Crowned before the Ceremony: 15 Dylan songs like you’ve never heard them before

Video by mr tambourine, commentary by Tony Attwood

Ahead of the release of Bob’s new album, it is perhaps worth a spot of reflection on just how good Bob Dylan can be.

Which is why we think it is worth having a listen to “Crowned before the Ceremony (2020 Tribute For The 2019 Tour)”

The point about this recording is that it contains song after familiar song but each with a totally different arrangement from that with which we are familiar.   Indeed I like to think that I am fairly au fait with all of Dylan’s compositions (having reviewed just about each one of them on this site), yet I was on several occasions completely bemused by what song we were about to hear, as the introduction was played.

Of course there is a danger with this approach in that a lesser artist can become transfixed with the concept of changing the piece, and forget what the original was all about.  But not here, as I hope you will agree.

Set 1: Kingdom Come

  • 1: Ballad of a Thin Man
  • 2: Scarlet Town
  • 3: Girl from the North Country

Set 2: The Throne awaits its king

  • 4: Beyond here lies nothing
  • 5: Don’t think twice it’s alright
  • 6: Pay in Blood

I’m pausing at Pay in Blood, because this is one where the transformation of the song is in one regard not as large as it is in many other songs in these sets, and yet the way Bob delivers the lines does alter the meaning.  The emphasis on the title line which is we might expect has now gone and is now shared with every other line in the whole arrangement.  It’s one hell of a trick.

Set 3: The Guiding Light to the Promised Lane

  • 7: Boots of Spanish Leather
  • 8: Long and Wasted Years
  • 9: Will the Circle Be Unbroken (written in 1907 by Ada R. Habershon with music by Charles H. Gabriel).
Will the circle be unbroken
By and by, by and by?
Is a better home awaiting
In the sky, in the sky?

Set 4: The Road to Eternal Peace

Even if some of the tracks here don’t appeal to you (and we all have our own favourites), I would beg you to listen to “Lenny Bruce is Dead” which starts around 46 minutes 50 seconds.  It is a song which, I think, can give us a particular insight into the way Bob writes and how he writes.  This is an utterly staggering performance of a brilliant song, in my opinion, and gives an counter-insight into Bob’s supposed religious views, given Lenny Bruce’s take on religion.

  • 10: Lenny Bruce is Dead
  • 11: It’s all over now Baby Blue
  • 12: Dignity

There’s a lovely extra bounce to Dignity which gives it a much more relaxed feel – along with that unexpected chord change just before “Have you seen Dignity”.  It is, for me a perfect example of how a minor change to the musical arrangement can alter the entire meaning of a song.  One chord change, and it’s all different.

Set 5: The Ceremony Calls

  • 13: Can’t Wait
  • 14: When I paint my masterpiece
  • 15: Not dark yet

Did anyone ever try a viola and a harmonica together before?  Come to that did anyone dare to re-write the music of an absolute masterpiece (I refer to “Not Dark Yet”) in such an audacious manner, and get away with it?  The oppression of the situation which is to some extent held at bay in the original, is let fully off the leash here.

However I must admit I’m rather glad this version wasn’t on the original; I wasn’t feeling 100% when the album was released and I am not sure I could have taken that version.  At the very least Untold Dylan would have been put on hold for a year or two in my household.

Very many thanks to mr tambourine – you can subscribe to mr tambourine’s videos here.

Untold Dylan: who we are what we do

Untold Dylan is written by people who want to write for Untold Dylan.  It is simply a forum for those interested in the work of the most famous, influential and recognised popular musician and poet of our era, to read about, listen to and express their thoughts on, his lyrics and music.

We welcome articles, contributions and ideas from all our readers.  Sadly no one gets paid, but if you are published here, your work will be read by a fairly large number of people across the world, ranging from fans to academics who teach English literature.  If you have an idea, or a finished piece send it as a Word file to Tony@schools.co.uk with a subject line saying that it is for publication on Untold Dylan.

We also have a very lively discussion group “Untold Dylan” on Facebook with approaching 6000 active members. Just type the phrase “Untold Dylan” in, on your Facebook page or follow this link 

You’ll find some notes about our latest posts arranged by themes and subjects on the home page of this site.  You can also see details of our main sections on this site at the top of this page under the picture.  Not every index is complete but I do my best.

But what is complete is our index to all the 604 Dylan compositions and co-compositions that we have found, on the A to Z page.  I’m proud of that; no one else has found that many songs with that much information.  Elsewhere the songs are indexed by theme and by the date of composition. See for example Bob Dylan year by year.

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2 Responses to Crowned before the Ceremony: 15 Dylan songs like you’ve never heard them before

  1. Tim Roach says:

    Enjoyed this post John. Alias made a concious decision never to deliver any perfomance of his work, be it Studio Album or Live the same ,twice. I guess he new he had a lot of singin to do. He has given us the joy of Multitude Versions which you have correctly pointed out lesser artists have not travelled.

  2. Nice article on a great compilation. I listened to it a few days ago. My comment has to do with your quote from the traditional song “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?” While the title line is indeed a question, the other chorus line is a statement. The line should read “There’s a better home awaiting, in the sky…” It is a clear statement of faith which has and continues to give comfort to many. An important distinction.

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