By Tony Attwood
Next on the list of Dylan songs (in alphabetical order) which have been covered more than once or twice, we come to “To Ramona”, and somehow I had it in my mind that this hadn’t been covered much – and that perhaps there wasn’t really that much to cover.
But yet another mistake on my part. It has been covered lots, although sadly quite a few of the covers are nothing other than the artist singing the song pretty much as Dylan sang it, and using a very simple accompaniment in the way Dylan did.
And that is pretty inexcusable since Bob has himself played it over 380 times on the Never Ending Tour – and he managed to find a lot to do with the song. This version is from 2015 (NET 2015 part 1). It makes me think we should do a feature on the song in the Tour for the NET Extended series.
But it has been a bit of a struggle to find such variance in the work of other artists. (If only people wanting to cover Dylan would read Mike Johnson’s brilliant series of articles – they would surely get some inspiration and understand: the songs are there to be changed not repeated.)
However this series is committed to covers, and there really are some interesting ones out there aside from all the straight copies, which I am not going to bother with.
Wilko Johnson goes in full burst complete with an accordion doing its accordion thing…
And that’s not really what I was hoping for, because this is not a rock song, so let’s move on.
Leoni Jansen gets the feeling as I think it should be, keeping that singular lilting 6/8 time (which runs 123,123 throughout). And as the accompaniment grows it stays in keeping with the song, and with the chosen approach. I think it’s a marimba that is brought in around 1’23” – and for me although it is repetitive, it is highly effective and totally in keeping.
These United States surprised me because their rhythmic background which is utterly different from anything Dylan imagined. They are back in 4/4 time but with that percussion playing eight beats to the bar behind the vocals.
I love this not just because I find it a great listen, but also because it is so unexpected. Yes, I could imagine one doing this to the song, but I couldn’t imagine it could be made to work (which obviously shows my musical limitations in old age).
The band has given itself a huge problem, in introducing the radically different rhythm from the start, and it is hard to build onto that, but they do it very effectively until suddenly taking us back down at around 2’50” (I’ll forever talk to you).
This is one of those great experiments that against all the odds (as I see them) actually works. As does the sudden stop without the vocalist going over the top for the last line. Unexpected, and superb.
Total contrast is needed and Piers Faccini takes us back to the original but travels in the opposite direction from These United States. There is the occasional extra line of music, but in essence this is a very gentle version of the original, with the concept of that first Dylan version kept in tact. It’s one of those performances that works totally if you are in the mood… but if not, well, it is still beautifully performed – and you can always save it until you are in the mood.
Dylan Revisited had Courtney Marie Andrews sing this song; the harmonies are of course perfect but restrained, the emotion is there but kept under control… it is gorgeous. I would urge that even if you know this version, do listen again and just focus on those lines that have the vocal harmonies in. In a sense they can just pass by as part of the song – but if you can seek them out, they are stunningly done – utterly perfect in every way. Brilliant musicianship all round.
And finally Sinead Lonan. In a sense by this time I was thinking, “is there anything more to add?” but I recalled Jochen picking out this cover – and I can see why. If nothing else just listen to what happens between (and sometimes behind) the vocal lines. It has to be the version to finish with. This is musical reinterpretation at its finest, both from the orchestrator as well as the performers. I am just left thinking, “What a gorgeous song this is.”
Of course I hope one or two people will have read my ramblings and listened to these cover versions, but even if that is not the case, I’ve been brought back to the song, and I’m grateful that has happened. It is a superb song.
Here’s the rest of this series of reviews of Dylan covers in the Cover a Day series. Over 150 of them, so not enough to keep you going all year, but still, quite a few.
- 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
- BoB Dylan’s 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
- Oh Sister
- On the road again
- One more cup of coffee
- (Sooner or later) one of us must know
- One too many mornings
- Only a hobo
- Only a pawn in their game
- Outlaw Blues – prepare to be amazed
- Oxford Town
- Peggy Day and Pledging my time
- Please Mrs Henry
- Political world
- Positively 4th Street
- Precious Angel
- Property of Jesus
- Queen Jane Approximately
- Quinn the Eskimo as it should be performed.
- Quit your lowdown ways
- Rainy Day Women as never before
- Restless Farewell. Exquisite arrangements, unbelievable power
- Ring them bells in many different ways
- Romance in Durango, covered and re-written
- Sad Eyed Lady of Lowlands, like you won’t believe
- A series of Dreams; no one gets it (except Dylan)
- Seven Days
- She Belongs to Me
- Shelter from the Storm
- Sign on the window
- Simple twist of fate
- Slow Train
- Someday Baby
- Spanish Harlem Incident
- Standing in the Doorway
- Stuck inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again
- Subterranean Homesick Blues
- Sweetheart Like You
- Tangled up in Blue
- Tears of Rage
- Temporary Like Achilles. Left in the cold, but there’s still something…
- The Groom’s Still Waiting at the Altar
- The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll
- The Man in Me
- Times they are a-changin’
- The Wicked Messenger
- Things have changed
- This Wheel’s on Fire
- Thunder on the mountain
- Till I fell in love with you in the north of Norway
- Time Passes Slowly – just sit down and close your eyes
- To be alone with you