Bob Dylan

Tales from a Golden Age: Bob Dylan 1941-1966

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If you're going to approach this 85-minute documentary of the first quarter century of Bob Dylan's life looking for a definitive overview, you'll be sorely disappointed. For one thing, there are no interviews with Dylan; for another, there's no virtually no vintage footage of him from the era. Last but not least, the authorized documentary covering this exact same period (No Direction Home, which came out the year following this DVD) not only includes heaps of vintage footage and first-hand interviews with Dylan (and numerous key Dylan associates), but blows away this skimpier effort from every conceivable angle. All those crucial points made, if you are a Dylan freak and want to check out everything of this sort you can, it does have some good points, even if it's far from excellent or comprehensive. First, there are some interviews with people who knew Dylan, including childhood friends and teachers, British folksinger Martin Carthy, "Spider" John Koerner, and Mickey Jones, the drummer on Dylan's famous 1966 world tour. Also, there are vintage still photos and further interview segments (probably too many for more casual fans) with authors who've written books about the singer/songwriter. While these are no substitute for comments closer to the source, they do supply some insightful critique (particularly in the comments by Dylan scholar/biographer Clinton Heylin, though so many of these are used it begins to feel a little like he's taking over the production). The DVD certainly won't unduly impress either Dylan fanatics or those looking for a more general introduction to his wide-ranging pre-1967 achievements. Its coverage, in the absence of access to a greater abundance of source footage or interviewees, is on the oblique and fragmentary side. But there are some stories, observations, and images (linked by a voice-over narration) that are interesting, and it's professionally if unspectacularly filmed and assembled.