Beautiful Obscurity: Abandoned Love reworked

By Tony Attwood

If you are a regular reader you will know that “Abandoned Love” is a Dylan song I have often championed as one of the great unknowns of Dylan’s songwriting career.

You might also know that in the “Beautiful Obscurity” series Aaron and I have been playing a little game in which he chooses the cover versions of a particular Dylan song, and then I write a review while listening to that cover version, usually for the first time.

Aaron has not sent me in a new article for the series in the last few days, so feeling rather adrift I thought I would play the game on my own, and see if there were a number of covers for Abandoned Love – and to my delight I found the answer is yes.  So as I have found them on the internet I’ve listed them, and done a quick review.

And one reason for choosing this song is that it has been covered, and yet it remains one of the lesser known Dylan songs – despite its elegance.   But Aaron – please come back and do another one.  It’s less fun on my own.

Gillian Welch and David Rawlings

Because the song is not that well known it must be tempting for those covering the song to simply perform it in the Dylan style.  What takes this version up to a higher level is the sparing use of harmonies – and the way they are developed through the whole piece.

But a warning.  The recording doesn’t end properly.  It sounds rather as if it were being played on an old gramophone and someone picks up the stylus and pulls it across the LP.  But we get most of the song, and it is worth hearing.

Paul Rodgers and Nils Lofgren

OK if Nils Lofgren is involved this is going to be good, and so it turns out.  The stretching of the words in places while never losing track of the time.  But I wonder; did Nils really sit down and consider what he could be doing, or did he simply knock it out and that was that.

The guys take us straight through, and even though I know the song by heart there is so much here that catches me out; so many new variations, and so that is good.  My negative thought is simply that a few of the variations aren’t quite thought through, in my view.

The main thing I find to complain about it is that they keep on adding to the orchestration and variation of the melody, gives a feeling that the guys can’t wait for it to be over but that is a very minor worry.  This is most certainly worth hearing, and they do recover from that issue of adding more and and more to the accompaniment – which means that even though every instrument is fighting with the other in the instrumental verse it turns out to fun.

OK the end instrumental section is chaotic, but it is fun.

David Moore

Such is the instrumental in-fighting at the end of the previous version it is almost a relief to get back to some sort of arrangement sanity.  But there is still that feeling of wanting to put a lot of extras into the backing, perhaps just because it is simply, verse verse verse.

But here is works better because the backing track is established and we can hear that steady pulse throughout.  I think that is a double bass I’m hearing in the background (in my old age my ears are not as reliable as before and the tinnitus certainly doesn’t help).

Stay with this to the end, it most certainly is worth it.

Seán Keane

After the previous versions it is a relief to come to something that appreciates that this can be a very simple song.

Simple accompaniment from the accordion and guitar, and the sparse use of the harmonies just takes me back to the first time I heard the song.

There is a question for everyone playing this song – do you play each verse straight after the other or pause?  And then – how do you finish?  Such are the deep questions that trouble arrangers.

I like this ending.  It’s refreshing and fits so much with the lyrics.

The Everly Brothers

I think this is one of the earliest covers, and done very straight as a pop song, with the bass guitarist doing that traditional little upwards run between each verse.  There’s a penny whistle in the accompaniment, and the verses roll on and on.

Of course the harmonies are perfect, but I never get the feeling that they actually realise they are singing a masterpiece here.  Nor does the percussionist.  Nor the arranger come to that.  But it is the Everleys.    (Oh but please, on this song of all songs, not a fade out.)

If you want some more comparisons you might care to glance at…

Covers of Dylan songs

Beautiful Obscurity


  1. There is the annoying tendency to over-emplasize the beat, ‘the steady pulse’, the percussion, in the Moore version –

    It’s difficult to ruin a masterpiece, but then beauty is the ear of the beholder, is it not? -notwithstanding ‘fade outs’.

    With one exception, the versions are really quite lovely … in my opinion anyway (lol).

  2. I really like Gillian Welch and David Rawlings. It is the second time I listen to them and both times they sound wonderful.
    First song I think was their rendition of Love Minus Zero if I am not mistaken.

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