Matched only by the Beatles and Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan continues to captivate music and pop culture fans with a seemingly never-ending stream of new and old recordings, books, documentaries, feature films, and more. The Other Side of the Mirror – Live at Newport Folk Festival 1963-1965 is a worthy addition to the canon; whether this 83-minute compilation will serve to illuminate the Dylan myth or merely perpetuate it is open to question, but without a doubt there’s plenty of fascinating material here. There are nearly 20 songs represented, covering three consecutive years of Dylan appearances at the famed Rhode Island festival. Some have been seen before (most recently in No Direction Home, Martin Scorsese’s 2005 Dylan doc, and in Festival, a Newport chronicle released on DVD that same year and directed by Murray Lerner, who is also responsible for The Other Side of the Mirror). Some are from Dylan’s daytime “workshops,” others from his nighttime main stage performances. Some are complete, others oddly truncated. Some are terrific (like “Chimes of Freedom,” 1964), others not so much (cf. the turgid “With God on Our Side” from ’63, with Joan Baez adding shrill harmony). In any case, these were the years when Dylan assumed the mantle of “spokesman of a generation,” whether he wanted it or not. We see him evolving from the earnest young protest singer of ’63 to the visionary artist of the following year who, with the astonishing torrent of rhymes, alliterations, symbols, and brilliant turns of phrase in “Chimes” and “Mr. Tambourine Man,” turned the whole notion of songwriting on its ear. And, of course, we also witness Dylan’s turn from acoustic to electric guitar, when he was joined onstage by members of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band (sans Butterfield himself) in 1965; only two songs from that legendary (and, at the time, infamous) gig are seen here, and viewed four decades after the fact, neither “Maggie’s Farm” nor “Like a Rolling Stone” is all that special, notwithstanding some searing solo work by guitarist Mike Bloomfield. The DVD package, which includes a bonus interview with Lerner and a nice booklet with liner notes by Tom Piazza, adds to the appeal of what has to rank as a must-have for Dylanologists of every stripe. –Sam Graham


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