A Dylan Cover a Day: Sweetheart like You

By Tony Attwood

The problem with covers is that the more distinctive the song, the more difficult it is to retain the essence of the song and yet make a new version that says and offers something different.

The opening chord sequence of Sweetheart Like, and that descending bass movement which turns up repeatedly in the song, makes making a difference very difficult.  Keep it in, and there’s not much room to change the song.  Leave it out, and you’ve lost the song.

Steve Gibbons tries his best with occasional moves into declaiming the lyrics rather than singing them, with the emphasis then on the pain of the break up.   But for me the lead guitar part that pops up at the end of each line makes it all seem too artificial.

Chrissie Hynde is an expert at re-working Dylan, and here again it seems she has managed to combine the essence of the song with her own occasionally hesitant interpretation.   Suddenly I’ve lost my memory of Dylan’s original and am treating the song as something new, something to be focussed on afresh.   This is how it should be done.  I’m not 100% sure of the instrumental verse at the end with the … what is it – an organ, a flute, a synth… picking out the melody.   But one can always stop listening and go back to the start.

World Party

World Party (ie Karl Wallinger) keeps the solid emphasis on the chord sequence, and it takes him a moment to establish himself, but once there it flows beautifully.   I would have taken the bass down quite a lot in the final mix, and maybe, just maybe asked Jimmy to lay off the tendency to edge towards histrionics, but these are thoughts depending on one interprets the lyrics.  Is it regret?  Is it sadness?  Is it a desperate attempt to get her out?   Yes, how you sing it all depends how you feel it.

Listening next to Jimmy LaFave is something of a relief at least for me since here we seem to have a much greater understanding of the lyrics.   He was the first recipient of the Restless Spirit Award, which I always thought was very appropriate – especially when one hears a recording like this.

Judy Collins

I am not sure why someone with such a perfect voice as Judy Collins would ever waste even half a second in a song by speaking the lyrics rather than singing them, but even with her singing 60% of a song is generally worth more than other artists singing 100%.  Every ounce of the plaintiveness of the song is still there, and one can always imagine that after the idea of the spoken lines was put on the song the musical director was quietly led away and allowed to direct no more.  But no matter what, it is still beautiful and gets every ounce out of the song that there is to be got.

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