Beautiful Obscurity: Playing for Change, including one of the greatest covers ever

By Aaron Galbraith and Tony Attwood

There is an index to some of the other entries in this series here.

In the series, Aaron in the USA selects some cover versions of Dylan songs and sends them to Tony in the UK, and Tony has to write a review while the track is playing – no going on and on for ever and ever.

Aaron: I first came across Playing for Change a couple of years ago when I stumbled upon this version of The Bands’ The Weight on YouTube

This is from their website:

Playing For Change is a movement created to inspire and connect the world through music, born from the shared belief that music has the power to break down boundaries and overcome distances between people. Our primary focus is to record and film musicians performing in their natural environments and combine their talents and cultural power in innovative videos we call Songs Around The World. 

Aaron: Several big names have been involved over the years (Robbie & Ringo, Keith Richards, Yusuf/Cat Stevens & Peter Gabriel etc) and as you can imagine Dylan covers pop up regularly. Here are some I’ve came across for your listening pleasure, let’s see what Tony thinks of these! I’ll put these in order of my favorites – leaving the best to last (in my opinion!)

If the videos don’t work in your country you can listen/watch them all on their website above.

Times They Are A-Changin’

Tony: I am of course a pedant, (and as such note that the word “pedant” isn’t recognised by my wordpress spell checker by some bizarre reason!) and I’ve noted time and again that the song doesn’t tell us that we can make change for the better happen, but rather that change happens, and that no matter what, we can’t stop it.   That’s the point of the of the “senators and congressmen” line – not that they should, or can, or will implement change but rather that they can’t stop the natural course of change.

There is a more about this song that intrigues me – I was a schoolboy when it was first produced, and now (obviously) in my later years, so the song has been with me virtually all of my life that I can remember.   And yes I have seen times change.   But for the better?   Medically and scientifically maybe, but socially, no I don’t think so.

However, enough of that, this is a great version.  We all know it off by heart but they put more vigour and bounce and power into it than most, and given the song is so well know, that is indeed what we need.

Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door

Tony: What is striking me here with this collection is the original approach to the arrangements – far more original and entertaining than many of the cover versions Aaron has selected for me to ramble on about.  (That’s not a knock at your choice Aaron, it is more a reflection that I seem to have lost the power to be engaged and surprised much of the time).

But here – just listen to that rhythm – that is brilliantly clever – I think this is the best version of Knockin I have ever heard.   The production is utterly perfect and utterly laid back, the harmonies are sublime, the accompaniment is exactly where it should be, and above everything that rhythm…

And just when I was running out of superlatives there is the oh so double extra plus laid back acoustic guitar solo.  And then… I am sorry to say I don’t know what language we have moved into, but it works brilliantly.


Tony: Yet again a beautifully original setting, quite right for a totally original cover version.  Blimey, I can’t take all this in in one go.   I’m sticking by the rules of the game and just writing as I hear and see the videos for the first time ever, but that’s only because I am a law-abiding soul these days.

And just listen to the way the performance evolves both in terms of the vocal and the instrumental – that takes really sublime talent, taking us up and down, playing the audience through the performance.   You don’t need me rambling on – just listen.  The fact you know the song by heart is neither here nor there, there is a new insight into the song.

Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant.

All Along The Watchtower

Tony: Phew I don’t know if I can take any more – but here we are with another setting and with another set of surprises.  Goodness me, I hope Bob has heard and seen this.   And Aaron, what a good one to finish with – did you realise I would have used up all my superlatives by now and had nothing left?

We’ve all heard this song so many thousand times but have we ever seen or heard anything like this?

No, you don’t need me here.  Just watch the video and hear the music, and  enjoy every second.


  1. Not impressed by any of these covers! Period! N0body but nobody can outdo his originals! Anyone who thinks they can don’t get the “BOB”!

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