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Any Major Bob Dylan Covers Vol. 1

September 15th, 2016 Leave a comment Go to comments

Any Major Dylan Covers Vol. 1

A few years ago a reader suggested that a mix of cover versions of sings by Bob Dylan might alleviate the discomfort many feel at hearing the great songwriter’s voice. As a fan of cover versions I was keen on the idea. So I created a Dylan covers folder and began collecting. Something like eight years later I’m ready to present a series of Any Major Dylan Covers.

This will be a series of three CD-R length collections — 62 songs plus three bonus tracks. As always, I set myself strict rules: no artist may feature twice, and no song may be repeated — except one, which will end the series.

Since these are supposed to be covers of Dylan songs, he must have released the songs first. That means that those tracks he wrote for others, or which others recorded before he released them, don’t qualify — except two, which I’ll address in a moment. A song like Blowin’ In The Wind might have been recorded first by others (Dylan historians have no consensus on that), but it is so essentially a Dylan song that it can’t be excluded.

Dylan never released Wanted Man before it was first recorded by Johnny Cash on the St Quentin live album. So it isn’t really a cover. But it broke my heart to consider not including a Dylan/Cash hybrid, so — in best Cash fashion — rules be damned. In the spoken intro Cash says he wrote the song with Dylan at the Cash home, but Dylan has the sole writing credit. Anyway, the great list-song writer has his lyrics performed by the great list-song singer.

The first volume kicks off with the best of all Dylan covers: Jimi Hendrix’s All Along The Watchtower. Hendrix had received a pre-release acetate of Dylan’s recording, and his version was recorded only two months after Dylan’s. From there on it was Jimi’s song. Bob was cool about it. In the liner notes to his Biograph collection, he wrote: “Strange how when I sing it, I always feel it’s a tribute to him in some kind of way. I liked Hendrix’s record, and ever since he died, I’ve been doing it that way.”

But Dylan has also said that the version of any of his songs he treasures most is Elvis Presley’s 1966 interpretation of Tomorrow Is A Long Time, a song Dylan recorded in 1962 but didn’t release until 1971 as a live track from eight years earlier. So Elvis’ version isn’t really a Dylan cover, but rather of the folk singer Odetta’s recording.

But how great is Kris Kristofferson singing Quinn The Eskimo?

Which brings me to two acts who are notably excluded in this series: Odetta and Peter, Paul & Mary had a great reputation for singing Dylan songs (Odetta, in turn, was something of a mentor to the budding songwriter from Minnesota). Their exclusion was not deliberate: where I had candidate songs by them, there were others which were a better fit.

Mr Tambourine Man is covered here by Johnny Rivers — so I’ll leave you to wonder which Dylan cover by The Byrds will feature in this series? And what will we have Joan Baez singing? And whose version of Blowin’ In The Wind will feature?

The mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and includes home-busked covers. PW in comments (you are welcome to leave a message there).

1. The Jimi Hendrix Experience – All Along The Watchtower (1968)
2. Merry Clayton – Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 (1975)
3. Elvis Presley – Tomorrow Is A Long Time (1966)
4. Johnny Cash – Wanted Man (1969)
5. Hoyt Axton – Lay Lady Lay (1975)
6. Marshall Crenshaw – My Back Pages (1999)
7. Jeff Tweedy – Simple Twist Of Fate (2007)
8. Bruce Springsteen – Chimes Of Freedom (1988)
9. Kris Kristofferson – Quinn The Eskimo (2012)
10. Emmylou Harris – Every Grain Of Sand (1995)
11. The Pretenders – Forever Young (1994)
12. Richie Havens – Just Like A Woman (1968)
13. Them – It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue (1966)
14. The Grass Roots – Mr. Jones (Ballad Of A Thin Man) (1966)
15. Johnny Rivers – Mr. Tambourine Man (1965)
16. The Turtles – It Ain’t Me Babe (1965)
17. Stereophonics – Positively 4th Street (1999)
18. Eels – Girl From The North Country (2006)
19. Lloyd Cole – You’re A Big Girl Now (2001)
20. Josh Kelley – To Make You Feel My Love (2004)
21. Norah Jones – I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight (2002)
Bonus track: Ani DiFranco – Hurricane (2000)

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  1. halfhearteddude
    September 15th, 2016 at 07:29 | #1

    PW = amdwhah

  2. JohnnyDiego
    September 15th, 2016 at 13:55 | #2

    This is a great idea for a mix, Dude. I’m a real freak for covers and subscribe to a YouTube cover guy who usually does a good job, although covers of bands I’ve never listened to can’t excite me if I don’t recognize the song. You can cover Foreigner or Beyoncé all day and I’ll just go to sleep. But Dylan! My god he is sort of a god to me and usually any cover of his knocks me out. (But please no Peter Paul and Mary. Enough is enough.) I’m hoping for Boots Of Spanish Leather. My band covered it once but it never made it past acetate. I always choke up when I hear Bob sing it, even today. Thank you.

  3. Ice X
    September 15th, 2016 at 19:21 | #3

    Whenever someone throws out “Bob Dylan can’t sing”, I always shoot back, “Ah, you just don’t know how to LISTEN!” Bob’s voice is a wonderful instrument, just as expressive and musical as any other instrument in the mix. His phrasing is on par with the Chairman and for those who do know how to listen, the chill factor is extreme. I would offer “Blood on the Tracks” as a primer-especially “Idiot Wind” where there’s “blood on the saddle” and the “springtime turned slowly into Autumn”. I realize that there will always be the “Dylan can’t sing” contingent (majority though it may be), but if you listen to the originals with open ears, you might find a new appreciation. I still have a prob with the yodeling of “All I Really Want to Do” and “Gates of Eden” stops time for me, but “Abandoned Love” is the sweetest obscure song in the man’s catalog. The Everly Bros knock it out of the park, also. What a second! That song should have definitely been on this list.

  4. Ed George
    September 15th, 2016 at 19:41 | #4

    Dylan has the greatest voice ever! Why listen to covers? No one can ever do his songs as well as he. It is the voice that sings for you and me.

  5. halfhearteddude
    September 15th, 2016 at 22:40 | #5

    Without wanting to give spoilers: The Every Brothers’ version is on Volume 3.

    I find Dylan’s voice rather awful, but I agree with you on the phrasing. Especially when he spits invective. And that’s what makes me listen also to Tom Waits, whose growly voice I find horrible. But he can tell the story.

  6. Alex S.
    September 16th, 2016 at 03:20 | #6

    Hey guys, me personally I hate most of Dylan’s output, I find him average at best, but without a doubt this is the best cover to one of his songs https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cMnQgZc9xJg Greetings from Sydney.

  7. JohnnyDiego
    September 16th, 2016 at 12:35 | #7

    Rock & Roll isn’t Eddie Fisher and Vaughn Monroe. Rock & Roll is guts and attitude. Dylan proved to everyone that he didn’t need to sing in his early nasal voice during his Nashville Skyline and Self Portrait era, making his point of course, but Mick Jagger never crooned and he rarely sang on pitch either. But they both were incredibly famous. As for myself I like my rock and roll out of tune, sort of like the Seeds, instruments and vocals all akimbo. @halfhearteddude

  8. Gerbrand
    September 16th, 2016 at 13:24 | #9

    Don’t forget:
    Them: “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue”
    Van Morrison: “Just Like A Woman” (live)
    Eddie Vedder: “Masters of War”
    Robert Plant: “One More Cup of Coffee”

  9. J. Loslo
    September 16th, 2016 at 23:10 | #10

    You’re showing great restraint limiting yourself to three collections; you could go on and on…

    Seems to me people have trouble doing much with Positively 4th Street. My favorite cover of that particular song is by Shannon McNally.

    Looking forward to the other two; thanks.

  10. halfhearteddude
    September 17th, 2016 at 11:39 | #11

    Gerbrand, one of these, the Them track, is on the first mix is already, and to me Richie Havens’ version of “Just Like A Woman” was a slam dunk. Vedder and Plant were serious contenders (though you’ll have to wait for Vol. 32 to see whom I picked instead)

  11. halfhearteddude
    September 17th, 2016 at 11:40 | #12

    If I would duplicate songs, the series would never end. I think I might do a Vol. 4 yet, though…

  12. halfhearteddude
    September 17th, 2016 at 11:59 | #13

    Of course, the greatest Rock & Roll singer of them all could be electrifying AND croon…

  13. Bruce McKee
    September 18th, 2016 at 02:07 | #14

    Look like interesting comp!
    I hope you will include Walter Trout’s version of Leopard-Skin Pillbox Hat.
    It rocks!!
    BMinNZ

  14. Hugh Candyside
    September 18th, 2016 at 07:23 | #15

    Another great mix dude. iTunes tells me I had 657 Dylan covers, thanks to you I now have 669 and am looking forward to your next volumes. One note: there is a Saint Quentin but I don’t believe the prisoners there ever reference him. It’s San Quentin.

  15. Ice X
    September 19th, 2016 at 06:18 | #16

    Can’t wait for future volumes. Some of my other faves are “Absolutely Sweet Marie” by Jason & the Scorchers, “Dusty Old Fairgrounds” by Blue Ash, “Highway 61 Revisited” by Johnny Winter, “She Belongs to Me” by Rick Nelson and “Up to Me” by Roger McGuinn (though, he’ll already be represented by the Byrds). Jimi deservedly tops the list, but he also did a scorching version of “Drifter’s Escape”. A couple of live versions of note are Eric Clapton’s rollicking rendition of “Don’t Think Twice” at the 30th Anniversary Bash and very recently, the actress who played TV’s Hannah Montana tore up a deep, deep cut from the catalog “Baby, I’m in the Mood for You” on the Tonight Show.

  16. Bo
    September 20th, 2016 at 09:52 | #17

    Thanks a lot for this. Looking forward for the remaining….

  17. Stephan
    September 21st, 2016 at 15:07 | #18

    Thank you so much for this collection. I have listened to it for a couple of times now while working and though I am quite into BD I did not know at least half of all these versions. And they are all great. “Chimes of Freedom” like straight from “Born to Run”!

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