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Any Major Bob Dylan Covers Vol. 2

December 1st, 2016 Leave a comment Go to comments

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Only a few weeks after I posted the Any Major Dylan Covers Vol. 1 Mix, the Nobel committee announced the Bobster as this year’s literature laureate. Coincidence? I doubt it. The only logical conclusion we can draw is that the folks at Nobel HQ is Stockholm are keen readers of Any Major Dude With Half A Heart, and that my mix persuaded them to give Dylan the gong. Bob, it seems, does not really want the award, and he is unlikely to thank me for my part in his Nobel Prize award. If only I could please everybody…

Anyhow, the first mix attracted a fair number of comments. Some of them addressed one of the great debates in pop history: is Bob Dylan’s voice an instrument of art or is it a punishing aural assault? It’s the kind of question that provokes internecine warfare even between Dylan fans.

My view? I think Dylan’s voice is, in itself, quite unpleasant. In most other artists, that nasal whine might be considered objectively offensive — even Trump supporters, who enthusiastically embrace the objectively offensive, would find it offensive. His lower register on the country-flavoured albums — on songs like Lay Lady Lay and Just Like A Woman — is more tolerable, but you’d be hard-pressed call it beautiful.

But the tone of his voice, however you perceive it, is not really important. Indeed, one can acquire a taste for it, just as people acquire a taste for things as revolting as tequila, broccoli or mayonnaise. What is important is how Bob Dylan uses that voice. At his best, Dylan doesn’t so much sing his songs as he inhabits them — and that is the mark of a great singer. In so many of his songs, his vocals not only drive the narrative, but they are a character in it.

That works best when Dylan has a stake in the songs he sings. There are very few singers who can spit venom quite as Dylan. In Hurricane, that anger is on the verge of boiling over; but this is not just anger. With his delivery, with the encunciation of single syllables, he also communicates an utter contempt for the system which he is singing about. The effect is devastating; no other singer could do Hurricane to such great effect as Dylan does it. What does it matter that his voice isn’t lovely? Likewise, the menacing derision for the subjects of his contempt which he conveys in his vocals on mean-spirited songs like Positively 4th Street, Ballad of A Thin Man or Like A Rolling Stone hits you in the gut. Not many singers can do that.

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Dylan might have an ugly voice, but he has an extraordinary way of delivery — especially, as I’ve said, when he is invested in the words he is singing (which might explain why few of his covers of other people’s music are particularly outstanding). To be sure, there are also many Dylan songs which are immeasurably improved by cover versions.

One such song is All I Really Want To Do, from Dylan’s 1964 LP Another Side of Bob Dylan. I really like Dylan’s version, especially the idea of a songwriter laughing at his own lyrics. But in The Byrds’ version, a comprehensive reinvention, the song becomes a thing of special beauty. As does the lovely Every Grain Of Sand, which is okay when sung by Dylan, but sublime in Emmylou Harris’ treatment.

And this is the genius of Bob Dylan’s music: as it is with Beatles songs, they can be interpreted and reinvented them to good effect in so many ways. This second collection of Dylan covers testifies to this.

Incidentally, in the first post of Dylan covers I promised three mixes. Clearly, that is not enough. I’m up to five mixes now.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and includes home-strummed covers. PW in comments.

1. The Band – When I Paint My Masterpiece (1971)
2. The Byrds – All I Really Want To Do (1965)
3. Simon & Garfunkel – The Times They Are A-Changin’ (1964)
4. Nina Simone – Ballad of Hollis Brown (1965)
5. Sam Cooke – Blowin’ In The Wind (1964)
6. Solomon Burke – Maggie’s Farm (1965)
7. Billy Preston – She Belongs To Me (1969)
8. The Flying Burrito Brothers – To Ramona (1971)
9. The Hollies – I Want You (1969)
10. The Piccadilly Line – Visions Of Johanna (1967)
11. Arlo Guthrie – When The Ship Comes In (1972)
12. New Riders Of The Purple Sage – You Angel You (1974)
13. Merle Haggard & Willie Nelson – Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright (2015)
14. John Mellencamp – Farewell, Angelina (1999)
15. Steve Earle & Lucia Micarelli – One More Cup of Coffee (Valley Below) (2012)
16. Everly Brothers – Abandoned Love (1985)
17. Thea Gilmore – I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine (2003)
18. Jennifer Warnes – Sign On The Window (1979)
19. Leon Russell – It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry (1971)
20. Joan Baez – One Too Many Mornings (1968)
21. Caravelli Orchestra – Wigwam (1977)

GET IT!

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  1. halfhearteddude
    December 1st, 2016 at 07:15 | #1

    PW = amdwhah

  2. JohhnyDiego
    December 1st, 2016 at 13:00 | #2

    Bob may not appreciate all the work you did to get him the Nobel Prize , Dude, but I certainly do. Thanks for this and thanks for that.

  3. BRUCE
    December 1st, 2016 at 19:57 | #3

    Many Thanks!
    Enjoy your posts a lot..

  4. Alex
    December 2nd, 2016 at 02:53 | #4

    Please check out https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cMnQgZc9xJg easily the best Dylan cover ever put on tape. Thanks.

  5. mike
    December 2nd, 2016 at 18:51 | #5

    This is great! I was discussing the Band version of “Masterpiece” recently, RE which is better: a date with “Botticelli’s niece” (as Bob had it) or with “a pretty little girl from Greece” (in the version here). I prefer the former because it catches that experience of being in a place with a lot of history and feeling like you’re becoming part of that history in however small of a way. On the other hand, as was pointed out to me, “pretty little girl from Greece” has that cadence that rolls off of the tongue so nicely.

  6. halfhearteddude
    December 2nd, 2016 at 22:07 | #6

    Way ahead of you, Alex. It’s currently queued up for Vol. 5 (though it might run on Vol. 4; the tracklisting has not been finalised).

  7. Tom
    December 3rd, 2016 at 15:43 | #7

    Hey thanks a lot for sharing your efforts on Dylan covers!

    There are so many amazing covers I even did not heard of before.
    After looking through your oevre I was surprised to find some German gems like “Spiel nicht mit den Schmuddelkinder”. Did you know that according to Mrs. Suze Rortolo Bobby started considering writing songs after a visit to Brecht’s threepenny opera? With this in mind I wonder weather you have considered Vienna’s Wolfgang Ambros excellent Dylan covers? Could turn out to be a convincing hint to the aglo-saxon-centered crowd out there that in the old continent from time to time some good musicians may appear…

    Thanks for sharing!

  8. halfhearteddude
    December 3rd, 2016 at 18:31 | #8

    Oh, Wolfgang Ambros’ album of Dylan covers was a favourite of mine when it came out., It actually spiked my interest in Dylan.I particular like his version of “It Ain’t Me”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-aOK3y-InpQ

    I had Ambros in the “Like A Rolling Stone” songswarm: http://www.halfhearteddude.com/2013/06/like-a-rolling-stone/

  9. Tom
    December 4th, 2016 at 22:50 | #9

    ‘Geh wann du wüüst owa geh (leave at your own chosen speed) That is such a straight translation! In my perception Ambros Dylan covers presented the first convincing prove that German (well actually with quite a strong Vienna accent) would suite to rock music. Apart from that his arrangements of such greatly overlooked songs like “Temporary like Achiles” or “Drifter’s escape” are so good! I remember a concert of “Wolferl” in Erlangen, must have been around 1979, that changed my way of approaching “Kraut-Rock”….

  10. halfhearteddude
    December 5th, 2016 at 07:48 | #10

    The Viennese dialect sounds absurd when spoken (sorry, Austrians), but it does sound good when put to pop or rock, as Falco also showed. I think he same might go for Kölsch, which would explain the success of BAP, Bläck Föös, Die Höhner and, more on the margins, Zeltinger. And yet it’s Plattdüütsch which sounds most like English…

  11. Ice X
    December 20th, 2016 at 19:53 | #11

    So happy to see the inclusion of the obscure beauty “Abandoned Love”, which is also quite lovely in Bob’s original version. I love the Everlys LP it comes from, Born Yesterday, which also includes “Why Worry” (Dire Straits), “Arms of Mary” (Sutherland Bros) and the title song with its exquisite chorus (“She lost her mind today . . .”). The previous Mercury album also includes the glorious Macca composition “On the Wings of a Nightingale”. The 80s Everlys were quite underrated IMHO. Carry on with the great Dylan cover comps! Happy December!

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