Monday, May 24, 2010

Five Favorite Bob Dylan Covers

Happy birthday to Mr. Bob Dylan, who is 69 today and probably never expected to live this long. I'm glad that he did. His work of recent years is as strong as his earliest stuff; I particularly love Time out of Mind.

At the risk of drawing accusations of heresy, however, I will say that Dylan's songs often sound better when other people sing them. He's a unique stylist, but it's an acquired taste. These are my five favorite versions of Bob Dylan songs, as covered by other people. Leave your own recommendations in the comments section.

1. "I Shall Be Released," The Band. Sorry, no other version of this song comes close. Nina Simone's cover is also amazing, but this is the definitive version.


2. "Knockin' on Heaven's Door," Warren Zevon. Recorded near the end of his life as part of Zevon's last studio album, The Wind, this version rips your heart out and stomps it through a grate. Zevon's plea "Open up, open up" as the song fades is almost too painful to listen to.

3. "Sweetheart Like You," Guy Davis. My favorite song off my second-favorite Dylan album, Infidels (favorite: Blood on the Tracks), covered by a blues master you need to be listening to.

4. Rosanne Cash, "Girl from the North Country." If you have not yet acquired The List, you're missing out. Rosanne Cash covers 13 songs from a list of 100 Essential Country Songs her father gave her when she was 18; John Leventhal's spare, crystal-clear production makes it sound like we're in the studio with her.

5. Bryan Ferry, "A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall." This particular cover got sold for a television commercial, and while I object to that (and can't even remember the product being advertised), it ensured that many more people heard it, which is no bad thing. It says a lot about Dylan's genius and versatility that his songs can be covered as everything from classic country to post-punk pop.

10 comments:

Tom Ehrenfeld said...

I'm partial to the Glen Hansard/Marketa Irglova cover of You Ain't Goin Nowhere from the I'm Not There soundtrack, as well as the Jeff Tweedy Simple Twist of Fate from that collection. And while I know this is goofy, I am fond of the Guns N Roses cover of Knocking on Heaven's Door, if only for that great moment where Axel barks out "hey hey hey". And there's the Joan Baez cover of Simple Twist of Fate too, which may not belong on the greatest covers list but has a great moment where she sings a line imitating his twang, a nice tribute considering they were lovers at one point.

And let's not forget George Harrison's beautiful cover of If Not For You from All Things Must Pass....

Kieran Shea said...

Clair:

http://www.amazon.com/Dylanesque-Bryan-Ferry/dp/B000LPR0SE

Awesome.

AnswerGirl said...

I don't know why I don't already own that, Kieran. Thanks!

Kevin Wignall said...

Ahem... "All Along the Watchtower" by Jimi Hendrix? Does it for me anyway. I love the Ferry, too.

AnswerGirl said...

I know why I'm supposed to love Jimi Hendrix; I just don't. I admire his skill, but I've never had the thought, "Gee, I'm in the mood to listen to some Hendrix." Might be a Y-chromosome thing, as much guitar-idol worship seems to be.

Kevin Wignall said...

Clair, even as I wrote it, I thought, "oh, but Hendrix is a guy thing", the same way "Apocalypse Now" is a guy thing.

Of course, there are guy things that crossover to a female audience ("The Godfather" is a guy thing) but Hendrix is never likely to be one of them.

Yvonne said...

I've always had a soft spot for the works of KT Tunstall (Tangled Up in Blue)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bQa-AFoXEdY&feature=related

And the over-packaged youngster with the amazing voice - Adele (To Make You Feel My Love)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fnn9JlqqTE4&feature=related

Yvonne said...

And I meant to add that when I was a gal it was sorta compulsory to have 'Hey Joe' and 'Purple Haze' written on your schoolbag just so people would know you were impossibly (if not improbably) cool.

Zach said...

I like the Clapton version of "...Heaven's Door," the Joan Baez version of "Don't Think Twice...," and the Dave Matthews Band version of "...Watchtower," but maybe that's just me.

Anonymous said...

i enjoy when Dylan covers himself - his Nod to Bob 30th annivesary of My back pages is excellent! I have to go buy that Adele version of To make you feel my love. Say what you will of Dave Matthews -he does do a great cover of Watchtower. I also like Indigo girls Tangled up in Blue - Chandra