A Dylan Cover a Day: Tangled up in Blue


By Tony Attwood

It was five years ago that Jochen suddenly sprung the Indigo Girls version of “Tangled up in Blue” on me (and maybe some other people too – although it is quite possible that it was just me who was unaware of it at the time.)   And I’ve been enjoying it ever since.   And just in case it doesn’t grab you, do keep going to listen to that violin solo.  Oh yes and those vocal harmonies.  And wow, talk about harmonies giving a song a new set of meanings.

Indeed, because it was five years ago, and because this is a great version too, here’s another edition that Jochen came up with…   Just how cool do you need to be?

Everyone has had a go in multiple languages, some even getting the masterpiece sound like something out of a music box, but what comes over to me is that with such a masterpiece, mere novelty isn’t enough.  There needs to be a deep understanding of what the song is, and where it goes to make a really worthwhile cover version.  Indeed I’ve been through a dozen instrumental versions and the same number of foreign language editions but none of them leap out.  They just don’t tell me, or make me feel, anything new

Of course the problems for the cover artist are multiple: it is a long song and we know it well, the rhythm is distinctive too, so are the chord changes.  Just performing it verse after verse tells us nothing that Bob didn’t say already.

However although Joan Osborne does it straight, there are subtle changes in the way she treats the melody which somehow draw me it.  It is relaxed enough for me to engage my whole self in the song once more, despite having heard it a thousand times before.

But I really do enjoy the energy of Charlie Daniels – and his violinist.  Suddenly I feel enlivened and I want to hear it all again.

And here’s another: Engerling who perform it as Bob could have performed it.  Indeed maybe as Bob did perform it; I really can’t remember all the Dylan reworkings of the song, especially since I started comparing one with another (see Tangled up in Blue: 1988 to 1993 for example).

But I think as I re-visit many of the covers that are out there, what I really do get drawn into (and this seems always to be the case with me) are the versions that try and take the song onwards somewhere else.  Sometimes it is a complete re-write, sometimes it is just a change of emphasis that draws me back in… it can be anything.   But listening to these covers, and indeed many more that I’ve rejected in trying to pull a little set together, it is the attempts to take the song on another step that I really value.

But having had a morning of nothing but entangledness, I now do need to come down somewhat.  There are many more versions to consider, but sadly my brain is now full and my colleagues are waiting for some work from me.

However Wendy Ellison Mullen however offers me a way to reflect once more, before making a coffee, and then moving on.

But life then goes on and it’s not all work.  This afternoon, a five mile walk with friends in the quiet Cambridgeshire countryside beckons.  This version (below) seems a perfect preparation.

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