By Tony Attwood
Not Dark Yet was for me, the moment I first heard it, (and has remained ever since), one of the very greatest of all the Dylan songs. I recall even in my original review noting how pivotal it was to Time Out Of Mind, and that was before I saw the Time magazine review which called it ‘the moody album’s center.’
I was also knocked out by the way Dylan expanded the structure of the song musically – if that is something you might be interested in, the article Jochen and I put together might help explain a little what makes it sound so different from your everyday song.
For me, it is a masterpiece of such stunning magnitude that even now, years later, I find it hard to put into words everything that there is in this song, and in Dylan’s arrangement on the album. Treat this article therefore as a trivial introduction to the ultimate work of the master.
All of which made me wonder what others have done with it. And to my delight, working through the catalogue there are some reinterpretations worthy of the song.
Much depends on how the arranger and performers choose to arrange the performance, for the opening tells us both where we are, and if this isn’t just someone else playing around with a masterpiece.
Changes can be made by subtle shifts of emphasis and melody, along with tiny changes to the rhythm, and that is what we find here as each subtle change gives a new insight into what is being said.
And perhaps, dear reader, I should add, if you are reading this when you are aged 60 or less, come back when you are in your mid-70s and listen again and reflect further on your life and what it has meant.
Dave Gahan Soulsavers
A totally different concept as we hear from the musical introduction. The rhythm is given a greater emphasis, which doesn’t prepare us for the caressing gentleness of the vocals – it gives the perfect impression of the individual awash in a never-ending, raging sea of emotions, which is exactly as I hear and feel it.
Just listen to the line “I don’t see why I should even care”. The accent moves from “I” in “I should” and instead falls on “why”. The meaning changes, new images appear. That’s how it goes all the way through. Brilliant.
Shelby Lynne and Allison Moorer
Extra emphasis on the percussion which contrasts with the vocals which change gently and then suddenly add oh-so-perfect harmonies. And a perfect pause between the verses without any attempt to do something different… all that it needs is to hold what we have, and that is what it gives.
And those harmonies, oh how they develop in the second verse, leaving the electric piano to cast a total contrast with regimental-style percussion.
You’ll notice how there is nothing sacred with the key in which the song was originally performed – each performer is finding his/her own pitch for the message to be delivered.
And what I love about these arrangements is that both the instrumentalists and the vocalists amend the song to suit the nature of the message they have found in the song.
I particularly value this version as soon after hearing the songs I wrote a piano arrangement of the song but was utterly dissatisfied with what I achieved, and felt frustrated which put me in my place. What you hear here is what I was trying to do on the piano, and failing completely. If you have the time, play it once and just focus on the piano part.
If you want to make music express what is in the lyrics, that is how you do it.
Mary Ann Redmond
A perfect voice to work out a re-imagination of this song – and when I feel I can drag myself away from the vocals, suddenly a line of harmonies comes in. Maybe if I’d been mixing this I’d have taken the drums down a little, but although that sounds better in my imagination, that’s not a guarantee that it would have worked. It just feels like it could.
The Frisian version
A really interesting contrast with the Mary Ann Redmond version above. And because I can listen to the sound of the lyrics without understanding them I can take in the whole of the song, as a piece of music without thinking about the words.
And my goodness it is so utterly beautiful and moving, simply as music.
From the little I know of such things this must be in Czech and again I do love listening to the song without understanding the lyrics, as it gives new insights into just what Dylan was able to do with just four chords and a melody.
You’ve probably had enough by now, but if you want more try Jochen’s article on the song’s greatest recordings.
But just in case you can’t be bothered with that, here’s one track from that article, one that would have been central to my little piece today if Jochen hadn’t got there first. A perfect choice to round this off. If after all this, you are not crying your eyes out, then, well…. I just don’t know…. Severa Gjurin….
The Dylan Cover a Day series
- The song with numbers in the title.
- Ain’t Talkin
- All I really want to do
- Apple Suckling and Are you Ready.
- As I went out one morning
- Ballad for a Friend
- Ballad in Plain D
- Ballad of a thin man
- Frankie Lee and Judas Priest
- The ballad of Hollis Brown
- Beyond here lies nothing
- Blind Willie McTell
- Black Crow Blues (more fun than you might recall)
- An unexpected cover of “Black Diamond Bay”
- Blowin in the wind as never before
- Bob Dylan’s Dream
- You will not believe this… 115th Dream revisited
- Boots of Spanish leather
- Born in Time
- Buckets of Rain
- Can you please crawl out your window
- Can’t wait
- Changing of the Guard
- Chimes of Freedom
- Country Pie
- Crash on the Levee
- Dark Eyes
- Dear Landlord
- Desolation Row as never ever before (twice)
- Don’t fall apart on me tonight.
- Don’t think twice
- Down along the cove
- Drifter’s Escape
- Duquesne Whistle
- Farewell Angelina
- Foot of Pride and Forever Young
- Fourth Time Around
- From a Buick 6
- Gates of Eden
- Gotta Serve Somebody
- Hard Rain’s a-gonna Fall.
- 42 Heart of Mine
- 43: High Water
- 44: Highway 61.5
- 45: Hurricane
- 46: I am a lonesome hobo
- 47: I believe in you
- 48: I contain multitudes
- 49: I don’t believe you.
- 50: I love you too much
- 51: I pity the poor immigrant.
- 52: I shall be released
- 53: I threw it all away
- 54: I want you
- 55: I was young when I left home
- 56: I’ll remember you
- 57: Idiot Wind and More idiot wind
- 58: If not for you, and a rant against prosody
- 59: A Dylan cover a Day: If you Gotta Go, please go and do something different
- 60: If you see her say hello
- 61: Dylan cover a day: I’ll be your baby tonight
- 62: I’m not there.
- 63: In the Summertime, Is your love and an amazing Isis
- 64: It ain’t me babe
- 65: It takes a lot to laugh
- 66: It’s all over now Baby Blue
- 67: It’s all right ma
- 68: Just Like a Woman
- 69: Knocking on Heaven’s Door
- 70: Lay down your weary tune
- 71: Lay Lady Lay
- 72: Dylan Cover a Day 72: Lenny Bruce
- 73: That brand new leopard skin pill box hat
- 74: Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts
- 75: Dylan Cover a Day: License to kill
- 76: Like a Rolling Stone
- 77: Love is just a four letter word
- 78: Love Sick
- 79: Maggies Farm!
- 80: Make you feel my love; a performance that made me cry.
- 81: Mama you’ve been on my mind
- 82: Man in a long black coat.
- 83: Masters of War
- 84: Meet me in the morning
- 85: Million Miles. Listen, and marvel.
- 86: Mississippi. Listen, and marvel (again)
- 87: Most likely you go your way
- 88: Most of the time and a rhythmic thing
- 89: Motorpsycho Nitemare
- 90: Mozambique
- 91: Mr Tambourine Man
- 92: My back pages, with a real treat at the end
- 93: New Morning
- 94: New Pony. Listen where and when appropriate
- 95: Nobody Cept You
- 96: North Country Blues
- 97: No time to think