Dylan released and unreleased 10: Playing for Change

By Aaron Galbraith and Tony Attwood

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 https://playingforchange.com/

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. Its 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.

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 come 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:  You’ve probably had enough of me saying that the song is not a call to arms, not a statement saying, “rise up and change the world” but rather that times change – that is what happens.  But that fact still seems to be ignored, and the song is presented as a call to arms.

I find the pauses before certain words a bit artificial – we all know the lyrics so I’m not sure of the musical validity.   But the instrumental verse really is fun with its delayed echo, and after that yes, it’s quite moving.   However, the central point of this song now is that we have heard it over and over and we know that yes times they changed, and we got Trump and the Taliban and global warming.  That rather spoils the message for me.

Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door

Tony: Now this is more up my street, simply because the arrangement allows the musicians to say something new through the song.  It’s a beautiful presentation because it is totally natural and unforced and there is that extra lilt to the rhythm via the unseen percussionist.  In fact I wonder, did they add the drums after the recording to give it more of that lilt?  Or was there nowhere on the set for the percussionist to sit?   And did the producer of the video think we wouldn’t notice?

But I’m glad she or he is there, because that is what really makes this bounce along – they are all such superb musicians it gives that little bit of pulse behind their elegant harmonies.

Jokerman 

Tony: We’ve looked at some of these before, and I’ve not cheated by going back to see what I said last time around.   But whatever I said before, I utterly love this.   The presentation of the video is sublime, and so is the music.  Perhaps this is my favourite “Jokerman” of all time – every word needs to be heard and appreciated, while the guitar playing is so understated but utterly right throughout, even as it builds in the latter part of the performance.

Additionally, it really makes sense of the “wo-oh-oh” line.  Oh this is gorgeous.

All Along The Watchtower 

Tony: The settings they have arranged are extraordinary, and in this song more than any of the other recordings.   What I think one needs to do is to listen to this twice – once just hearing the performance without looking at the video.

“Watchtower” has been performed by so many people that it is very hard to think of what to do with the song – after all there is only one musical line repeated over and over.  And yet it still holds our attention.

The one thing I’ve found with friends I’ve debated this song with is that we have to work to remind ourselves of the magic of those vocal lines.   To remind us that this is a song that ends

Two riders were approaching
And the wind began to howl

That is part of the magic – we are left not with a resolution but a feeling that this is just the start…  indeed I am rather surprised no one (that I know about) has written the song of what happens next.  I think one could almost make a novel out of it.

I really would like to know.

Dylan released and unreleased

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2 Responses to Dylan released and unreleased 10: Playing for Change

  1. Larry fyffe says:

    The two riders in the original biblical Watchtower story could be the Persian King and an ally who are envisioned as arriving to give relative freedom to the Hebrews compared to the Babylonians (Isaiah 21:8,9)

    Then there’s modern-day Dylan and howling Ginsberg …

    … Still nothing, really nothing, is revealed straight out in the fragmented verses… …

    It’s left up to the reader/listener to advance coherent meaning(s)….

  2. Andrew Davies says:

    That AATW is tremendous. The portending doom at the end (the potential destruction of Babylon in Isaiah, but that’s far too easy an interpretation here) gets lost too often, but here it’s searing and suitably Old Testament in its feel.

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