Dylan Released and Unreleased 7: Down along the cove

By Aaron Galbraith and Tony Attwood

This series involves Aaron looking back to recordings of Dylan songs from unusual formats or situations, and then, having dug them out, handing over to Tony to write a commentary.  Tony in the UK has no say in what is chosen, Aaron in the USA has no say in what Tony writes.

Aaron: I thought for this one we could look at three tracks taken from various festival performances which were officially released on the souvenir CDs for each of the festivals.

Dylan played a 12 song set at Woodstock ‘94 but the only track chosen for the official album was this version of Highway 61 Revisited.

Tony: Two things strike me straight away – this version is not just slower than the original album version, and it is sung a third lower, but put those two factors together and you almost get a completely different song.  What then rounds this off is the extended instrumental sections, which are so vibrant and full-on they contrast with the slower beat of the song itself.

This then in turn gives the opportunity for more than one instrumental break – it turns the original song with the siren or whistle and its somewhat lighthearted feel into something quite different.

In fact the whole approach of instrumental breaks and slower beat turns this into a six minute well-rehearsed epic, rather than either a repeat of the track from the album, or an improvisation.

Aaron: Next in 1995 came The Concert For The Rock n Roll Hall Of Fame. Dylan’s contribution to the official album was this All Along The Watchtower

Tony: Playing this video on my computer the volume is quite low – even when I turn my volume slider up to 100%.  But even if you are struggling a little to hear this it is worth persevering with the recording.

However I am also endlessly intrigued by Bob’s costume changes – and his minimal guitar playing here during the vocals.  Bob has said that Hendrix work on this song showed that the original is not always the best, and it is interesting how having had Hendrix’ approach Bob decided to take it on and then further.

And there is an interesting stance taken by Bob during the guitar break too.   But he does have a surprise (at least for me) around the three and a half minute section as the song keeps going on, and then comes down to a much lower level for a moment before rebuilding.

But for me there is a problem: the song is so well known, and in essence so simple (just three verses and that famous chord sequence over and over and over), it perhaps needs even more.  Maybe it didn’t at the time of the performance, but it feels like it does now.

However do leave the recording running because we then get a contrasting version of Highway 61.   Has any artist ever done so many cover versions of his own songs?   Has a singer-songwriter guitarist ever played such minimal guitar before?

And do stay to the end, just to watch Bob’s conclusion of the piece and the way he saunters back to the mic, as if to say, “no one else can do it like that.”

Aaron: The next one comes from Bonnaroo 2004. The official album included the live Down Along The Cove. This version ended up being used as the b-side to several later singles.

Tony:  Turn your volume back down a bit, as Bob puts a few variations into what is (for me) a rather ordinary 12 bar blues written (in my estimation) just for a festival and included as an album filler.

Does this version tell us anything or help us get a firmer grip on the original recording?  Well, for me, no.  Yes the lead guitar is having a bit of fun in the instrumental breaks, and this is perhaps the best re-writing of this song ever, but really, in my estimation there is so little there at the start that even with the re-write, it is just an enjoyable bop.  Which is fine, but I think I normally expect more of Bob.

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Untold Dylan was created in 2008 and is published daily – currently twice a day, sometimes more, sometimes less.  Details of some of our series are given at the top of the page and in the Recent Posts list, which appears both on the right side of the page and at the very foot of the page (helpful if you are reading on a phone).  Some of our past articles which form part of a series are also included on the home page.

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