by Terry Gans
Infidels was a work without precedent in Dylan’s writing or sound. It came after three years of personal and professional turmoil following what has been characterised as his gospel period. Similarly, this book has no precedent in works studying Dylan. It begins months prior to the recording of the 1983 album and concludes in April 1984 with the production and release of a final supporting video. The book pioneers the use of the Bob Dylan Archives at Tulsa University and utilises personal notebooks, many drafts of lyrics, 30 hours of studio master recordings, and over 24 hours of archival recordings which include rehearsal and discussion.
The book includes interviews with musicians involved, production staff, artist managers, record company executives, boat builders and video producers, providing an in-depth presentation of the actual work.
Surviving In a Ruthless World is a work of serious scholarship that does not lose a sense of wonder at the act of creation and appreciation of the music.
Chapters explore how Dylan spent his time prior to and while writing the songs for Infidels, how the musical and production team came into place, the technical choices made and the recording and mixing process itself. The memories of those who were there breathe life into the narrative and deliver a feel for the process and participants.
After the foundation is firmly in place, the 18 complete Infidels songs are presented, one by one. Each song is discussed in terms of written lyrics, the recording of the song, often over different days and sessions, and the choices that were made for the final version.
A lot of other music recorded in the nearly 30 hours of digital session tape and additional hours of continually running analogue tapes, is covered after the 18 song presentations.