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Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2007

Bob Dylan

The Other Side of the Mirror: Live At The Newport Folk Festival,

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December 06, 2007

The folk-blues revival was a lively movement of rediscovery. It ran circa the early-1960s through Bob Dylan's death-knell summer of '65 performance captured on this DVD. It was the moment when youth culture, having birthed rock 'n' roll, gave up on its idea of folk music and moved on.

The songs Dylan wrote and performed at the Newport Folk Festival, then one of the most prominent outdoor music events in America and the prototype for the Monterey Pop Festival and Woodstock, at first pointed fingers at the injustice in society and politics; then they moved on to personal revelations; and eventually they moved further into the realm of revelatory observation with lyrics that were grabbed from Beat poets and music that robbed dark frenzy from authentic rock 'n' roll.

This documentary goes from the folk-blues revival's high point ("Blowin' In The Wind") to its burial ("Like a Rolling Stone") and along the way documents a new idiom, eventually called "singer-songwriter." Even today, we can hear the cultural echo of Dylan's accomplishments in rock music.

With Dylan, rock 'n' roll moved from low to high culture. Traditional American music became the stuff of college campus concerts and was no longer left to ethnomusicologists to catalog without huge audiences noting the index cards. Dylan was the driving force and every song on this remarkable DVD is expertly logged, edited and arranged to linearly tell the story of how a complex narrative jumps out of dirt roads onto paved blacktop.* Highlights include a spooky performance of "North Country Blues," a scathing and nearly toppling "Chimes Of Freedom" and, of course, a riveting monster titled "Like a Rolling Stone" that, despite all the ink spilled on the subject of its failure in this performance, completely succeeds with a new, frightening sound. In the latter song, and the entire 1965 performance, Dylan charges the purist folk fortress with electric guitarist Michael Bloomfield lobbing rounds over the watchtowers, leaving some in the audience dismayed. It is shocking to watch this apocalypse and there can be no doubt the reaction to it was eventful on all sides, especially on the other side of the mirror where a lone folk outlaw makes rock 'n' roll forever young.

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