By Tony Attwood
There are some songs where I simply don’t want to go searching for multiple cover versions, because even before I start writing I know where the works of artistic genius are, and I don’t think I can go any further.
So I start in the obvious place, because I do have a very soft spot for Emma Swift’s work, and since this is also one of my favourite Dylan songs of all – as it has been since I first heard it upon its release – the combination of favoured song and favoured artist is overwhelming.
Ms Swift takes it slowly as her exquisite, perfect voice demands, and thus I listen to this and believe every word. And that is before we get to the chorus where without going over the top she utterly distinguishes verse from chorus in a way which I can’t imagine could be improved upon.
And I must add a word about the accompaniment – delightfully done so that the chorus and verse are instrumentally as well as vocally and lyrically distinguished from each other.
In many ways the verse accompaniment should not work – it uses the plink plink plink technique combined with a simple emphasis on each beat. But it works and it contrasts so elegantly with the chorus in every way. Indeed if I were asked I’d give an award to this recording for “best accompaniment to a Dylan song ever”.
It is stunning it is gorgeous and it tears my heart apart even now as I am taken back to every breakup in a life that seems to have been full of break ups.
But I must tear myself and my tears away, and what better way than to move to Old Crowe. With their live performances, there is the inevitable chat before the music starts, and if you want to skip it, jump the first 40 seconds. But it is part of the show.
For me the amazing thing about this version is that having played the overwhelming Emma Swift version, this now takes me off to a different land and again I can be overwhelmed but in a different way. Those harmonies in the chorus are wonderfully executed so that even though, by the start of verse two, we know what the arrangement consists of, it still engages totally.
Old Crowe of course have the strings (violin/s and double bass) at the heart of their arrangements, and yet I never ever feel I have had enough of their style of reworking. Indeed listening, and listening and listening to Old Crowe I often find myself wondering how they work these violin parts out. Are they originally improvised, or carefully worked out step by step? I’d love to know.
And whoever would have thought of two pizzicato violins as an accompaniment? Well, maybe lots of people, all better musicians than I, but certainly I could never have imagined it. It takes me back to when I first heard it, it brings me forward to today, it brings tears to my eyes, it makes me marvel at what can be done when musical imagination is let loose.
My final choice is one that I owe to Jochen who highlighted the Chip Taylor version. Jochen wrote “The most attractive cover, by far, is on Mojo’s 2016 Blonde On Blonde Revisited tribute, on the occasion of the monument’s fiftieth anniversary.”
And I must admit I am including it not because I personally value it alongside the above two renditions but because I respect Jochen’s opinion, and because even if it doesn’t appeal to me as the above two versions do, it is an extraordinary rendition, and the fact that emotionally it takes me in the wrong direction, is my problem, no one else’s.
The harmonies in the second verse are indeed delightful, but somehow with this song this isn’t at all where I want to be although I must admit this takes the notion of recording a Dylan cover to a new level.
I think for me it is the old problem of knowing the song so well that by the time we get to the moment in the song it starts snowing, musically I know what is happening, and emotionally this version makes me feel I am too far gone to be able to take any more.
And that’s always my problem: maybe because I started out my working life as a musician or maybe because there is far too much emotion in my world, the combination of the feelings expressed here combined with the fact that I know the song totally off by heart means I just can’t bear the pain. And maybe that is why I love my two choices above: Emma Swift makes the emotions bearable and Old Crowe makes them fun. Chip Taylor however digs the knife into my heart, and that’s more than I can take.
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.
- Heart of Mine
- High Water
- Highway 61
- I am a lonesome hobo
- I believe in you
- I contain multitudes
- I don’t believe you.
- I love you too much
- I pity the poor immigrant.
- I shall be released
- I threw it all away
- I want you
- I was young when I left home
- I’ll remember you
- Idiot Wind and More idiot wind
- If not for you, and a rant against prosody
- If you Gotta Go, please go and do something different
- If you see her say hello
- Dylan cover a day: I’ll be your baby tonight
- I’m not there.
- In the Summertime, Is your love and an amazing Isis
- It ain’t me babe
- It takes a lot to laugh
- It’s all over now Baby Blue
- It’s all right ma
- Just Like a Woman
- Knocking on Heaven’s Door
- Lay down your weary tune
- Lay Lady Lay
- Lenny Bruce
- That brand new leopard skin pill box hat
- Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts
- License to kill
- Like a Rolling Stone
- Love is just a four letter word
- Love Sick
- Maggies Farm!
- Make you feel my love; a performance that made me cry.
- Mama you’ve been on my mind
- Man in a long black coat.
- Masters of War
- Meet me in the morning
- Million Miles. Listen, and marvel.
- Mississippi. Listen, and marvel (again)
- Most likely you go your way
- Most of the time and a rhythmic thing
- Motorpsycho Nitemare
- Mr Tambourine Man
- My back pages, with a real treat at the end
- New Morning
- New Pony. Listen where and when appropriate
- Nobody Cept You
- North Country Blues
- No time to think
- Obviously Five Believers
- A Dylan Cover a Day: Oh Sister
- On the road again
- One more cup of coffee