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a totally unauthorized documentary
DVD Review by CD Pinkerton / Read Lissa's review for a woman's perspective

Let me begin this write-up by telling the reader: "If you are reading this review at, then you are the target audience of the film". It is geared toward the serious Dylan fan looking for a deeper understanding of particular events surrounding Bob during the six year period between 1975 and 1981. You owe it to yourself and to your Dylan collection to add this little gem to your arsenal.

Two other factions that will find it indispensable are fans of Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter, and fans of Ramblin' Jack Elliot. This is the first interview that Carter has given in 30 years. It is an in-depth recapitulation of Rubin's slant of the events surrounding the 1966 murders for which he and John Artis were twice convicted. He brings Dylan into the picture more-so than any past chronicle has done. In the fascinating interview, the lines become indelibly blurred as to what are actual facts of the case, what are Rubin's sometimes dubious claims from his 1974 autobiography, and what has become his morphed interpretation of those claims through the direction of Dylan's lyrics that were, themselves, artistically gleaned from the autobiography.
Ramblin' Jack is an encyclopedic compilation of everyone that he's ever befriended. Listen as he speaks with humor and wit about the Rolling Thunder and his involvement with Dylan and the sundry characters that created the human calliope that became the Revue. In a special feature of the DVD, Elliot weaves romantic stories of growing up and discovering life as only Jack can relate them. As he recalls, "I was born on a 45,000 acre ranch in the middle of Flatbush." Of course, most of us refer to this particular ranch as Brooklyn, NY.

Ok, let's get the negative aspects of this DVD out of the way, so we can concentrate on why it is a must-have item. First, and most importantly, While producer Joel Gilbert is an incredible Dylan sound-alike, (He and his band travel the country as the Dylan tribute act "Highway 61 Revisited") he is a neophyte movie director. His past accomplishments include Bob Dylan 1966 World Tour The Home Movies released in 2003, and last years' Bob Dylan World Tours 1966-1974 Through the Camera of Barry Feinstein. Continuing his passion for releasing life stories of Dylan with protracted titles, he gives us BOB DYLAN 1975-1981 ROLLING THUNDER & THE GOSPEL YEARS a totally unauthorized documentary. While this is his best directorial effort to date, there are still pitfalls. During the interviews, the screen quickly and constantly changes from full screen to half screen, bordered images to borderless, and from color to black and white. This artistic approach lends an MTV feel to the project, but its over-use becomes annoying at times. Too much of a good thing. Worse yet, each interviewee's comments are periodically interlaced with silly little cartoon stills à la VH1 that give some of the serious comments a non-believable feel. Their arduous over-abundance feel most inappropriate for discourses of this caliber.

That noted, I promise that you'll walk away from this film with handfuls of golden nuggets! If you think that this review might be a bit long, you ain't seen nothin' yet! The running time of this DVD is four hours! It's nearly too much to take in on a single sitting, nor does it need to be. The various interviews and time periods allow for natural feeling breaks to pause the film for rest room, food, or sleep. There are additional bonus features that are worth the price of the DVD by themselves! They include a fascinating journey with Gilbert to Hibbing Minnesota to explore Dylan's childhood home, and includes a tour of the family house, the iron ore strip mine that would frame several of Dylan's writings, comments of those who knew him, and much more. Also included in the special feature section is a wonderful photo gallery as well as the aforementioned Ramblin' Jack extended interview.

Just to touch on what's in store for the Dylan fan, how about seeing the 1980 three minute Dylan interview from the Pittsburgh Hilton Hotel that was broadcast by KDKA TV on May 15, 1980 ? There is, of course, no Dylan music on the DVD, but there is professionally shot concert footage. The tastefully incorporated background music from Highway 61 Revisited will cause you to perk your ears several times. There are also musical offerings from Scarlet Rivera, Regina McCrary, Rob Stoner, Jack Elliot, and Bruce Langhorne. Tour inside Muscle Shoals Studio and talk with producer Jerry Wexler. See some World Of John Hammond clips, go inside the -ahem- Rundown Studio in Santa Monica, and watch many revealing insider comments.

The absolutely not-to-be missed interviews that delve behind the scenes of Dylan's world include those from the intellectual and musical genius of Dylan band leader Rob Stoner; insights from Claudia Levy - the wife of deceased Jacques Levy who was Dylan's co-writer for Desire and stage manager for the Revue; A first ever interview with Dylan's bible teacher from the Vineyard Church, Pastor Bill Dwyer; Fascinating glimpses into Rolling Thunder from Scarlet Rivera (the beautiful violinist of both Desire and the tour) and others; and stories of the gospel years from keyboardist Spooner Oldham, song writer Al Kasha, Rock music reporter Joel Selvin and others. Even self proclaimed Dylanologist AJ Weberman chimes in with some truly provocative thoughts before he descends into the maelstrom of Weberman lunacy towards the end of the film. This could have been edited out, but it's been left for the viewer to do.

All in all I have only the highest recommendation for this DVD. It belongs in your Dylan collection.
© 2006 CD Pinkerton

Info from MDV:

Director & Producer Joel Gilbert (Bob Dylan 1966 World Tour The Home Movies, 2003 and Bob Dylan World Tours 1966-1974 Through the Camera of Barry Feinstein, 2005) weaves the story of this monumental period of Dylans life and music through revealing insider portraits, exclusive photos, live concert video clips and TV footage from 1975-1981, and with visits to Rundown Studios, the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, the Vineyard Church, and the Fox Warfield Theatre.
Song Titles:
Featuring: Concert Video Clips 1975-1981; KDKA TV Interview Unearthed; World of John Hammond Clips; Rundown Studios Revealed; Muscle Shoals Studios Visit; Revealing Insider Interviews; Journey to Hibbing; Ramblin Jacks Early Days; Photo Gallery 1975-1981
Other Info:
Label: MVD
Running Time: 241 mins
Region Code: 0
Format: DVD


a totally unauthorized documentary
DVD Review by Lissa McCrary  /

This is a totally different doc than any you've ever seen. It offers fresh introspective from those who knew Dylan when.
I am a relatively new Dylan fan, being one for only the past few years. You see, I am in my early 30's and as I was growing up, the only thing I really knew of Dylan was that he was one of the Traveling Wilburys. Being a young teenage girl, a group of "old" guys didn't really appeal to me too much. I mean, none of them were dreamy enough to make it to my poster pages to hang on my wall. Well, I have grown and matured since then, and discovered the magical genius that is Bob Dylan. The little girl in me is still looking for that dreamboat in all that is Dylan. Nothing does it for me like seeing a young, sexy Dylan perform. That is, nothing, except for actually seeing him speak.This doc is long at a whooping 240 minutes. I recommend watching it at different intervals. Way too much info going in too many different directions for just one sitting. I waxed nostalgic after each interview, and wanted to run play each CD as it was being described and talked about!
I must admit that I was slightly bored for the first 20 minutes watching Rubin "Hurricane" Carter talk about himself... until he mentioned Dylan's name... now you got my attention, but, sheesh, a Dylan doc that takes 20 minutes before they mention him? Oh well, I continued to listen to Rubin talk about his life, the in's and out's and the "true" story of what happened. I felt like I already knew everything, 'cause Dylan already told me about it in his song. I found out that I really didn't know it all, and I was quite interested in hearing it come from the Hurricane himself. I have seen earlier interviews where he downplayed Dylan's involvement. I actually thought that he didn't care much for what Dylan had done for him. This doc showed me another side of the Hurricane. Not only did he seem grateful, he seemed genuinely enamored with Dylan. I dig the Hurricane a whole lot more now. He even threw in some info that I bet you didn't know, about the show that Dylan put on in the prison. His personal anecdote about about Joni Mitchell floored me! I am still laughing about it! Turns out, I thoroughly enjoyed watching it. Stop the film; go throw on the Hurricane record! Nice!
Now, we're off to hear from Scarlet Rivera, and how this sultry violinist came to work with Dylan.Wow! Adore the way she met him. What a player he was, just to get her the way he did. He got game! And what a honey she was! Heck, she's still looking pretty good now! All the reminiscing about the Rolling Thunder Review was awesome. So insightful. As a woman, I felt like she really took us along for the ride, and showed us how it would have been as the only woman on that tour. (Down, little green monster, down! I am so jealous!)
Ramblin' Jack Elliott... I see that his name has a dual meaning. I liked him, and listening to him tell his story as well. Eventually he got to the Dylan part. Dug him still. More insight in the RTR.
Rob Stoner... Nice to see him give himself props as being the creative mind behind everything he did with Dylan. Everything he talked about was his idea. I am glad Dylan allowed him the freedom of impromptu band leader, because the final product was stupendous. 
Included in the doc is a great trip to the Muscle Shoals Studio, with frequent visits from Jerry Wexler. What a guy! Still, one more person that lets us in on life at that time with Dylan. There is so much that I didn't know about the making of Slow Train Coming. So much that I didn't know about the events that led Dylan to make this album, all revealed in interviews with Wexler and Dylan's bible teacher and pastor.Mind blowing! Not only is this portion of the doc informative about Dylan, it also talks about how he got saved. Listen to Regina McCrary (great name) reminisce about the good old days, and hear her ever so soulful voice. Stop the doc, put on Slow Train Coming... goose bumps.
This DVD offers up tons of anecdotes from so many people that were "there when it happened".
For the most part, I was overwhelmed with all that I walked away with from this doc. Being a lover of all things Dylan and indifferent to those critical of him, I didn't care for a couple of aspects of this film. The first is the critic that gave Dylan a bad review. He told a story about how his wife thought that Dylan was drunken black man on the phone. Do I believe that she got a call from someone claiming they were Dylan? Sure. Do I think it was him? Nope. I think that people shouldn't offer up info on a doc about Dylan unless they know things first hand, and know these things to be factual. That said, lets move on to AJ Weberman. What in sam hill is going on? Why is he even on here? He offers no introspective. Only his ignorant opinions, and offers them up as fact. In my opinion, this and every other film about Dylan could do without this guy. OK... let's get to the crux of what makes this documentary so insanely awesome!
The 1980 three minute Dylan interview from the Pittsburgh Hilton Hotel that was broadcast by KDKA TV on May 15, 1980. OH MY GOODNESS!!!! Hold onto your hats ladies, because this is the defining moment of this DVD. Super close up interview with Bobby! Listening to him talk so seriously and passionately about his concert. Those lovely brown locks. I swear I see heaven in those big baby blue eyes! Excuse me while I clean my melted heart up off the floor! Stop the doc, run it back, watch it 10 more times. He is looking at me, isn't he? Ahh.
In conclusion, I would like to recommend this to every one who digs Dylan as much as I do. Ok all the rest of you should get it too. It has awesome extra features, like Joel Gilbert touring Hibbing and doing what seems to me like flirting with the local tour guide. Too cute. Who knew that Greyhound bus got its start there?
Anyway, I digress. Some sweet music by Highway 61 Revisited. Joel definitely has the closest sounding Dylan voice I have ever heard, so don't forget to pick up the soundtrack to this film as well! Along with Joel and H61R, it includes some other really great stuff on it such as vocal performances by Regina McCrary and Rob Stoner, as well as Scarlet playing. So Nice!
All in all, one of the best docs I have seen lately. I give a standing 'O' to Bob Dylan 1975-1981 Rolling Thunder and The Gospel Years a totally unauthorized documentary.

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© 2006 CD Pinkerton