DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

Bob Dylan And The Band – Down In The Flood (2012)

This is a perceptive glimpse into an unusual musical collaboration.

Published on September 22, 2012

Bob Dylan And The Band – Down In The Flood (2012)

Vintage performances, filmed interviews, and current interviews with Garth Hudson, Mickey Jones, Ronnie Hawkins, Charlie McCoy, Barney Hoskyns, Anthony DeCurtis, John Simon and others
Chapters: Intro; The Hawk; Bringing It All Back Home; Electricity; The Retreat; In The Basement; Nashville; Big Pink; The Man In The White Suit; The Band; Making Waves; The Tapes; Bonus: Driving The Band – With Mickey Jones &b Tour ’66; Contributor Biographies; Beyond DVD
Studio: Sexy Intellectual SIDVD571 – Dist by MVD Entertainment [9/25/2012]
Video: 4:3, color & black & white
Audio: English PCM Stereo
All Regions
Length: 114 minutes
Rating: ****

It is unusual when two iconic musical influences have a deep-rooted history. Bob Dylan revolutionized the folk industry in the early sixties. Around the same time, a group consisting of four Canadians and one U.S. Southerner were cutting their rock and roll teeth as the back-up band to Ronnie Hawkins. An epiphany for rock and roll occurred at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival when Dylan went electric and outraged the folk community. A subsequent tour supported by The Hawks (later renamed The Band) became a watershed moment for modern music. As indicated in D.B. Pennebaker’s documentary, Don’t Look Back, Dylan and The Band performed for rabidly hostile fans who booed frequently and wanted their folk hero back. Dylan’s mercurial nature influenced rock, by intermingling with traditional country music. From the mid-sixties to the mid-seventies, Dylan’s musical output was generally brilliant.

The Band was one of the most influential rock groups in the Western Hemisphere. After their apprenticeship with Hawkins and Dylan, they released two of the most important albums in rock history, Music From Big Pink and The Band. Like Dylan, they were idolized by their counterparts. While they never approached the creative heights of the first two efforts, their greatness never diminished. In 1977, their final concert, The Last Waltz was immortalized on film by Martin Scorcese. Featuring an all-star lineup (Hawkins, Dylan, Neil Young, Van Morrision, Joni Mitchell, Dr. John, Neil Diamond, and a host of others), many consider this the greatest rock concert of all time (festivals excluded, of course).

Bob Dylan And The BandDown In The Flood is a full-length documentary of their interconnected, artistic threads. Using color (and some earlier b&w) footage, still photography and revolving narration, the complex film details the evolution of post-folk Dylan and The Band after Ronnie Hawkins. There is some interesting concert and photography of the group backing up Ronnie Hawkins (who is interviewed as well).  Eventually, protégé Levon Helm fronted the new version of The Hawks. The group took on a grittier r & b style. Dylan who was in the middle of the “electric” Newport firestorm needed a tough band that would deal with angry fans. His last two releases, Bringing It All Back Home and Blonde On Blonde were rock albums and The Hawks (without drummer helm who didn’t fancy being a supporting band), took to England. Additionally Dylan actually had a hit single (“Like A Rolling Stone”) There (as documented in the D.A. Pennebaker film, Don’t Look Back with with  hostile concertgoers  yelling “Judas”), musical history was made. There is great live concert footage. Drummer Mickey Jones provides valuable insight into this tour.

Returning to Woodstock New York, Dylan becomes reclusive and works with The Band on the groundbreaking 1967 Basement Tapes, which would not be released for nearly a decade. But the countrified rock and reworking of older country songs reinvented rock again. Out of this collaboration The Band (with the songwriting emergence of Robbie Robertson) introduced a rootsy “Americana” vibe to music. There are great shots of the now scruffy quintet belting out versions of “Up On Cripple Creek” , “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” And “The Weight”.  Keyboardist Garth Hudson (the only current participant) offers some perspectives on this facet of the group. The Band became a huge success, and Dylan morphed once again with a traditional country approach on John Wesley Hardin and Nashville Skyline. Included is a live duet of “Girl From The North Country’ with Johnny Cash.

In 1974 a tour with Bob Dylan and The Band was commercially successful, but criticized for that very quality. Their last studio effort, Planet Waves was released that same year. And in 1975, the secretive Basement Tapes (with additions and overdubs) became available. The Band would disintegrate (the infamous battle over songwriting credit between Robertson and the others), but reformed for the greatest farewell in history, The Last Waltz. Dylan continues to amaze his fans, touring and recording. His latest album, Tempest, has garnered critical acclaim.

Bob Dylan And The Band – Down In The Flood is informative and entertaining. The video is crisp and not too grainy, and the stereo sound is ample. The bonus interview with drummer Jones gets into the debate over the infamous exhortation by Dylan to play loud over the booing in England. This documentary should please the diehards and convert some newer fans.

—Robbie Gerson




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