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the pioneer of Dylan Studies; writer, public speaker, critic; became a Doctor of Letters in 2015 (awarded by the University of York, UK)

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Sunday, February 20, 2011


I'm really pleased to learn that has now announced that Dylan's Brandeis Folk Festival performance is going to be released independently of any box set, on April 12, and that the new packaging includes my sleevenotes. As you may have noticed, it's the first time I've ever been invited to contribute to any official Dylan release. It's not exactly a 3000-word essay for some amazing new official Bootleg Series triple-album, of course, but I'm very happy to have been asked, all the same. The story is here.


Blogger Илко Биров (Ilko Birov) said...

Congratulations, Mr. Gray!

5:24 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's well deserved recognition for your work, devotion, and scholarship. The producers are fortunate that you are contributing. I hope to catch up with you in Statesboro or Athens next month.

8:52 pm  
Anonymous John Carvill said...

"As you may have noticed, it's the first time I've ever been invited to contribute to any official Dylan release. "

- About bloody time!

2:34 pm  
Anonymous Jonathan said...

Hi Michael,

Congratulations on being asked to contribute to an official release. It’s terrific that you’ve been acknowledged by the Dylan camp, and are joining the ranks of Allen Ginsberg and Al Kooper (and Dylan himself).

As good as the news is, I can’t help but be irritated at the way Sony have conducted the release of the Brandeis concert. When it was announced that a bonus CD would come with the Witmark Demos, the pre-order option was posted on Amazon UK for all of a day, before being closed. It reappeared on Series Nine’s release date, but at obscene prices. A look at Amazon UK has the cheapest price to buy the demos and the bonus together at £39.99. The bonus-free demos are £9.28. Sure it was a pre-order offer, but why did the Brandeis gig have come at such a high price for so many Dylan fans? It was an ordinarily-pressed CD in a cardboard sleeve.

The whole ‘limited edition’, pre order system just facilities profiteering. It undermines the punters’ good will even more when a bonus is given a general release a few months later.

At times it seems there is some sort of perverse desire on the part of the distributors to push people towards downloading. The Brandeis gig is not the only example recently – ‘Live at the Gaslight 1962’ is now £37.95 (and doesn’t contain all the available material) while ‘Live At Carnegie Hall 1963’ is £29.97 –another truncated, careless release, grossly inflated in value down to its unnecessary and arbitrary ‘limited’ status. Even the most honest of consumer is bound to ask, why play along? It simply isn’t worth it for what you are buying.

The situation irks the most when it comes to exclusive audio content. It’s more understandable for a package to be a limited edition collector’s piece –but when it comes to exclusive songs, the practice devolves into cynicism. Non-collectors with no great interest in elaborate cardboard still nonetheless want to buy genuine, hardcopy, uncompressed versions of all of Dylan’s official output. What is the point in making it rare if not to gorge on the money of loyal fans who have a weakness for the genuine article?

Penning the sleeve notes is honour, much deserved. I just wish it wasn’t on such a sour release. What are your feelings on the re-release of the Brandeis concert? I know you were frustrated with the Sony’s conduct regarding Tell Tale Signs.

Best wishes, and congratulations again,


12:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The sole reason I bought the last Bootleg Series (which I already owned in a good bootleg edition) was to obtain the supposedly limited edition Brandeis. And here it is being given a proper release. More fool me. All the same, nice to see you appearing on an official release, Michael.

1:29 pm  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

I know, I know - but as you know, it's nothing to do with me. Naturally I think I could make better decisions about what Dylan "product" is released in what formats and at what prices, but I don't think it's liable to happen.

9:28 pm  
Anonymous likeatrain said...

Congratulations, Michael.

Your thoughts on the Grammys performance?

10:58 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Come on Michael,use your huge new-found influence to persuade them to release Royal Festival Hall 1964--probably the most important unreleased link in the 60s chain

1:28 pm  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

The Grammies? It sounds absurd to say so but I haven't heard it yet. When I'm travelling I leave my ancient (and therefore too heavy) laptop at home and therefore have to rely on half-hours grabbed on computers in hotel lobbies or libraries - so I can't play any sounds, so I've delayed confronting this performance till I'm home and can at least hear it.

11:55 pm  
Blogger James said...

Congratulations; despite being a short CD it's a good one.

I thought the Grammies performance was okay - energy over subtlety maybe... The close up on J-Lo's baffled face as she had to stand up and applaud Dylan was priceless.

6:56 pm  
Anonymous Carl Finlay said...

congratulations Michael! well done :)
by the way any news on that book you said you were putting together (a collection of writings about Dylan if my memory serves me well) ???

regarding the Grammies...i thought it was great. the mad scramble at the start, the hop over the double bass, the crazy semi-elvis moves he was making and all the lads playing with him grinning like mad. it wasnt meant to be subtle, it was a barnburner! great fun!

well done again :)

6:28 pm  
Anonymous Wee Tommy said...

I’m surprised that anybody actually believed that the Brandeis concert would never be released separately. In 1979, my flatmate lashed out what seemed to me to be an eye-wateringly large amount of money to buy At Budokan, which was only available as a Japanese import. He had read the insistence from the record company that it would never be released in the same form in the UK. I couldn't afford it, but was suspicious of the company's claims in any case. Later that year, it was released here, in virtually identical form, and I paid a fraction of what he had. So I didn’t believe it about Brandeis either. Sony know they can capitalise on a combination of the fan’s anxiety about missing out on something, and the collector’s willingness to pay a premium to get something others don’t have. While, in the 1970s the time lag was only a few months, now Sony know they can play a longer game, but other than that, nothing has changed.

10:45 am  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

I quite liked the Grammy performance. I actually thought (rather to my surprise) that beyond the obvious fun of it - including, as you say Carl, the hop over the double bass, and the foot-to-foot twitch-shuffle at the end - he also found some fresh timing & phrasing several times over during the song.

As for what's happening with my in-the-works book Outtakes: Journeys in Music, well, it's coming along but it's not ready yet, and my Spring Tour of talks, which takes an astonishing amount of organising as well as the travelling and talking time, has necessarily delayed its progress. So has the recording of my CD Bob Dylan Encyclopedia Greatest Hits, which is now at the mastering stage.

11:44 am  

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