Posts Tagged ‘Bob Dylan’

Stephen Fain Earle (born January 17th, 1955) an American rock, country and folk singer-songwriter, record producer, author and actor. Earle began his career as a songwriter in Nashville and released his first EP in 1982. He grew up near San Antonio, Texas, and began learning the guitar at age 11. His breakthrough album was the 1986 album “Guitar Town”. Since then Earle has released 16 other studio albums and received three Grammy awards. His songs have been recorded by Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Travis Tritt, Vince Gill, Shawn Colvin and Emmylou Harris. He has appeared in film and television, and has written a novel, a play, and a book of short stories.  These are the best interpretations we can find of Steve Earle singing Bob Dylan’s songs.

“Señor (Tales of Yankee Power)”

Steve Earle with Lucia Micarelli  “One More Cup of Coffee (Valley Below)” possibily the best Bob Dylan cover ever, such passion and yearning in every line. When Dylan wrote ‘to the valley below’ it was deliberate, he took a prosaic sentence, one more cup of coffee before I go and changed it to a biblical epic with that line,

Steve Earle – guitar, vocal Lucia Micarelli – violin, vocal, From “Chimes of Freedom”: Songs of Bob Dylan Honouring 50 Years of Amnesty International –

“My Back Pages”

It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry”,

Fantastic end to the 1996 live MTV show called “To Hell and Back” of Steve Earle performing with the best Dukes line up and the awesome Custer on drums. With a song written by Bob Dylan that was originally released on his seminal album “Highway 61 Revisited”, and also included on the compilation album Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits 2 that was released in Europe.

“Masters of War” Musician Steve Earle sings Bob Dylan’s “Master’s of War.” Part of a reading from Voices of a People’s History of the United States (Howard Zinn and Anthony Arnove,) Berkeley, California on November 11th, 2006.

Steve Earle: “Was Townes Van Zandt Better Than Bob Dylan?…I’m kinda famous for something I said…I was asked for a sticker for a Townes record that came out in the 80s, I said, Townes Van Zandt is the best songwriter in the world and I’ll stand on Bob Dylan’s coffee table in my cowboy-boots and say that. 
It wasn’t that I thought that Townes was better than Bob Dylan. I just knew that Townes really needed the help more.”

Well, I love both Van Zandt and Dylan, and so does Steve Earle. He has done songs by both on several occasions, and he did an entire album with Townes Van Zandt songs. But Steve Earle is the perfect choice to sing any Dylan song.

“The Times They Are a-Changin’” is the third studio album by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, released in January 1964 by Columbia Records. Some critics and fans were not quite as taken with the album as a whole, relative to his previous work, for its lack of humour or musical diversity. Still, The Times They Are a-Changin’ entered the US chart at No20, eventually going gold, and belatedly reaching #4 in the UK in 1965.  The title track is one of Dylan’s most famous; many feel that it captures the spirit of social and political upheaval that characterized the 1960s.

Produced by Tom Wilson, it is the singer-songwriter’s first collection to feature only original compositions.  Whereas his previous albums Bob Dylan and The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan consisted of original material among cover songs, The album consists mostly of stark, sparsely-arranged ballads concerning issues such as racism, poverty, and social change. The title track is one of Dylan’s most famous; many felt that it captured the spirit of social and political upheaval that characterized the 1960s. The message isn’t in the words, …. I don’t do anything with a sort of message. I’m just transferring my thoughts into music. Nobody can give you a message like that.
~Bob Dylan (to Ray Coleman, May 1965)

Dylan’s third album reflects his mood in August-October 1963. It is also a product for his need to live up to and expand on the role he found himself in, topical poet, the restless young man with something to say, singing to and for a new generation. Dylan began work on his third album on August 6th, 1963, at Columbia’s Studio A in New York City. Once again, Tom Wilson was the producer for the entire album. Dylan had, by the time of recording, become a popular, influential cultural figure. Eight songs were recorded during that first session, but only one recording of “North Country Blues” was ultimately deemed usable and set aside as the master take. A master take of “Seven Curses” was also recorded, but it was left out of the final album sequence.

Another session at Studio A was held the following day, this time yielding master takes for four songs: “Ballad of Hollis Brown”, “With God on Our Side”, “Only a Pawn in Their Game”, and “Boots of Spanish Leather”, all of which were later included on the final album sequence.

A third session was held in Studio A on August 12th, but nothing from this session was deemed usable. However, three recordings are taken from the third session eventually saw official release: “master” takes of “Paths of Victory”, “Moonshine Blues” and “Only a Hobo” were all included on The Bootleg Series Volumes 1–3 (Rare & Unreleased) 1961–1991 released in 1991. In 2013, “Eternal Circle” and “Hero Blues” were included in the 1963 entry of The 50th Anniversary Collection 1963.

Sessions did not resume for more than two months. During the interim, Dylan toured briefly with Joan Baez, performing a number of key concerts that raised his profile in the media. When Dylan returned to Studio A on October 23rd, he had six more original compositions ready for recording. Master takes for “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll” and “When the Ship Comes In” were both culled from the October 23rd session. A master take for “Percy’s Song” was also recorded, but it was ultimately set aside and was not officially released until Biograph in 1985.

An alternate take on “Percy’s Song”, a “That’s All Right” (Arthur Crudup)/“Sally Free and Easy” (Cyril Tawney) medley and “East Laredo Blues” were released in 2013 on the 1963 entry of The 50th Anniversary Collection. Another session was held the following day, October 24th. Master takes of “The Times They Are a-Changin'” and “One Too Many Mornings” were recorded and later included in the final album sequence. A master take for “Lay Down Your Weary Tune” was also recorded, but ultimately left out of the final album; it was eventually released on Biograph. Two more outtakes, “Eternal Circle” and “Suze (The Cough Song)”, were later issued on The Bootleg Series Volumes 1-3 (Rare & Unreleased) 1961-1991. A final outtake, “New Orleans Rag”, was released in 2013 on “The 50th Anniversary Collection”.

The sixth and final session for The Times They Are a-Changin’ was held on October 31st, 1963. The entire session focused on one song—“Restless Farewell”—whose melody is taken from an Irish-Scots folk song, “The Parting Glass”, and it produced a master take that ultimately closed the album.

There were to be 6 recording sessions alltogether for The Times They Are a-Changin’.

If “The Times They Are a-Changin’” isn’t a marked step forward from The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, even if it is his first collection of all originals, it’s nevertheless a fine collection all the same. It isn’t as rich as Freewheelin’, and Dylan has tempered his sense of humour considerably, choosing to concentrate on social protests in the style of “Blowin’ in the Wind.” With the title track, he wrote an anthem that nearly equaled that song, and “With God on Our Side” and “Only a Pawn in Their Game” are nearly as good, while “Ballad of Hollis Brown” and “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll” are remarkably skilled re-castings of contemporary tales of injustice. His absurdity is missed, but he makes up for it with the wonderful “One Too Many Mornings” and “Boots of Spanish Leather,” two lovely classics.

On October 26th, 1963, three days after recording the final song for The Times They Are a-Changin, Dylan held a concert at New York’s Carnegie Hall. That night, he performed eight songs from his forthcoming third album, as well as several outtakes from the same album sessions (including “Percy’s Song”, “Seven Curses”, and “Lay Down Your Weary Tune”). Columbia recorded the entire concert, but it was decades before a substantial portion of it was officially released (in fact to date the concert in its entirety has not been released). Nevertheless, the performance was well received by the press and audience alike

If there are a couple of songs that don’t achieve the level of the aforementioned songs, that speaks more to the quality of those songs than the weakness of the remainder of the record. And that’s also true of the album itself — yes, it pales next to its predecessor, but it’s terrific by any other standard.

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In 1975, in an America defined by both the self-mythologizing pomp of the upcoming bicentennial and ongoing socio-political turmoil, BOB DYLAN and his band of troubadours—including luminaries such as JOAN BAEZ, ALLEN GINSBERG, and JONI MITCHELL—embarked on a now-legendary tour known as The Rolling Thunder Revue, a freewheeling variety show that was part traveling counterculture carnival, part spiritual pilgrimage. Director Martin Scorese blends behind-the-scenes archival footage, interviews, and narrative mischief, with a magician’s sleight of hand, into a zeitgeist-defining cultural record that is as much a concert “documentary” as it is a slippery, chimerical investigation into memory, time, truth, and illusion. At the centre of it all is the magnetic Dylan, a sphinx-like philosopher-poet singing, with electrifying conviction, to the soul of an anxious nation.

BONUS FEATURES: DIRECTOR-APPROVED SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES:
• New 4K digital transfer, approved by director Martin Scorsese, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack
• New interviews with Scorsese, editor David Tedeschi, and writer Larry “Ratso” Sloman
• Restored footage of never-before-seen Rolling Thunder Revue performances of “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here with You” and “Romance in Durango,” and of a never-before-seen cut of “Tangled Up in Blue”.
• Trailer
• English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
• PLUS: An essay by novelist Dana Spiotta and writing from the Rolling Thunder Revue tour by author Sam Shepard and poets Allen Ginsberg and Anne Waldman.

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It started with a plea from one friend to another. George Harrison had been close to the legendary Indian classical musician Ravi Shankar since the mid-’60s, when the Beatle first sought an expert to teach him to play the multi-stringed Indian sitar. Ravi Shankar, older than Harrison by some 22 years and the acknowledged world master of the instrument, was from Bangladesh (previously known as East Pakistan) in the South Asian region of Bengal. At the time, in 1971, Harrison’s website states, “The country was ravaged by floods, famine and civil war, which left 10 million people mostly women and children fleeing their homes.” Feeling distraught and wanting to help, Shankar met with Harrison and asked if he might be able to draw attention to the crisis, and possibly use his fame to do something to raise some funds for aid. “Yes,” Harrison told him, “I think I’ll be able to do something.”

In April of 1971, Harrison went to work recruiting friends for a one-time-only concert; by June he had already received commitments from several of the biggest names on rock. He also arranged for a film and recording to be made of the event, the proceeds of which would go toward the cause. The concert date was set for August 1st, 1971, two shows .The shows were held at 2:30 and 8:00 pm(afternoon and evening) to take place at New York’s Madison Square Garden. Not only would The Concert for Bangladesh be Harrison’s first major live appearance since the Beatles quit touring five years earlier, it would go down as one of the greatest evenings of classic rock in history. The event was the first-ever benefit of such a magnitude, and featured a supergroup of performers that included Harrison, fellow ex-Beatle Ringo Starr, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Billy Preston, Leon Russell and the band Badfinger. In addition, Shankar and Ali Akbar Khan – both of whom had ancestral roots in Bangladesh – performed an opening set of Indian classical music. The concerts were attended by a total of 40,000 people, and the initial gate receipts raised close to $250,000 for Bangladesh relief, which was administered by UNICEF. After collecting the musicians easily, Harrison found it extremely difficult to get the recording industry to release the rights for performers to share the stage, and millions of dollars raised from the album and film were tied up in IRS tax escrow accounts for years, but the Concert for Bangladesh is recognised as a highly successful and influential humanitarian aid project.

Shankar’s original hope was to raise $25,000 through a benefit concert of his own, With Harrison’s commitment, and the record and film outlets available to him through the Beatles’ Apple Corps organisation, the idea soon grew to become a star-studded musical event, mixing Western rock with Indian classical music.

According to Chris O’Dell, a music-business administrator and former Apple employee, Harrison got off the phone with Shankar once the concept had been finalised, and started enthusing with his wife, Pattie Boyd, and herself about possible performers. Ringo Starr, Lennon, Eric Clapton, Leon Russell, Jim Keltner, Voormann, Billy Preston and Badfinger were all mentioned during this initial brainstorming. The Concert For Bangladesh happened because of my relationship with Ravi … I said, “If you want me to be involved, I think I’d better be really involved,” so I started recruiting all these people.  O’Dell set about contacting local musicians from the Harrisons’ rented house in Nichols Canyon, as Harrison took the long-distance calls, hoping more than anything to secure Bob Dylan’s participation

Almost all of Harrison’s first-choice names signed on immediately, while a day spent boating with Memphis musician Don Nix resulted in the latter agreeing to organise a group of backing singers. The Sunday, was the only day that Madison Square Garden was available at such short notice. By the first week of July Harrison was in a Los Angeles studio recording his purpose-written song, “Bangla Desh”, with co-producer Phil Spector. The song’s opening verse documents Shankar’s plea to Harrison for assistance, and the lyrics “My friend came to me with sadness in his eyes / Told me that he wanted help before his country dies” 

Harrison then met with Apple signed band Badfinger in London to explain that he would have to abandon work on “Straight Up” , before flying to New York on 13 July to see Lennon. During the middle of July also, once back in Los Angeles, Harrison produced Shankar’s Bangladesh benefit record, an EP titled Joi Bangla. As with Harrison’s “Bangla Desh”, all profits from this recording would go to the newly established George Harrison–Ravi Shankar Special Emergency Relief Fund, to be distributed by UNICEF.

Also around the middle of July, the upcoming concert by “George Harrison and Friends” was announced via a small ad buried in the back pages of the New York Times”, Tickets sold out in no time, leading to the announcement of a second show. Towards the end of the month, when all parties were due to meet in New York for rehearsals, Harrison had the commitment of a backing band comprising: Preston, on keyboards; the four members of Badfinger, on acoustic rhythm guitars and tambourine; Voormann and Keltner, on bass and drums, respectively; and saxophonist Jim Horn’s so-called “Hollywood Horns”, which included Chuck Findley, Jackie Kelso and Lou McCreary. Of the established stars, Leon Russell had committed also, but on the proviso that he be supported by members of his tour band. Eric Clapton insisted that he too would be there, even if O’Dell and other insiders, knowing of the guitarist’s incapacity due to his severe heroin addiction, were surprised that Harrison had considered him for the occasion. Among Harrison’s former bandmates, John Lennon initially agreed to take part in the concert without his wife and musical partner Yoko Ono, as Harrison had apparently stipulated. Lennon then allegedly had an argument with Ono as a result of this agreement and left New York in a rage two days before the concerts The line up was staggering: First, there was Ringo Starr. As if half of the Beatles wasn’t enough of an enticement to fans,

As well as the songs he would go on to perform Harrison’s list included his own compositions “All Things Must Pass” with Leon Russell, apparently “Art of Dying” and the just-recorded B-side “Deep Blue” Eric Clapton’s song “Let It Rain” appeared also, while the suggestions for Dylan’s set were “If Not for You”, “Watching the River Flow” (his recent, Leon Russell-produced single) and “Blowin’ in the Wind”. Only Harrison, Voormann, the six-piece horn section, and Badfinger’s Pete Ham, Joey Molland, Tom Evans and Mike Gibbins were at Nola Studios on that first day of rehearsals, and subsequent rehearsals were similarly carried out in “dribs and drabs”, as Harrison put it.

Only the final run-through, on the night before the concert, resembled a complete band rehearsal. On Tuesday, 27th July, Harrison and Shankar, accompanied by a pipe-smoking Allen Klein, held a press conference to promote the two shows notoriously performance-shy, Harrison said “Just thinking about it makes me shake. The “Bangla Desh” charity single was issued in America with a UK release following two days later. Ringo Starr arrived on the Thursday, and by Friday, 30th July, Russell was in town, interrupting his US tour. Leon Russell’s band members Claudia Linnear and Don Preston were added to Don Nix’s choir of backing singers. Billy Preston would switch to lead guitar for Russell’s solo spot during the shows, just as bassist Carl Radle would replace Voormann temporarily. At this point, Clapton’s participation was gravely in doubt, and Harrison had drafted in Jesse Ed Davis as a probable replacement. The ex-Taj Mahal guitarist received last-minute coaching from Voormann, who was more than familiar with Harrison’s songs, as well as those by Billy Preston and Starr.

The final rehearsal, the first for some of the participants, was combined with the concert soundcheck, at Madison Square Garden, late on 31 July. Both Dylan and Clapton finally appeared at the soundcheck that night.Even then, Clapton was in the early stages of heroin withdrawal – only a cameraman supplying him with some methadone would result in the English guitarist taking the stage the following day, after his young girlfriend had been unsuccessful in purchasing uncut heroin for him on the street. To Harrison’s frustration, Dylan was having severe doubts about performing in such a big-event atmosphere and still would not commit to playing. “Look, it’s not my scene, either,” Harrison countered. “At least you’ve played on your own in front of a crowd before. I’ve never done that.”  Stephen Stills having proceeded to sell out Madison Square Garden two days before the concert on 30th July, in support of his album, “Stephen Stills 2”, allowed Harrison to use his stage, sound, lighting system and production manager but was upset when Harrison “neglected to invite him to perform, mention his name, or say thank you”. Stills then spent the show drunk in Ringo Starr’s dressing room, “barking at everyone”.

The shows began with sets by Shankar and his musicians, followed by Harrison and his entourage, performing material both from his emerging solo career. Harrison began the concert with “Wah-Wah”, followed by his Beatles hit song’ “Something” and the gospel-rocker “Awaiting on You All”. Harrison then handed the spotlight over to Preston, who performed his only sizeable hit  “That’s the Way God Planned It”, followed by Ringo Starr, whose song “It Don’t Come Easy” had recently established the drummer as a solo artist. Next up was Harrison’s “Beware of Darkness”, with guest vocals on the third verse by Russell, who covered the song on his concurrent album, Leon Russell and the Shelter People. After pausing to introduce the band, Harrison followed this with one of the best-received moments in both the shows – a charging version of the White Album track “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, featuring him and Clapton “duelling” on lead guitar during the long instrumental playout.

Both the band introduction and “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” are among the few selections from the afternoon show that were included on the album and in the film. Another one was Leon Russell’s medley of the Rolling Stones’ “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and the Coasters’ “Young Blood”, which was also a highlight of Russell’s live shows at the time. With Don Preston crossing the stage to play lead guitar with Harrison, there were now temporarily four electric guitarists in the line-up. Don Preston, Harrison and Claudia Linnear supplied supporting vocals behind Russell. In an effective change of pace, Harrison picked up his acoustic guitar, now alone on the stage save for Pete Ham on a second acoustic, and Don Nix’s gospel choir, off to stage-left. The ensuing “Here Comes the Sun” – the first live performance of the song, as for Harrison’s other Beatle compositions played that day was also warmly received. At this point, Harrison switched back to his white Fender Stratocaster electric guitar he looked down at the setlist taped to the body of the guitar and saw the word “Bob” followed by a question mark. “And I looked around,” Harrison recalled of Bob Dylan’s entrance, “and he was so nervous – he had his guitar on and his shades. It was only at that moment that I knew for sure he was going to do it.” Among the audience, there was “total astonishment” at this new arrival. As Harrison had envisaged, Dylan’s mini-set was the crowning glory of the Concert for Bangladesh for many observers. Backed by just Harrison, Russell (now playing Voormann’s Fender Precision bass) and Starr on tambourine, Dylan played five of his decade-defining songs from the 1960s.

The moment that put the Concert for Bangladesh over the top as one for the ages was when Bob Dylan walked out onstage. Like Harrison, he had not performed in public much recently, since a 1966 motorcycle accident that caused him to reassess his life and career. Dylan, who was reportedly nervous about playing to such a large audience, arrived onstage for the first show accompanied by Harrison, Russell (on bass) and Starr (playing tambourine) and performed five of his greatest compositions: “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,” “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry,” “Love Minus Zero/No Limit” and “Just Like a Woman,” before Harrison and the band closed out the show. The evening show followed a similar trajectory, with both Harrison and Dylan making a handful of changes to their set lists: Dylan, notably, added “Mr. Tambourine Man” in place of “Love Minus Zero.”

Harrison and the band then returned to perform a final segment, consisting of his recent international number one hit, “My Sweet Lord”, followed by the song of the moment – “Bangla Desh”.

The Concert for Bangladesh recording, featuring highlights from the two shows, was released on December 20th, 1971, also winning the Grammy for Album of the Year. The film, Following the Bangladesh concerts, some controversy ensued over the allocation of the funds but an estimated $12 million ultimately found its way to aid in the relief efforts over the next decade and a half. And in the world of rock music, the 1971 Concert for Bangladesh is viewed as a landmark event, the first true large-scale benefit concert of its type; it would serve as the model for Live Aid and is seen as the prototype for many other such charitable events even today.

As of August 2020, neither the album nor DVD was in print. Perhaps for its 50th anniversary in 2021we get an updated version along with a full set of the songs performed each night.

 

By Popular Demand, Bob Dylan – 1970 (50th Anniversary Collection) to Be Widely Released by Columbia Records/Legacy Recordings on February 26, 2021

Bob Dylan will release a new compilation, Bob Dylan – 1970 (50th Anniversary Collection), featuring studio performances with George Harrison and more. The set will arrive on February 26th, 2021 via Columbia Records/Legacy Recordings.

Recordings from the three-disc set were released in a limited edition on December 4th as part of the Bob Dylan – 50th Anniversary Collection copyright extension series. The buzz around the recordings, especially those with George Harrison, garnered the recordings a wider release.  

Still, arguably the most notable material on the three-disc collection is the complete May 1st, 1970 studio recordings alongside George Harrison. They performed a total of nine tracks together, including Dylan originals, cover songs and even a rendition of the Beatles classic “Yesterday.” Dylan and Harrison sat down in the studio and performed Dylan originals including “One Too Many Mornings,” “Gates of Eden” and “Mama, You Been On My Mind” along with covers like the Everly Brothers’ “All I Have to Do Is Dream,” Carl Perkins’ “Matchbox” and more. The set also features outtakes from the sessions around Dylan’s Self Portrait and New Morning albums, which feature frequent Dylan collaborators like drummer Russ Kunkel and Al Kooper on organ along with renowned session guitarist and singer-songwriter David Bromberg.

The material has never seen wide public release, but this isn’t the first time it has seen the light of day. These songs were earlier put on sale in a very limited edition in the U.K. to circumvent a European law stipulating that recordings enter the public domain 50 years after their creation if they aren’t officially released by their copyright holder. The collection sold out in seconds, as Dylan continues issuing archival material in order to avoid the legal distribution of third-party bootleg.

A 50th anniversary collection of recordings by Bob Dylan is scheduled for release on February 26th.

Chrissie Hynde (L) and James Walbourne from The Pretenders on stage at OverOslo on June 21, 2019 in Oslo, Norway.

When Chrissie Hynde heard Bob Dylan’s “Murder Most Foul,” the 17-minute elegy he had recorded about John F. Kennedy and surprise-released in late March, she was caught by surprise. “It really knocked me sideways,” she says “It’s so magnificent.”

Like everyone, she was in what she describes as an “odd frame of mind” due to the pandemic-related lockdowns that had gone into effect a few weeks earlier. So with no outside distractions, the song teleported her back to her youth. “It brought back my whole childhood and my past,” she says. “I remembered exactly where I was sitting in the sixth grade at my desk when the news [of JFK’s assassination] came over the Tannoy [P.A.] system. Then I was thinking about Bob and how significant he’s been throughout my lifetime — and everyone’s lives. I’ve gone to see shows of his and there are grown men, older than me, standing up, like, in tears just because he’s there.”

I was so buoyed up by the new Dylan songs that I talked to Pretenders Guitar playing hot-shot James Walbourne and we decided it’s a good time to do those Dylan songs we’ve always talked about doing. Every singer-songwriter in the world covers the master’s songs and there is an endless supply of them. So we’ve started, and will do one a week until lockdown ends. The First one is off the “Shot of Love” album, “In The Summertime”. We did it from home on our phones. I did the rhythm – sent it to James, he added guitar , sent it back to me, I then put on the vocal , sent it back to him, he put on some back up vocals and organ, then we sent it to Tchad Blake to tidy up. I know you don’t need the behind the scenes details so I won’t repeat myself on the next one. xch

Hynde had planned on hitting the road this spring with the Pretenders, in support of their hard-hitting new album, Hate for Sale, but now she had an empty diary. She’d seen Dylan live a few times with the band’s lead guitarist, James Walbourne, and had remarked to him she would love to cover some Dylan songs.

Hynde and Walbourne released the first installment of what they dubbed their “Dylan Lockdown Series,” “In the Summertime.” Dylan’s version of the track, which appeared on his 1981 LP Shot of Love, was a mid-tempo, harmonica-soaked nostalgia piece. Hynde and Walbourne toughened it up a little with some forceful acoustic guitar, a lusher chorus, and an organ replacing some of the harmonica, as she hung onto his words to fit them to her voice. “I sent James a rhythm track on my phone, he added to it, and I put a vocal to it,” she says, explaining their quarantine-era methodology. “Then we sent it to [engineer] Tchad Blake, who is out in the wilds of Wales, to mix it. I love working with him.”

I was so buoyed up by the new Dylan songs that I talked to Pretenders Guitar playing hot-shot James Walbourne and we decided it’s a good time to do those Dylan songs we’ve always talked about doing. Every singer-songwriter in the world covers the master’s songs and there is an endless supply of them. So we’ve started, and will do one a week until lockdown ends. – chx

The third in the Dylan Lockdown Series: James & Chrissie’s reading of ‘Standing In The Doorway’ taken from the “Time Out Of Mind”, great album. After she was pleased with the finished product, she started picking more songs. They made Blood on the Tracks’ “You’re a Big Girl Now”sound a little more country and contemplative. They took the gospel-tingedTime Out of Mind number“Standing in the Doorway” and opened the windows on it, making it into something more uplifting. And they interpreted the gentle“Sweetheart Like You,”from Infidels— the album Dylan was touring on when Hynde joined him at Wembley — and made it sound sparse, with just guitar, piano, and Hynde’s voice.

The fourth in the Dylan lockdown series: Chrissie and James’ tender cover of Bob Dylan’s “Sweetheart Like You”

Number 5 of the Dylan Lockdown series: Chrissie and James’ cover of Bob Dylan’s Blind Willie McTell “Blind Willie McTell” is a song titled after the Piedmont blues and ragtime singer / guitarist Blind Willie McTell. It was recorded in the spring of 1983, during the sessions for Dylan’s album Infidels, but was left off the album and officially released only in 1991 on The Bootleg Series Volumes 1–3 (Rare & Unreleased) 1961–1991. “I just love always discovering new Dylan stuff and discovering old albums,” Walbourne says, on a break from learning the chords to the Infidels-era outtake “Blind Willie McTell” on the piano. “When I saw Martin Scorsese’s Rolling Thunder doc on Netflix, I had no idea [Dylan] was that crazy during that time.”

CHRISSIE HYNDE & JAMES WALBOUNE – DYLAN LOCKDOWN SERIES NO.6: LOVE MINUS ZERO

Hynde and Walbourne uploaded the final entry in their Dylan Lockdown Series, their rendition of “Tomorrow Is a Long Time,” a quiet acoustic folk number that debuted on Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits, Vol. 2. Hynde and Walbourne kept it acoustic but made it more upbeat with organ and plinking cymbals, even when she sings, “If tomorrow wasn’t such a long time, then lonesome would mean nothing to you at all.” You can hear both her deference to Dylan and how the song is personal enough that she feels comfortable making it her own.

“Everyone goes back a long way with him because everyone has their own personal history [with his songs],” she says. “In his case, it’s very personal, because his songs are so personal. People who are fans of his really are fans. He’s not a lightweight; he’s a heavyweight. He’s been there for a longtime with us, so he’s seen us through many things, and we’ve seen him through.”

She pauses and considers just what it has meant to her to sing these songs. “It sounds like it’d be so easy, but first of all, you’re trying not to sing them the way you’ve heard them over the years because you get locked into that,” she says. “You can’t consciously sing them differently, so you just have to find your own thing. So it’s been an interesting and a fun thing to do. I’m very grateful to have the time to do this, because otherwise I’d be on a tour bus right now.”

she realized that now was the perfect time to pay tribute to a man who had inspired her for most of her life. She had grown up with Dylan’s music and has had the opportunity to pay tribute to him in the past — she joined him at Wembley Stadium for renditions of “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat” and “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” in 1984, and she sang a stunning rendition of “I Shall Be Released” to him at his 1992 30th anniversary concert — but she has long wanted to do more. “Any singer-songwriter would like to do every Bob Dylan song they can get their hands on, and there’s thousands to choose from,” she says.

With a catalogue like Dylan’s, there’s so much there,” Hynde says. “I mean, I’m not one of these Dylan … … what do they call them … ‘Dylanologists’ to get on chat lines and discuss every lyric and everything. Although why not? But you know, I’m not into it from an academic, intellectual point of view. I wouldn’t take it in a college course. But if there’s songs I’ve lived through, such as when ‘Like A Rollin’ Stone’ and [similar songs] came on the radio back in the Sixties, they really changed the way songwriting was across the board. Probably even James Brown was affected by him; he started writing songs like ‘The Big Payback.’ And, I mean, Hendrix. Anyway, and so there’s this huge catalogue and you can dip in if you want.” She waits a beat. “And I want.”

That said, she admits that Dylanologists have been keeping her on her toes. “You don’t want to fuck up a Dylan song and have thousands of Dylanologists gunning for you,” she says. When she covered “Sweetheart Like You,” she struggled a little with how she wanted to sing some of Dylan’s words.

“These days, you don’t have to change the gender of a lyric because it doesn’t matter anymore,” Hynde says. “That was always a problem in the past, since sometimes it kind of compromises the song. Like if it didn’t sound right to change, ‘She loves me’ to ‘He loves me,’ let’s say. These days, you can do anything.

“But there was one second verse in ‘What’s a Sweetheart Like You’ that said, ‘She used to call me sweet daddy when I was only a child,’ and I thought ‘That’s gonna be really awkward,’” she continues. “I couldn’t figure out how to make that mine. So I went through the archives of different versions he’s done and found a Spanish translation that had a different verse, so I just used that one. I mean, he sang it in English, maybe it wasn’t the official, and then I thought, ‘Oh, these guys are gonna come after me now and say, “That’s not what he wrote.”‘ But it is what he wrote.”

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The story goes that when Bob Dylan heard Jimi Hendrix’s swirling cover of ‘All Along The Watchtower’ he said that the track no longer belonged to him, that Jimi had provided the essential version of the song. He clearly hadn’t heard XTC’s fresh take of the track on the TV show ‘So It Goes’.

While punk rock was sweeping the globe and the need to destroy the past to create a new future was an ethos that many bands latched on to, a rejection of rock ‘n’ roll’s past was a fashionable thing and most punks spent their time describing the acts that came before them with a snotty snort of derision. However, one band was happy to take a look back to the sixties and find themselves a gem, that band was XTC.

The group formed in Swindon in 1972 and quickly merged into an impressive unit. Fronted by Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding, they were creating avant-garde rock before punk was a murmur in the streets of London. But with the rise of punk, the band found themselves a home on Virgin Records and released their debut album, White Music.

The album was full of fresh new sounds and, in a 2009 interview, Partridge said of the record which began with their song ‘Radios in Motion’: “We couldn’t think of any better way to start off our first album than with the ‘kick the door in’, breezy opener we used in our live set… the lyrics are very silly, picked for their sonic effect rather than meaning. The first refuge of an inexperienced songwriter, forgive me, but they do have a youthful scattergun energy.”

While the record was brimming with youthful exuberance, one moment on the album stands out among the rest though with their cover of Dylan’s ‘All Along The Watchtower’. The idea for a cover was a toss-up between the Dylan song and The Rolling Stones’ ‘Citadel’, as he explained: “I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to cover one of these songs, because they’re both from people who represent the Old Guard,” remembered Partridge. “I think it would be mischievous to do either of these songs in a radically different way, and to show that we’re not in awe of the Old Guard, and that we can take something that they’ve done, smash it all up, and put it back together in our way.”

There was no better place to show of this newly smashed and glued back together track than Anthony Wilson’s ‘So It Goes’. The TV show was quickly becoming known for giving new punk talent a shot at a television spot, a coveted thing in the late seventies. XTC knew they had an opportunity to take and they certainly grabbed it with both hands.  That moment as XTC smash it all up and put it back together again with a smirk and a dubby rhythm which is truly intoxicating. It may not be Dylan’s favourite cover version but it’s right up there as the most unique seen on independent TV.

 

Gearing up for the release of Blonde on the Tracks, her album of Bob Dylan covers, Emma Swift has dropped a tender rendition of “Queen Jane Approximately.”

A highlight from 1965’s Highway 61 Revisited, Swift’s cover showcases her delicate vocals over a 12-string Rickenbacker guitar. The video, which features animation and photos by Hugh Hales-Tooke, contains imagery from Dylan’s 1975-1976 Rolling Thunder Revue tour. He appears as a full moon in his iconic whiteface makeup, as Swift views him through a telescope.

“The idea for the album came about during a long depressive phase,” Swift said of Blonde on the Tracks. “The kind where it’s hard to get out of bed and get dressed and present to the world as a high-functioning human. I was lost on all fronts no doubt, but especially creatively.”

“I’ve never been a prolific writer, but this period was especially wordless,” she continued.  “Sad, listless and desperate, I began singing Bob Dylan songs as a way to have something to wake up for. Interpreting other people’s emotions is how I learned to sing and I’ve always enjoyed hearing Dylan’s songs from a female perspective. You can learn a lot about melody and feeling by the way a singer chooses to interpret someone else’s song.”

“Queen Jane Approximately” follows Swift’s cover of “I Contain Multitudes,” the original of which appears on Dylan’s latest album, Rough and Rowdy Ways. Other songs on the LP include the Blonde on Blonde tracks “One of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later)” and “Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands,” as well as “Simple Twist of Fate” and “You’re a Big Girl Now” from Blood on the Tracks.

Blonde on the Tracks was first recorded at Nashville’s Magnetic Sound Studio in 2017. It was produced by Wilco’s Patrick Sansone and features Robyn Hitchcock on guitar, Thayer Serrano on pedal steel guitar, Jon Estes on bass and Jon Radford on drums.

From Emma’s forthcoming album “Blonde on the Tracks”: a reimagining of Bob Dylan songs out August 14 on Tiny Ghost Records.

Pretty Good Stuff: Dylan historian James Adams’ hour-long, monthly, program diving deep into the depths of all things Dwarf Music. Listen to the show below, and to explore further, support our Patreon for the individual tracks and more.

Pretty Good Stuff: Ep. 7

Bob Dylan :: Pretty Good Stuff | Episode 7

Opening: DJ talk over theme: What Can I Do For You? 19980-01-15 – Seattle, WA)
01:17: Shelter From The Storm (1995-04-09 Glasgow, Scotland)
07:53: The Ballad of the Gliding Swan (1962-12-30 London, England – Madhouse on Castle Street)
08:54: The Man In Me (1978-06-01 Los Angeles, CA)
12:37: Bob Dylan – Excerpt from Interview with Jann Wenner – 2007
13:13: God Knows (2006-04-08 Sun City West, AZ)
18:44: Scarlet Town (2018-11-20 Waterbury, CT)
23:56: Come Together (1985-00-00 Unknown)
27:39: Lady Came From Baltimore (1994-04-06 Davenport, IA)
30:30: DJ talk over Born In Time (1998-11-02 Syracuse, NY)
33:20: Watching The River Flow (1987-10-05 Locarno, Switzerland)
37:12: Bob Dylan – Excerpt from NPR Interview – 2004
38:19: Tryin’ to Get to Heaven (2000-09-27 Rotterdam, The Netherlands)
43:15: Maggie’s Farm (1976-05-18 Oklahoma City, OK)
48:14: One Too Many Mornings (1989-06-07 Birmingham, England)
52:28: DJ talk over Stay With Me (2015-04-24 Atlanta, GA)
54:28: Love Sick (11-22-15 Milan, Italy)
59:25: Out

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In recent weeks, musicians have come up with an impressive variety of ways to keep their fans amused during lockdown. There have been online listening parties and Q&As, free guitar lessons via Instagram, live performances beamed direct from bedrooms, DJ sets and kitchen discos. But no artist has risen to the task of keeping their audience occupied quite like Bob Dylan. A crowdpleaser only in sofar as the crowd he attracts would be pleased whatever he did – a significant proportion of his latter-day audience are so partisan you get the feeling they’d be sent into paroxysms of ecstasy if he stood on stage with a comb and paper for two hours, he simply released three new songs. An artist who’s quite literally said nothing new for the last eight years (his last three albums have been comprised entirely of covers from the Great American Songbook, the rest of his release schedule made up of archival recordings).

The first, “Murder Most Foul”, went on for 17 minutes and sounded unlike anything he had previously recorded, a recitation set to a haze of piano, violin and lightly struck drums. The second, “I Contain Multitudes”, was significantly shorter and more conventional – a delicate, percussion-free ballad – but still contained enough lyrical heft to provoke news stories: within a week of its release, the British press was triumphantly reporting that someone had cracked the mention of the Irish village of Ballinalee in its first verse, tapping a Harvard professor to attest that it was a reference to the work of a blind 18th-century poet called Antoine Ó Raifteirí. The third, “False Prophet”, was a ferocious blues song, the latest in a series of adaptations of other artists’ material that stretches back to the dawn of Dylan’s career: this time a 1954 B-side by Billy “The Kid” Emerson, an obscure R&B singer-songwriter once signed to Sun Records. In the lyrics, meanwhile, the search for the Holy Grail jostled for space with characters from old rock’n’roll songs – Ricky Nelson’s Mary Lou, Jimmy Wages’ Miss Pearl – recast in the role that Virgil played in Dante’s Inferno: “fleet-footed guides from the underworld”. Clearly, the task of unpicking everything that was going on in the lyrics would keep Dylanologists indoors long after lockdown ended.
Perhaps more importantly, they were the kind of Dylan songs that brooked very little argument about their quality, the kind of Dylan song you could play to a Dylan agnostic as testament to his continued greatness. This is a category of material that’s been a little thinner on the ground on his latest albums than their more hysterical reviews would suggest: for all the hosannahs thrown in its direction, it was entirely possible to listen to 2012’s Tempest and be alternately thrilled by the furious power of Pay in Blood and faintly mortified by Roll on John, a Lennon tribute that strung Beatles lyrics together in a way that would make Noel Gallagher blush.

Happily, the standard set by the three tracks that heralded its arrival is kept up all the way through Rough and Rowdy Ways. The musical abstraction of Murder Most Foul turns out to be a feint: tellingly it occupies a separate disc to the rest of the album when the whole thing could easily have fitted on one CD. The rest almost exclusively deals in music that hails from the era before Dylan showed up and changed everything: with the possible exception of the lambent penultimate track, Key West (Philosopher Pirate), which carries a faint hint of The Basement Tapes about its sound – albeit with an accordion filling the space Garth Hudson’s organ would have done – everything else feels directly rooted in the 50s or earlier.

There’s a lot of rhythm and blues, while I’ve Made Up My Mind to Give Myself to You sets its utterly beautiful descending melody to a sound that carries traces of both small-hours doo-wop and pre-rock’n’roll pop. The musical inspiration behind Goodbye Jimmy Reed is obvious from its title, but by the third verse, Dylan doesn’t seem to be talking about the titular bluesman so much as himself when forced to face down the various expectations that audiences have attached to him virtually from the moment he first appeared: “They threw everything at me, everything in the book … they had no pity, they wouldn’t lend a hand, I can’t sing a song I don’t understand.”

These are musical areas in which Dylan has worked for years. What sets Rough and Rowdy Ways apart from Tempest or 2006’s Modern Times is the sheer consistency of the songwriting; there’s nothing here that sounds like dashed-off filler, nothing that doesn’t hit home. Dylan nuts have a great line in telling you how hilarious lyrics that seem capable of raising at best a wry smile are – “Freddie or not, here I come”, “I’m not dead yet, my bell still rings” etc – but My Own Version, in which the protagonist turns Frankenstein and builds himself a lover out of bits of corpses, is packed with genuinely funny lines amid the references to Shakespeare, Homer’s Iliad, Bo Diddley and Martin Scorsese, as well as a curious interlude during which Freud and Marx are depicted as “enemies of mankind” burning in hell: “All through the summers into January, I’ve been visiting morgues and monasteries … if I do it right and put the head on straight, I’ll be saved by the creature that I create.”

This is obviously humour of a dark hue: if Tempest’s prevalent mood was one of murderous fury, then here it’s brooding menace and imminent doom. It’s there in the music – the weird tension in Crossing the Rubicon’s muted R&B shuffle and the way the backing on Black Rider keeps lapsing into ominous silence. You lose count of the lyrical references to judgment day and Armageddon, of the mysterious characters that keep cropping up with malevolence on their minds: “I can feel the bones beneath my skin and they’re trembling with rage, I’ll make your wife a widow, you’ll never see middle age,” he sings on Crossing the Rubicon. Of course, grouchily informing the world that everything is turning to shit has been one of Dylan’s prevalent songwriting modes for a quarter of a century – it’s the thread that binds Not Dark Yet, Things Have Changed, Ain’t Talkin’ and Early Roman Kings, among others – but this time the message seems to have shifted slightly: if you think everything has turned to shit now, Rough and Rowdy Ways keeps insisting, just you wait.

This isn’t perhaps the most comforting communique to issue in the middle of a global pandemic, but then the man behind it has seldom dealt in soothing reassurance. And besides, it doesn’t matter. For all its bleakness, Rough and Rowdy Ways might well be Bob Dylan’s most consistently brilliant set of songs in years: the die-hards can spend months unravelling the knottier lyrics, but you don’t need a PhD in Dylanology to appreciate its singular quality and power.

Rough and Rowdy Ways is released on Columbia on 19th June.