I’ve just made my biggest jump forward on this Dylan covers-on-vinyl project. Ten whole years on from 1993’s 30th Anniversary Concert, to 2003, and what a huge difference in sound quality. Okay, so it’s a German produced recording, practically audiophile with its rich production aesthetic, but not only that, the quality of music herein is magnificent. So much better than many of the awful or average efforts I’ve endured over the last year in reviewing these things. Gone are the big names of big stars doing Dylan because someone asked them to: replaced instead by real people with a real passion for the maestro’s music. And the selections come from all over Dylan’s vast catalogue, the usual slew of his sixties greats but quite a few numbers from Blood On The Tracks and a couple from Time Out Of Mind. Some songs were especially recorded for this compilation while others were already out there. The only two names I know on this LP are Rick Danko and Chris Whitley. For the reviews below, I begin with a brief bio, usually culled verbatim from either Wikipedia, All Music Guide, or the musician’s personal website. This is a fan’s collection through and through. What’s more, some of these musicians even sound like Dylan to a degree I’ve not heard before. As you will have guessed by the title, this is the third volume in the “May Your Song Always Be Sung” series. I haven’t been able to get my hands on vinyl copies of the first two. Volume One was released on a double 10” in 1997, whereas Volume Two came as a set of 10 x 7” singles in 2001, both now rare collectors’ items and appropriately hard to find. At time of writing (July 2012) Volume 3, despite being released nine years ago is still floating around. So, let’s dig in and see how they fare…
Alastair Moock – Let Me Die In My Footsteps… Moock is an American folk singer-songwriter based out of Boston. Moock chooses an old 60s number only available on Bootleg Series Vol.1-3 although you’ve never heard it quite like this: sumptuous, rich full acoustic guitar sound, warm bass, and Moock’s throaty gruff vocal. “There’s been rumours of war and wars that have been / The meaning of life has been lost in the wind / And some people sayin’ that the end is close by / Instead of learnin’ to live, they are learnin’ to die,” sings Moock, in a voice that means it, that feels it, that’s worn with that weary old sentiment. There’s a light pedal steel and what sounds like a banjo being rubbed—I wonder what that technique’s called, where they vibrate their fingers over one or two strings really quickly—anyway, it’s a pretty sound, followed by a wiry twangy guitar solo that pips into silence as Moock’s voice rises back up, “Let the smell of wild flowers run through my blood … Let me walk down the highway with my brother in peace,” he pleads. It’s nice, not the standout here, but the instrumentation is a pleasure, as is this next one…
Rick Danko – This Wheel’s On Fire… Danko is obviously best known as a member of Dylan’s original Band. This opens with a fiddly very pretty finger plucked acoustic guitar, before a rhythm guitar comes chiming in behind. This also has that rapidly ‘rubbed’ sound twiddling away, before the guitar dies out and the melody is taken up by heavily portentous piano, a thumping drum beat joins, that fiddly rubbed guitar, organ and strings, and the melody takes full hold, then it goes all Spanish on us, which is fantastic. Again, it’s the sound quality that makes this so good—you can turn it right up and it sounds like magic. Then we get Danko’s richly accentuated voice, a bit nasally, sounding a lot like mid-period and late-period Dylan rolled into one. His style has a half-spoken, half-sung feel about it. After the first verse, the whole song stops for what sounds like an accordion solo (?), slow and dramatic at first, then fairground wild, before ending.
Julian Dawson – When I Paint My Masterpiece… Dawson is a British singer–songwriter, guitarist and author. From Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits Vol. II, this version opens with a groaning organ sound, and Dawson’s slightly more generic and smoother vocal. A few gurgly bits of electric guitar support, but mostly it’s just that heavy organ sound grinding through chord changes, and while Dawson puts out a good performance, I find it the least interesting so far. It sounds like his voice might be double tracked at one point. He starts playing an acoustic guitar over the organ. “Newspaper men eating candy / Had to be held down by police / Someday everything’s gonna be different / [Enter backing singers] When I paint my masterpiece.” The song has a smooth, slightly ethereal quality, gliding out at the end.
Rex Foster – Song To Woody… in addition to his guitar-slinger self with a diverse background spreading from acid rock to solo folk, Foster is also a jeweler, based out of Texas. From Bob Dylan, 1961, it’s good to hear this song covered. Opens with gentle finger pickin’ acoustic guitar, some neat train chuggin’ harmonica, low warm bass, and Foster’s echo-laden rich close-miked country vocal drifting through the mix, little cracks and tics in his voice: “Ha but here’s to Cisco and Sonny and Leadbelly too / And all the good people that have traveled with you.” Some moody dynamic harmonica. Yet again, despite the stronger use of reverb, the whole dynamic has been lifted up into crystal clear range. Nice.
Robert Deeble with Mandy Troxel – Boots Of Spanish Leather… Deeble and Troxel are both Americans. Deeble’s style echoes old folk heroes like Leonard Cohen and Nick Drake. Troxel grew up in Southern California. She finds her muse for songwriting only once in a while. I love these duet versions of this song. Troxel has a beautiful voice, soft and passionate sounding, while Deeble’s is deep, soft and resonant. They pedal a simple acoustic guitar line between them, a fine organ tone drifts in. The voices are loud and strong in the mix, I prefer Troxel’s. She sounds kind of cute. This is pretty nice, one of the best covers of this song I’ve heard. Poignant, moving, emotional. “Yes there’s something you can send back to me / Spanish boots of Spanish leather.” A moving version.
Two Approaching Riders – Dark Eyes… this band are a duo with such scant internet presence I can’t even figure out where they’re from. This is often talked about as Empire Burlesque’s best song, partly because it desists with the awful 80s aesthetic and gets Dylan back to just voice and guitar. This version is super-sumptuous. The two male musicians sing together in lovely unison, one is much deeper than the other. It’s positively Gregorian chant with its impressive baritones. We have a chiming acoustic guitar, and a breathy sweeping harmonica-type sound. It’s an incredibly melodic song. “A million faces at my feet / But all I see are dark eyes.” This is a standout for being so different. It almost but not quite, tips over into whimsical, twee territory. We’ll give it the benefit of the doubt
Billy Goodman – Billy 1… Goodman is a singer-songwriter and slide guitarist. He comes from the USA where he performed for over a decade with the Goodman Brothers. According to one reviewer, he bridges the gap between Ry Cooder, Lowell George and Robert Johnson. First time I’ve heard a Pat Garret And Billy The Kid cover other than “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door.” Opens with a strong loud rhythm guitar strum, and an echo-laden voice. Goodman can send his voice soaring, and we even get a police siren in the background during, “And Billy don’t you turn your back on me,” followed by some lovely slide guitar and more of those rich acoustic guitar textures. Goodman has a strong confident voice, though I can’t really pick out any specific or unique qualities; it’s his slide playing that makes this song so good. Real bluesy, twangy, wiry, bit of knockin’ on the guitar body, back to that heavy strum, and a touch of snarl in Goodman’s voice, “Billy they don’t like ya to be so free / Hey Billy, this is your day of reckoning.”
La Gran Esperanza Blanca – Demasiadas Mananas (One Too Many Morning)… the band name translates as “The Great White Hope.” LGEB has four members and originated on the Spanish island of Mallorca in 1986. Their version of this is slow. It opens with a lot of high piercing harmonica, some notes on a guitar-like instrument, and a Spanish lyric. There’s a lot of minor dynamic shifts in here, pauses for effect, interjections of single notes and fiddly bits, a rich sound again, almost too much so, such that the tones are piercing in places, but only in a way that wakes you up and grabs your attention. I’ve never heard Dylan sung in Spanish before. It’s not a polished vocal, more like spurts and starts, the voice a little harsh in its foreign syllables up against what is quite a smooth Dylan song.
Martin Simpson — Highway 61/Highway 61 Revisited… an Englishman, Simpson is one of the most visible examples of the relationship between the Celtic folk of the United Kingdom and American music such as country and the blues. Simpson immediately dives into some wild bluesy slide guitar, which has me scrambling for new ways to say “rich and sumptuous.” I mean, this is pure sound, really crystal clear, watery and beautiful. Reminds me a little of John Martyn. Simpson’s vocal is bluesy too, although it’s a sly thing, slinking through the music with a mixture of tones, a hard thing to pin down, naturally deep, but pushed and stretched into different positions, which again, really reminds me of Martyn. Halfway through we get a rumbling dancing guitar section that positively bounces, wow, this guy’s a virtuoso at this kind of stuff, it’s impressive. It’s amazing how much detail the mike picks up. He’s really taken this far into country blues territory – Delta! Real down to earth honest back porch blues, except, well he’s an Englishman. More punchy fast super-detailed hotshot guitar workout. I may just go and buy me a Martin Simpson record right now. When he links from the first cover into “Highway 61 Revisited” it’s even better still, and his vocal picks up and sounds harder and meaner. Okay, Simpson wins best cover version on Disk One hands down. This is mindblowing. Just goes to show how much modern blues music I listen to—not nearly enough.
Develish Doubledylans – Shot Of Love… from what I can gather this band are a German three piece. They have a website, no bio section, and all in German. Love their version of this song. It’s jaunty, a bouncy one-two bass line, two or three voices singing in unison, but flatly, slightly comical; they sound great together, and, I have to say that I’ve hardly listened to my copy of Shot Of Love but if the whole album sounded as good as this, it could have been a minor Dylan classic. These guys are great. A really warm shuffly loose kind of vibe, spiked through with little arpeggio runs down the guitar every now and then. This might be the next best thing on Disc One after Simpson’s incredible performance. They avoid the over-emotive reverence of some of the other artists here and enable me to leave you with the adjective ‘cool.’
Tolo Marton – All Along The Watchtower… Marton was born in Treviso, Italy. A professional guitarist-composer he began releasing albums in 1981. Marton plays this on a fiddly bouncy mandolin, but a guitar joins soon enough, and a stop-start bass part, very low and grounded. Marton sounds like he’s got to work to get his voice around English syllables. After “the hour is getting late,” a drum beat joins, and the rhythm picks up a huge amount of pace, a pedal steel guitar joins, and suddenly we drift into this incredible hot courtyard number, some piazza in a country Italian town, vines growing down the walls. More instruments join the mix, but not overcrowded, and this just gets better and better. I’d love to hear a whole album of Marton covering Dylan. Okay, this is battling with the last track for second place on Disk Two. This just gets fiddlier and more Spanish-inflected as it goes on. Great stuff.
Andy Hill & Renee Safier – Seven Curses… Americans Hill and Safier along with their band Hard Rain, have taken their unique sound and multi-instrumental skills to venues large and small all over the world, as well releasing a number of CDs. We’re back to Bootleg Series Vol.1-3 and back to ‘reverential’ territory. What I mean by that is ‘sincere, openhearted earnest,’ which is a fine thing, but I do have a soft spot for versions that sound more like the musicians are having fun with the performance. “Seven Curses” has far too serious a message I suppose. It seems that Safier takes up the main vocal here, with occasional support from Hill, a wobbly emotive feel. Music is one (or two) guitars, arpeggio style. “In the morning, she had awoken / To know the judge had never spoken / She saw that hanging branch a’bending / She saw her father’s body broken.” And then come the seven curses. Man, this is a mean song in every direction. The judge is an asshole for sure, but the curses that come back are even more vicious: “That seven deaths shall never kill him.” Revenge is a dangerous game. Be careful of what you wish for. Nothing wrong with this version, and it sounds better sung in a woman’s voice; suits the lyric well.
Black Cat Bone feat. Mick Taylor – Blind Willie McTell… these guys are a blues band from the south of Germany who began in 1986, with a bunch of their own albums out. Rolling Stone Mick Taylor had already played on the original version of this song available on Bootleg Series Vol.1-3. This is a big loud electric version, pumping mid-tempo pop beat, and opens straight into guitar soloing, briefly before Black Cat Bone’s vocal—strong with a slight Tom Petty-like edge to it. Taylor’s guitar workouts are loud and dramatic, piercing. The song possibly goes on a bit too long, without any major changes. The rhythm section never really lets up from the same standard beat and simple bass line. But it’s widely acknowledged what a great song this is. It’s the clever combo of Taylor’s stabbing electric guitar and Bone’s vocal that keeps this song working hard to the end. “I’m gazing out my window / Of the old St. James Hotel / And I know no one can sing the blues / Like Blind Willie McTell.” Then back to Taylor, who just won’t let up, ringing out this impressively virtuosic solo, which sounds like two guitarists rolled into one, a flurry of fast notes, squealing and pitching and jabbing. It’s pretty cool. I just wish there was more dynamic in the rhythm because it’s gets a bit samey after a couple of minutes. Yeah, this goes on a little too long.
Zimmermen – Not Dark Yet… Zimmermen, from Oxford, UK, began making music together in 1993. Their website seems to have gone defunct. This is the first time I’ve heard someone cover a Time Out Of Mind song, possibly the best track from that album, a song about the inevitable endgame, although given that he’s still recording albums 16 years on from when he wrote this, it would seem that Dylan had nothing to worry about. The lead singer of Zimmermen, whoever he may be, has a thick, molasses kind of elderly gravel-voice; he doesn’t quite have the crackly subtleties of Dylan, but he does sing this in a fairly similar manner to the original. The voice is supported by nice acoustic strumming and some other floating guitar notes ringing like Doppler waves through the music. Then we get a whiny sort of mix of harmonica and something else, like bagpipes, faintly behind it all. The harmonica solo is great. “Well I’ve been to London, I’ve been to gay Paris / I’ve followed the river, I got to the sea / I’ve been down to the bottom of a whirlpool of lies / I ain’t looking for nothing in anyone’s eyes.” Damn this is a good song. “Sometimes my burden seems more than I can bear / It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there.” Zimmermen only had to pull out a half decent effort for me to like this, such is the quality of the song, but they go further; it’s good. The only thing is that the vocal is sometimes just a touch unfocused, like, not as well recorded as it could be. Great use of bagpipes though, and they never dominate. Love the shuffly sound of the drums.
Onelinedrawing – With God On Our Side… was the former show-name of an American singer-songwriter called Jonah Matranga. Matranga begins by introducing the song written, “a bunch of time ago about the States during the cold war, and it’s kind of about that,” he says. He plays a lovely acoustic guitar, but it’s his vocal that’s the true standout. But here’s where we get into curious territory. Matranga pours his whole soul into this vocal, and he’s got an amazing, rich timbre in his voice, but it might just be a bit too much, like he’s all emotive breathy power through the whole song and it’s … kind of…annoying. Like over done. But yet not. See, I’m confused. Now here’s why. The lyric is pure irony all the way through. But Matranga doesn’t sing it that way: “But I’ve learned to accept it / And accept it with pride / Cos you don’t count the dead when / God’s on your side.” He pauses for effect, stops playing his guitar, and yells, his voice is huge, but it’s so melodramatic – “But they murdered six million” he screams until his voice goes momentarily hoarse. He then stops completely and narrates the arrival of the next verse: “We’ve all learn to hate somebody growing up.” Bit preachy, but let me get back to what I was saying – I can’t detect the irony. By singing the song with this much emotion, it comes across as too earnest, and the sense of irony in the lyrics just evaporates. Still, you have to give him his due. Matranga insures that he’s not gonna be missed on this record. I liked it the first few times I listened, but I’ve started to think he’s trying too hard.
Eric Andersen and Massimo Bubola – It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)… Anderson has maintained a career as a folk-based singer-songwriter since the mid-1960s. Bubola is an Italian poet and songwriter in the folk rock field. This opens with a strong acoustic guitar sound that has that chiming 12-string quality about it. I’m not sure which of the two musicians is actually singing. There’s a swoony pedal steel in the background. This is a loud, warm, really sumptuous sound, with a lovely cello sound on the chorus, but I can’t help feeling this song sounds better when it’s just strictly vocal and guitar. Some of the lyrical power is a little lost among the full band vibe. After the first verse and chorus, the singer, whom I imagine is Bubola, starts talk-singing and you can hear his Italian accent coming through strongly. His voice is a mixture of gruffness and air. This is one of my favourite Dylan songs and Bubola’s doing a great job of the singing, and it’s nice to hear that accent - it almost adds a comic dimension to the lyric. The other instrumental effects, especially the viola now fading in, are great. It’s a full sound. “While money doesn’t talk, it swears / Obscenity, who really cares / Propaganda, all is phony.” Very cool and dangerous sounding.
Chris Whitley – Spanish Harlem Incident… Whitley was a Texas-based singer/songwriter who initially began his career as a bluesy roots rocker, but as his career progressed, he moved deeper into rock & roll and alternative rock. Love the opening of this; a raw drum sound, like someone playing tin cans, and a groovy gurgly guitar sound, while Whitley’s airy high voice contrasts with its low side; amazing. I’ve never really listened to Whitley before, but his singing is beautiful. I love that strange falsetto, really soulful. The music is brilliant, just perfect really, and this is right up there as one of my top three Dylan songs: “You have slayed me / You have made me / I got to laugh halfway off my heels / I got to know babe when you surround me / So I can know if I am really real.” Man, this was brilliant. Favourite song on Disk Two so far.
Hederos & Hellberg – It Ain’t Me Babe… this Swedish duo were working together for only three years, from 2000 through 2003. Not sure who’s singing here but it’s a she, a touch of sultry diva in her voice. The music is piano, deeply resonant behind the singer’s voice. “Someone to open each and every … door,” she drops to a momentary whisper before hitting the chorus, and damn, if you were in love with her, and this girl was singing these words to you, you’d be in tears. She sounds beautiful, and it would hurt like hell. The other H starts up, a male voice, a breathy voice, tainted with that burnt smoky quality. Some kind of flute sound comes winding in for the break. Then both H’s sing together, and it produces a strange effect, like really sad. They almost make the song too sad, when really I’d always liked Dylan’s very matter-of-fact style on this song. That’s a slight mistake in my opinion, to take a song and blow it up too emotional. It ends up sounding false. I wouldn’t quite call this ‘false’ but some of the emoting seemed a little unnecessary.
Alexandru Andries – Ma Lasi Prea Singur Daca Vei Pleca (You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go)… is famous in his home country of Romania with more than 37 albums under his name (as of 2003). Opens with yet more of that sumptuous warm bass and acoustic guitar. Here we have lyrics in Romanian. Interesting clickers and clackers percussion here, shaking along with the jauntily strummed guitar. Andries takes a singing break to blow his harmonica at the end, and it’s over, quite quickly. Pleasant enough.
The Dylan Project – Fourth Time Around… Steve Gibbons, a British rock music veteran formed The Dylan Project in 1997 with friends from the Fairport Convention circle. A song from Blonde On Blonde, first time I’ve heard it as a cover. The scary thing about this is how much the singer sounds like Dylan. Crikey, if you played this to someone…? I’m confused, is this Dylan?? No, it’s not. It’s Steve Gibbons. By God he sounds like Dylan. Freaky. Okay, back to the song. The music is all fiddly acoustic folk guitar, at least two or three of them, a drifting pedal steel wafting along above it all, and perhaps mandolin in there too. This is great stuff. I’m a newbie to so many of these bands, but according to the liner notes, when The Dylan Project recorded their album in 1998, they were pretty successful. No wonder. This is beautiful. I prefer Chris Whitley’s cover of “Spanish Harlem Incident” but this comes a close second on Disk Two.
Ronald Born – Black Diamond Bay… Born is a German musician. I’ve played Dylan’s Desire plenty of times, but I don’t recall “Black Diamond Bay” leaving as much impression on me as Born’s version does. He opens with a loud piercing harmonica solo, playing a warm acoustic guitar, and his vocal is great—he sounds like a Celtic Cat Stevens. His singing is really strong, clear, with a lovely subtle sweet cracked quality, close-miked, you can hear his mouth opening and closing. This song has such a great melody, one of those long Dylan narrative songs in the old ballad style. Most impressive version. Finishes with another big blowout on the harmonica.
Wendy Bucklew – Buckets Of Rain… Bucklew is an American folk singer/songwriter who became well known as part of the Atlanta folk scene, which she joined in 1988. Oh yes, love this Blood On The Tracks number. We’ve got a delicately played and beautifully recorded acoustic guitar, and a fantastic vocal performance. Love it. Bucklew’s got a breathy, sexy, smooth voice with a country twang, and tiny vocal interjections like “oh yeah” and “mmm hmmmm.” The vocals are quite a tricky sounding thing, but I love Bucklew’s “honey baby” – it just rolls off her tongue so naturally. Couldn’t get a kiwi to sing those words with such natural jouissance. Anyone’s who paid enough attention to my rambling Dylan cover album reviews could probably tell I generally prefer male vocalists, but Bucklew gets a big thumbs up.
Paul James – I Shall Be Free… James is a Canadian singer-songwriter based in Toronto. He’s played with a lot of famous musicians. First time I’ve ever heard someone cover this wild Freewheelin’ song. And James gets it exactly right. The music is a jaunty harmonica, a fast strummy pumping rhythm, mandolin and a perfect vocal. You can imagine people trying to cover this song and getting it horribly wrong, but James does it so well, he sings it almost exactly like Dylan, and yet without sounding like homage. He’s got enough comedy in his slightly gravelly voice to bring a whole new level of anarchy into the lyric. The combination of instruments sounds farmyard, and James even effects some Dylanesque whoops. He’ll “catch dinosaurs / Make love to Lady Diana / Catch hell from Prince Charles.” Brilliant.
Steve Elliot – Meet Me In The Morning… Elliot was born in London in 1957 and mastered various kinds of guitar technique. As of 2012, he was running guitar workshops in Russia. Here we have another acoustic guitar virtuoso, all shimmery scratch and delicate touch. And Elliot’s another who sings it so Dylan-like, for a moment here and there you could be forgiven for thinking it was Dylan. The music here is quite special too. It’s a full enough sound, but each part, and I think there’s two guitar parts, is kept quite separate and spacious, with all sorts of wiry notes springing in and out in that beautiful blues style. He’s not quite as full on as Martin Simpson, but he’s just as good for maintaining a certain restraint, and his vocal is good too, though perhaps didn’t need to be recorded quite so loud. “They say the darkest hour / Is right before the dawn / They say the darkest hour / Is right before the dawn / Hey but you wouldn’t know it by me babe / Every day’s been darkness since you been gone.” Hell yes. This is perfect. I want to hear me some more Steve Elliot too.
Elin Sigvardsson – You’re A Big Girl Now… Sigvardsson was born in 1981 in Sweden. Her debut album, a country rock affair, was released the same year as this compilation. Another from Blood On The Tracks. Sigvardsson sounds older than her 22 years; “You’re a big girl now,” she sings, and don’t you believe it. We get some pleasantly rendered full mix of acoustic guitars, fingered and strummed, and a string instrument of some kind winding through the guitars. Her voice is strong, a country sound, but otherwise not distinct enough for me to get too excited about. A piercing electric guitar solo comes jabbing through the mix, and I guess ‘perfectly competent’ is the best I can muster up. Nothing wrong with it, good song of course, but this version doesn’t move me much.
Tankelaus Tid – Kjcerlighetssjuk (Love Sick)… Tankelaus Tid is the name of a pair of Norwegians who grew up in the same part of Norway. One of them had won a national prize for his Dylan translations. Here’s the opening track from Time Out Of Mind. This opens with a very slow ominous beat, and you know, I’ve always thought this song sounded a bit like Leonard Cohen, and every time I hear this version, I keep thinking of Cohen. The instrumentation is just as rich and warm as Dylan’s version, and they got that foreboding vibe just right, without filling the soundfield with too much noise, until the stabbing electric guitar break. We can hear a box concertina faintly. The beat is heavy, the bass low, and the lyrics are all in Norwegian. There’s a viola solo halfway through, all highlands poignant, mountain mist and autumn dew. It winds down into a very low note. Doesn’t this song have a kind of walking beat? I’ve always thought so. What kind of voice? Slightly harsh, and hard to enjoy those strange Norwegian syllables. But pretty decent effort.
Steven Keene – I & I… Keene was born in Brooklyn, New York. He released his first album in 1990. Here we have a fairly hard thumping beat, a high pitched shimmering keyboard, shifting sounds, bits of guitar floating in and out, before Keene’s vocal joins and most of the music drops out. He has a soft smoother voice, sounds like a younger Leonard Cohen to some extent. He reenacts this Infidels track’s slightly haunted mysterious vibe really well. After the first two minutes, the moody rhythm retreats and the electric guitar and percussive effects take over for a short break, before everything drops out back to that keyboard, the drum machine-like thump and Keene: “I and I …. One said to the other / No man sees my face today.” Can’t say I paid too much attention to the lyrics of this song before, though I’m very familiar with the melody. Electric guitar boogie soloing and then fade out. An interesting version, but not really a standout for me.
Elliott Murphy – Dignity… New York born Murphy released his first album in 1973, since rated a lost classic by Uncut magazine, and now resides in France. A full strummy shifty-whifty sound, all forward momentum and awesome Dylanesque vocal from Murphy, who like several other singers on this collection sounds more like Dylan than Dylan himself. It’s really very similar to the original, though a slightly looser feel and a fuller sound. “I went down to where the vultures feed …. Heard the tongues of angels and the tongues of men.” Murphy goes in search of dignity, and alas, can’t seem to find it anywhere, just like Dylan back in 1988. I like this version if only because it’s nice to have a change from that ‘beautifully recorded acoustic guitar’ schtick, to something slightly messier and rambling and an improvement perhaps, realer, more immediate than Lanois’s production aesthetic. Scary how well Elliot has perfected Dylan’s phrasing…
Tokyo Bob – Million Dollar Bash… much like Tokyo Bob doing Basement Tapes Dylan. Tokyo Bob is a Japanese musician who claims to have been told by Buddha in a dream to take the stage name ‘Tokyo Bob.’ My god, is he really Japanese?? This is hilarious. He sounds exactly like Dylan on the Basement tapes. That’s Japanese mimicry for you. It’s a facsimile. Not the music. The music is okay, electric guitar and pedal steel. It’s Tokyo Bob’s brilliant vocal. As someone who lived in Japan for a long time, I’m pretty impressed. You don’t get too many Japanese artists able to replicate English as well as this, let alone with the perfect tone of voice. I love it. Nice work Tokyo Bob. “Oooh baby / Oooee / It’s that million dollar bash.” Nice warbly dreamy organ part in the instrumental break, quite jazzy, big mix of instruments, tink tink cymbal. In the last verse he perhaps pushes the silly voice a tad too far into comedy territory. The song always had that freewheelin’ comic vibe about it, which has been beautifully replicated.
Cruzados – Rising Sun… The Cruzados were a Latin rock band operating from 1984 to 1988. They once acted as Dylan’s backing band on the Letterman show in 1984. Bob Dylan plays harmonica on this song. This is harsh, loud driving piercing rock and roll, unlike anything else on the album. The quality is back to that horrible 80s sound, and this doesn’t do much for me. I can’t say I even know this as a Dylan song. It’s not listed on his website either. We’ve got a punchy regular as clockwork drum beat, echoey guitars, breathy airy background harmonizing, a wailing electric guitar, bounce bounce rhythm section, almost sounds live. No subtleties of any kind. Pretty standard rock moves. Doesn’t hold my interest much.
Yup, these various artist Dylan cover albums are turning into monoliths. This is the third triple LP I’ve reviewed in recent times. The next few are doubles or triples, and there’s even a quadruple coming up soon. It’s way too much Dylan to take in one go, and I found I enjoyed the whole thing far more by treating each disk as a separate album. It’s a long journey through the whole thing at one sitting, but it surely has to be one of the best collections of various artist Dylan covers out there. Best performances here were … drum roll … Martin Simpson, Tolo Marton, Chris Whitley, Ronald Born, Wendy Bucklew, Paul James, Steve Elliot. Oh, those were my favourites, but the whole thing is a grand collection. Get yourself a copy before they’re all gone. The next thing I’ll be reviewing under my Dylan covers project is the soundtrack for Masked And Anonymous.