Review: Dylan's Highway 61 Interactive

The polka dot shirt is back. And thanks to his recent "Unplugged" appearance, so is Bob Dylan's popularity; tickets to his summer concerts should be hard to come by. It wasn't always so -- I had to eat an extra ticket to the Slow Train Coming tour in 1980 when I couldn't get rid of it by showtime (and I was only asking face value). When you've been recording as long as Dylan has -- over 30 years --you're bound to have plenty of ups and downs, and the absorbing CD-ROM title Highway 61 Interactive (Graphix Zone and Columbia) summarizes Bob's career with enough style and depth to please even the most knowledgeable fan. Included in this impressive release are five 3-D environments, tons of rare video clips and previously unreleased music, a database that holds the lyrics to every song Dylan has ever recorded and a lot more. Access to Highway 61's interactive areas comes via a main collage. Want to go inside Greenwich Village coffeehouse the Perplexed Onion circa 1961? Click your mouse on the coffee cup. Curious to take a peek backstage at the 30th anniversary concert held at Madison Square Garden? Click on the white VIP pass. Are you interested in a video for the song "Masters of War"? Try the green peace sign. Choose the photo of Jimi Hendrix, and he comes to life to deliver a chorus of "Like a Rolling Stone." Other icons turn up a photography collection, examples of Dylan's paintings and drawings, early concert reviews, examples of bootleg recordings-the list is long. The most interesting parts of Highway 61 are the five 3-D interactive environments: the aforementioned places, as well as a Greenwich Village street; a '75 coffeehouse geared around the Rolling Thunder Revue; and the Columbia Records recording studios in New York City where Dylan cut his most vital sides. Of these, the recording studio will be of most interest to Dylan aficionados. Click on the microphone icon from the main collage, and you'll be transported back in time to the 1965 sessions that produced "Like a Rolling Stone." Guitars, amplifiers, tape reels litter the room, offering access to such things as a working version of "Temporary Like Achilles," the original demo version of "Mr. Tambourine Man" and a previously unreleased version of "House of the Rising Sun." Click on a photo of Al Kooper propped on an organ, and Kooper appears to tell the story of how he came to play keyboards on "Rolling Stone." Step up to the reel-to-reel tape machines in the control room and you'll find a studio log that allows you to hear the song evolve from a waltz to its final version though a series of "takes." After visiting all five of the 3-D environments, a ticket appears on a silver platter in the main collage that admits you to an exclusive performance Dylan gave on Nov. 16, 1993, at New York City's Supper Club. Intended to be the highlight of the disc, the "show" is a little anti- climactic: all you get are fragments of the songs "One Too Many Mornings" and "Queen Jane Approximately." But that's quite all right, since there's plenty of other stuff to compensate-interviews with Roseanne Cash, Roger McGuinn, Eddie Vedder and others backstage at the 30th anniversary show, an area devoted to Dylan's electrified performance at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, the famous cue-card video for "Subterranean Homesick Blues." And Dylan's most profound contribution to rock and roll is here also, in the lyrics database. These are the words that proved pop music could talk about more than "Tutti-Frutti" and inspired everyone from Peter, Paul & Mary to Polly Jean Harvey.

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