precede the appendices (all about Dylan). In the appendix, the section on Some Historic Live Performances (together with where you can find them on CD) and the list of fifty recommended Bootleg CDs are both useful reference points.

The first section of the anthology that I read was the one on the 65/66 Dylan that takes up 40 pages and includes the previously mentioned pieces by CP Lee, an interview with Mickey Jones and pieces on Dylan in Australia and three eyewitness accounts of the final night at the Royal Albert Hall on 27th May 1966. Taken together these articles give someone who wasn't around then a real flavour of what was happening and for those of us who were fortunate enough to see Dylan in 65 and 66 an accurate picture of what we remember. They give a context to what you hear if you now put on any of the 65/66 bootlegs that we are lucky enough to have available. It is also very useful to have the original date of publication listed after each article as this also gives the reader a context to take into account as they read.

Each article in the book is headed by an appropriate photo, record sleeve, ticket or other image and together with some fine full page photos (I particularly liked the one by Watt Casey from Houston in 1976 on page 144) they add to the overall impression of a careful labour of love by Derek and his publishers. I now look forward to reading some more. In the meantime I would suggest to all you Freewheelers that this is an essential purchase. Our turn next?