Joel Gilbert's 'Bob Dylan - World Tours 1966-1974 Through the Camera of Barry Feinstein' may be an unwieldy title, and it may not actually feature any of Dylan's music, but it is certainly a must-have for anyone who thinks of Dylan as a master singer/songwriter. The key element of the documentary is the photography of Barry Feinstein, the father of rock & roll photography and a long-time friend of Dylan.
Joel Gilbert is a Bob Dylan fanatic. With 'World Tours 1966-1974' he has made two documentaries on Dylan [the other being 'Bob Dylan 1966 World Tour: The Home Movies'], formed the world's only Bob Dylan tribute band [Highway 61 Revisited - who supply the excellent soundtrack music for 'World Tours 1966-1974'] and authored a book on Dylan's guitar style [The Acoustic Bob Dylan, His Music Styles and Guitar Techniques'].
The concept for 'World Tour 1966-1974' is simple: Gilbert explores Dylan's two major world tours through the photography of Barry Feinstein, and talks to various people who knew Dylan back in the day. It's not the most earth-shattering idea, neither is it brilliantly executed - and yet, it's almost impossible to ignore.
Gilbert begins by visiting Feinstein, whose photographs of Dylan date back to the cover of his fourth album, 'The Times They Are A-Changing'. As they talk about Dylan, we see Feinstein's exquisite black & white photos and hear Feinstein comment on them [mostly he just tells us the situation that he shot, but on some there are moments of amazing insight].
The Feinstein visit actually bookends the film - there are brief conversations with D.A. Pennebaker [the filmmaker who directed the famous Dylan doc, 'Don't Look Back']; Al Aronson, the godfather of rock journalism [I'm not sure if he's suffered a stroke, but it's hard to make out what he's saying about half the time, but when he's clear, he makes some very interesting points]; the world's first garbologist [and Dylan fanatic], A.J. Weberman [who comes off as a total whack-job]; and Mickey Jones, Dylan's drummer on the 1966 tour. Gilbert even attempts to visit Big Pink, the house where Dylan and The Band rehearsed [and The Band recorded their first album]. Unfortunately, there was nobody home.
While Feinstein's almost monotonic delivery is not the most riveting, his photos are worth the price of this DVD all by themselves [one of the few extras is a collection of four photo gallery slideshows, and they are breathtaking]. Even so, when he does say something of more depth than his usual descriptions of photos, it does broaden our understanding of the young man who revolutionized music in a manner equaled by few in our time. My favorite photos of Dylan just hangin' with some kids [who've never heard of him] in Ireland.
The only section of 'World Tours' that might have you reaching for the fast-forward button is the A.J. Weberman interview. Weberman is not just a Dylan fanatic, he has some, shall we say unusual ideas on what Dylan's songs really mean - and his voice is not particularly engaging [especially at the rapid pace with which he speaks]. Of the doc's two hours, about five minutes could have been excised here with no real pain - but Weberman's behavior is still worth noting as being way over the top - even for a fanatic.
Besides the photo galleries, there are two other extras on the DVD: interviews with guitarist Bruce Langhorne, who discusses learning to play guitar after blowing the tips of three fingers on his right hand, and his history Dylan, and Izzy Young, the man who opened and ran the Folklore Center - the store where Dylan hung out in his early days - talks about his impressions of the early Dylan [“Hey, Izzy! I got a song I wanna play for you”]. Both interviews are intelligent and fun, as well as informative, and are definite highlights of the DVD.