This is a relatively obscure collection of French folk musicians paying homage to Bob Dylan in English. There are substantial liner notes on the back sleeve, although all in French, but from what I can gather Henri Heymans doesn’t really talk about who these musicians are; rather he discusses Dylan and the songs covered on this collection. So here we have the four names mentioned above, as displayed on the front cover plus a fellow named ‘Roland’ who performs ‘Let Me Die In My Footsteps’ on Side One. The LP was put out on the Music For Pleasure label, a French imprint for EMI.
Judy Nash is probably the best talent here. Her cover of ‘Forever Young’ is incredible. The rest of the LP comprises listenable, competent renditions of Dylan in the strictly folk style. They’re mostly quaint, pretty folk versions that play it safe, the musicians all performing their roles in a suitably reverent manner.
Forever Young (Judy Nash)… Nash has a very ‘pure’ folk voice, a very pretty, pitch-perfect kind of thing. She sings high too, sometimes too high for my tastes, but on this song she seems to get it just right. Dylan’s version is a minor anthem in its own right, but when you hear Nash sing the chorus you can’t help being wowed by how much melody she manages to squeeze in there, melody that you never heard on the original. The instrumentation is a warm bass beneath a delicately plucked acoustic guitar. Her voice is double tracked on the chorus but to wondrous effect; the way her ‘voices’ soar takes the tune to hitherto unheard heights. “May your heart always be joyful / May your song always be sung / And may you stay forever young.” I can’t stress how much I love the way she sings those three lines “Forever young / Forever young / May you stay forever young.” It’s truly beautiful.
Let Me Die In My Footsteps (Roland)… Roland only gets one song in here, vigorously strummed on a tinny acoustic guitar, though there are two guitars here, one in each speaker. Roland’s voice isn’t a thousand miles from Dylan’s and he makes an effort to catch something of Dylan’s phrasing, even though Dylan’s version had never been released on any official format at this stage. Roland’s voice sounds a little like the lead singer of Herman’s Hermits, that slight nasal quality, but his tuning and pitch are very much on a par with Dylan. This had just been covered on the Coulsen, Dean, McGuiness, Flint album in 1972. Their version was fabulous. This is merely competent, but it’s such a good tune it would be churlish of me to knock it.
I Threw It All Away (Winny & Amy)… are a male/female duet. Very folky, warm bass, pretty acoustic guitars. Amy’s voice is louder in the mix than Winny’s. There’s a nice piano outro at the end. This is well performed, and actually slightly more interesting with better textures than Dylan’s version on Nashville Skyline.
Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right (Judy Nash)… is very much in the same style of impressive finger picking as her ‘Forever Young.’ Her voice is not a far cry from Joan Baez’s and later she would record a whole album of Baez covers. I can’t really fault this performance either, the musicianship is superb and the quality of the recording has the same spooked quality as Nick Drake’s guitar sound. Nash tempers her vocal theatrics here too so it never gets annoying.
One Too Many Mornings (Didier)… Didier also fingerpicks and plays a neat harmonica. His voice is very folky, nice, perhaps a little weak in places and not entirely convincing, by which I mean, by not throwing his voice into the lyrics it doesn’t sound like he’s really thinking about the meaning of the words—they’re not sung with much conviction. But his combination of harmonica and guitar is truly beautiful, very delicate, subtle and well balanced.
Lay Lady Lay (Winny & Amy)… nice syncopated rhythm on acoustic guitar, while Amy takes lead vocals and Winny ‘aahs’ gorgeously in the background. Amy blows out her pipes on “Whatever colours you have in your mind” and the similarly placed line on the next verse, “His clothes are dirty but his hands are clean / And you’re the best thing that he’s ever seen.” The only weird bit is the way they awkwardly transition from verse to chorus, the guitar playing stops as though someone’s struggling to find the right chord and it almost throws you out of the song. But I have to say the simple combination of harmonizing and lead vocal is really effective and quite pleasant.
John Wesley Harding (Winny & Amy)… is sung by both in sweet a cappella style at the start, although there’s one funny little bit where they get out of sync with each other. Then they add a jaunty guitar melody and bass and sing the chorus again. They bring a very strong country flavour to the guitar style. Amy tackles the verses by herself while both are double tracked harmonizing behind the main vocal. This is a relatively unique version of this song. We get a banjo instrumental in the middle. Amy does a pretty convincing Dolly Partonesque country vocal. This is a fairly honest, straight up, quality cover.
Girl From The North Country (Didier)… I’ve always loved this song and Didier provides a suitably emotive performance though his vocal phrasing seems entirely based on Dylan’s, like a carbon copy. His guitar playing is really first rate and his use of harmonica is also effective, subtle, not too loud and used sparingly. He sounds more Scottish than Gallic. This is much better than his ‘One Too Many Mornings.’
It’s All Over Now Baby Blue (Judy Nash)… is the one where Nash pierces my eardrums with that crisp over-earnest soprano, although she’s every bit as good a singer as Joan Baez, managing to hit some pretty impressive high notes. Is she convincing? Yes, I think so, mainly because she adds her own little warbles, dips, flourishes and wavers into the words to provide her own slant on the lyrics. Music is mostly strummed acoustic guitar. Decent effort, but a bit too feminine/operatic for my ears.
Boots Of Spanish Leather (Winny & Amy)… these guys have really grown on me after listening to this album a few times now. Their harmonizing together is really good, and the musicianship, especially here, is really fiddly, fast, detailed and accurate. Two acoustic guitars, one in each speaker; one person plays the rhythm in arpeggio style, the other improvises a wildly detailed run around the fretboard. Great stuff. There’s a bit of echo on their voices in this song that also adds something to the effect. I like it.
I Want You (Didier)… okay, this is the first Didier one that makes me laugh because he’s much more in the habit of mimicking Dylan’s singing style. His voice has a very slight hoarse quality (neigh), but otherwise it’s the least interesting voice here, just a touch everyman. This is still vastly superior to say Dave Travis’s awful version from 1971. But even then, Didier doesn’t quite manage to convince me with that voice. Dylan’s version of this is so damn good you’d really need to bring an amazing performance to make a cover stand out in any way.
Farewell Angelina (Judy Nash)… ugh, and again, Nash sings this as if she’s surrounded by children and lambs in a field of buttercups while the milking maid wanders past with a cow and the local farmers holler cheery good mornings while Judy contorts her face into expressions of sincerity. It’s nice man, so nice I think I want to take that “sawn off shotgun” and use it on her. “Farewell Angelina / The sky’s changing colour / And I must leave fast.” Nevertheless, this is a great song, one I’m not so familiar with not having listened to my Bootleg Series Vol 1-3 for a while.
I have to say that this has proved better than I thought after my first listen. I would pitch this somewhere in between Dorinda Duncan and Joan Baez. It’s way, way better than Dave Travis’s bland country versions, more folky than Dorinda, probably on a par with The Silkie. What keeps this interesting of course is the variety. If it had all been Judy Nash it would have bored me quickly. I think I enjoyed Winny & Amy’s performances the best.
The interweb has next to nothing on who these artists were in their heyday and what else they recorded.