The Chrissie Hynde Lockdown series

By Tony Attwood

What Chrissie Hynde has done is, to me, an example of artistic inspiration of the highest order.  We’ve already covered “In the Summertime” when  Jochen picked this video for his review of the song.  But Aaron had actually got there first with Play Lady Play, shot of love, infidels, empire.  (You did realise that this site is nothing but a competition between the writers, didn’t you?)

So, we’ve all given that track a very big thumbs up, and now it is time to encompass the entire collection of songs that Ms Hynde is releasing.

And thus moving on to number 2 – “You’re a big girl now”

I found myself about to write “there is an earthiness to this rendition” but realised that I had been watching the video, and that would be pretty crass.  So I won’t.

What is so wonderful is the relationship to the lyrics, while not in anyway falling into the trap of doing what Bob has done.   That cascading steel guitar chord on 2 minutes 25 seconds as she sings

I can make it through
You can make it too

adds such a wonderful edge – it is so simple but so perfect.

Thereafter we have the chords building a wall of sound but with variations coming in over the top.   The change in the weather takes us back down, but with the piano picking out raindrops (which sounds naff but is the only way I can describe it).

What they’ve done here is build without going over the top; the drone is still there but it is perfectly acceptable because of the total orchestration.  Fantastic.

And now, the song that gave me the idea of doing a complete review of this collection, even if no one else wanted to read it.   But as you are still here, just listen to “Standing in the doorway” with its piano accompaniment.  And just listen to that final line “You left me standing…” if it doesn’t give you shivers then I guess nothing in music can.

The point about this rendition, and the others, is that they force me to listen and listen although I know the songs so well, and have heard so many people try their hand at them.

As I have written about this song before, the core of its phenomenal power is the key change and it is a challenge for anyone entering the realms of the piece to be able to handle it in a way that makes lyrical and musical sense.

If you are still with me, allow me to try and explore this with verse three which starts after the instrumental verse at around 3 minutes 28.

Maybe they’ll get me and maybe they won’t
But not tonight and it won’t be here
There are things I could say but I don’t
I know the mercy of God must be near
I’ve been riding the midnight train
Got ice water in my veins
I would be crazy if I took you back
It would go up against every rule
You left me standing in the doorway crying
Suffering like a fool

The first four lines are as we expect; the song is plodding along through its message of misery – and I don’t mean that disparagingly, misery is a plod; just ask anyone who has been abandoned.

So the first four lines of the verse just express utter desperation; the misery is destined to go on and on until the Almighty sends some blessed relief.

OK you can’t get any lower than that in a song of this nature, but then what Dylan does is changes key, taking us up to the subdominant – the fourth note of the scale, and suddenly we are not sitting alone in desperation, but freezing to death through the night.

It was a clever move by Bob, but the singer and arranger still has to handle this in a way that makes sense without make the song sound as if it has just suddenly taken off and travelled into another land.   And just listen to Chrissie (if I may be so familiar as to call her Chrissie) handles this to perfection.  She has been lyrical, gentle, but then a grit turns up in her voice for two lines before the voice almost breaks as she sings “I would be crazy…”

These are all details, but the details add to perfection.

And then the final twist – there are five long verses in this song, and most people trying the piece just plough through it, relying on the lyrics to carry them on. But listen to how Chrissie takes on the final verse.  If you have heard this before and not noticed this change, then that is a mark of the genius of this arrangement… and we are still unprepared for what she does to the ultimate line, “Blues wrapped around my head”.

I am going to stop now, and come back to the series anon; there is only  just so much emotion a man can take at times like this.

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.

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