By Paul Hobson and Tony Attwood
In this series we look at live performances by Bob Dylan which have re-imagined songs from his back catalogue.
As ever the recordings have been selected by Paul and the commentary supplied by Tony. We have Shelter from the Storm, Forever Young and Simple Twist of Fate. Details of all the previous articles in the series are at the end.
Shelter from the Storm
For Bob Dylan his past catalogue is a thing to be played with, to be explored, to be messed about with, even to be turned upside down, just to see where each song can go.
When we think of Shelter from the Storm, the lyrics themselves allow an endless set of opportunities, because in saying “come in”, and also most importantly because the “she” of the song could be anything – she can be gentle, she can be on the edge of devouring her visitor, she can be saintly, she can be old, she can be young, she can be… well anything.
And as for the man who comes in and gets that shelter, he himself can be excited, tired, cautious… we really don’t know, because the song is so ambiguous throughout.
And it is this that has made me want to include two versions of the revisiting of the storm. One selected by Paul and (just because I can) one by Tony. Here’s Paul’s selection
And Tony’s from (of course) Rolling Thunder
After hearing these two it is almost an impossible shock to come back to the original and remember how gentle it was…
We don’t normally include the originals in this series, just focussing on the re-imagined versions, but on listening to the two recordings above and then putting on the original it really was such a jump backwards in time. As listeners we really do have the choice as to how we imagine the people in the song. That is the sheer genius of what is in essence an incredibly simple piece of music.
Now we move on to Forever Young.
By its very nature it is a gentle song, but that gentleness can be expressed as the prime emotion of the song or it can become the essence of the voice – as here. And notice the way Bob holds onto the final “Forever” in the chorus.
The accompaniment itself in this version also holds back with the emphasis on acoustic rather than electronic sounds to give an extra feeling of the very essence of the music rather than any musical trickery that electronics might offer.
Finally in this edition we have Simple Twist Of Fate from the late 1990s.
This is something of a strange arrangement. Bob’s vocals are very laid back, as is the instrumentation… except for the drums which seems strangely out of place. And yet… upon reflection the solid regularity of the percussion, pounding the rhythm without variation, and indeed without cymbals, does portray the relentlessness of life as it move along, taking its own route irrespective of anything we might wish it to do.
A very effective re-imagining of the song. But then from Bob we would expect nothing else.
The series so far
You can find the first article in the series here where we looked at Pretty Peggy O, Ring them Bells and the total reworking of Visions.
The second article took in Like a Rolling Stone, Positively 4th Street and Just like Tom Thumb’s Blues.
Part 3 took in Tears of Rage, Masters of War and Man of Constant Sorrow.