Constable, £20, 546pp. £18 from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030

Still on the Road: The Songs of Bob Dylan Vol 2: 1974-2008, By Clinton Heylin

Clinton Heylin's latest overblown opus is a companion to Revolution in the Air, which examined Bob Dylan's oeuvre up to 1973, chronicling (via notebooks and studio logs) the evolution of each song and putting Dylan himself right on a number of matters. Dylan might have been there – but only Heylin knows what actually happened.

The author has less to get his teeth into this time round: roughly the same number of songs but many fewer moments of genius. Blood on the Tracks (1974) stands as one of Dylan's greatest albums – very different from "the wild mercury sound" of Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde but no less brilliant. No single later album has been so consistent. Heylin is right to call it "truly classic", but wrong to bracket Slow Train Coming with it.

He over-praises Dylan's three specifically Christian albums while underplaying Infidels (which walked a Judeo-Christian line). Similarly, he goes overboard in his discussion of Knocked Out Loaded, Empire Burlesque and Under the Red Sky while failing to give due weight to Oh Mercy and Time Out of Mind (producer Daniel Lanois is cast as a villain), Love and Theft and Modern Times, each of them a success.

Taste is subjective, but a book which imagines itself to be a quasi-academic analysis of the work of one of the 20th century's most significant cultural figures needs to be able properly to separate wheat from chaff. It should not defend the indefensible nor take pot shots at work of merit simply because the author finds it personally irritating.

Much of these 500 pages is spent putting Dylan's religious work in biblical context, which means Heylin is constantly quoting from scripture. When it's not the Bible, our polymath guide is drawing on the Tarot, film, litcrit and folklore. The intended impression, as we read his exegesis of Dylan's conversion to charismatic Christianity through study at the Vineyard Fellowship, is that Heylin has written his own book of revelations – except that it has all been chronicled 30 years ago, principally by Paul Williams in What Happened?

One of the criticisms consistently levelled at Heylin is that he doesn't properly credit his sources. Certainly, in discussing "Every Grain of Sand", he mentions the demo Dylan put down "apparently to convince Greek chanteuse Nana Mouskouri to record the song (which she eventually did)". That the song arrived in the mail following a meeting backstage in LA was my own contribution to Dylan studies, direct from Mouskouri's own lips; the incident is noted in No Direction Home by Robert Shelton.

In the text and in his "select bibliography", most of Heylin's references are to his own work. Where that of others is acknowledged it is usually in a disparaging manner. As with Revolution in the Air, Dylan is repeatedly taken to task, the veracity of Chronicles called in to question. He notes that the book is "rumoured" to have begun as a set of sleeve notes; I can confirm that is what Dylan told me backstage at Hammersmith, his publishers looking on as he explained that he wrote too much "and you can't read those things anyway".

Finally, there's Heylin's tortured prose, the use of what he imagines to be Dylan-speak (coulda, kinda, shoulda), and the inattention to spelling and grammar. The acknowledgments – used to knock, inter alia, his American publisher, who "saddled" the book with "an utterly shite cover", actually far nicer than the UK one – note that "I managed to wrestle the proofing process away from said publisher and have got the book properly copy-edited". Enough said.

Liz Thomson co-edited 'The Dylan Companion' (Da Capo)

Arts and Entertainment
Stewart Lee (Gavin Evans)


Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
Yaphett Kotto with Julius W Harris and Jane Seymour in 1973 Bond movie Live and Let Die

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

    Beige to the future

    Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own