Monday, 2 February 2009

"A Nod To Bob – An Artists' Tribute To Bob Dylan On His Sixtieth Birthday" by VARIOUS (2001 Red House Records CD Compilation) - A Review by Mark Barry...



1. Love Minus Zero/No Limit by ELIZA GILKYSON
2. Sweetheart Like You
by GUY DAVIS and THE HIGH FLYING ROCKETS [feat LEVON HELM of THE BAND on Drums]
3. Clothes Line Saga by SUZZY and MAGGIE ROCHE
4. Girl Of The North Country by JOHN GORKA
5. Delia by SPIDER JOHN KOERNER and DAVE RAY
6. I Want You by CLIFF EBERHARDT
7. All Along The Watchtower by TOM LANDA and THE PAPERBOYS
8. Dieu á Nos Cotés (With God On Our Side) by HART-ROUGE
9. Boots of Spanish Leather by MARTIN SIMPSON
10. Restless Farewell by NORMAN BLAKE and PETER OSTROUSHKO
11. It Ain't Me Babe by LUCY KAPLANSKY
12. Pledging My Time by GREG BROWN
13. Tomorrow Is A Long Time by ROSALIE SORRELS
14. [Spoken Intro To] Don't Think Twice, It's All Right [Leads into 15]
15. Don't Think Twice, It's All Right by RAMBLIN' JACK ELLIOTT

"...My Love…He Laughs Like The Flowers…"

Released in May 2001 on Red House Records to tie in with his 60th birthday, there's a bunch of reasons why this 14-track compilation of Bob Dylan cover versions 'so' works.

First up is the clever choice of songs - almost all of them avoid the usual suspects - there's not a single tune off "Blood On The Tracks" - yet more than a few of these artists would probably give blood to a vampire rather than part with their original copy of it. Nothing from "Desire", "Oh Mercy", "Love & Theft", "Nashville Skyline" - not even a "Knocking On Heaven's Door"!! And yet - their very obscurity makes the songs such a refreshing listen - it's like somebody finally finding the magic in them.

Then there are the artists themselves - outside of fairly knowledgeable circles, most of these names will be complete unknowns to the casual buyer - and yet all of them put in extraordinary performances of what is - let's face it - overly familiar material. And yet perhaps because they're "not" a famous name that it makes their interpretations such a sweet listen and discovery. Most have fantastic voices and each track is beautifully recorded. I'm reminded of "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" - that sense of rediscovery - "A Nod To Bob" is similar - a cross between US Folk and Americana - done really well.

And last is the way they interpret Dylan's songs. Most avoid the 8-minute lyric workouts that now sound slightly trite and tiresome and instead opt for his more straightforward love songs. The jaunty pop of "I Want You" from "Blonde On Blonde" is completely transformed by Cliff Eberhardt into a slow pleading love ballad - and it's brilliant. In fact most of the versions on here are acoustic - breaking down the song and bringing out what was latent in the originals - the lovely melody. You throw in Dylan's poignant lyrics and you're on a winner.

Negatives - some might feel the French Cajun feel to "Dieu A Nos Cotes" (With God On Our Side) is too much and the one real clinker for me is "Delia" - a song not written by Dylan but more famously associated with Johnny Cash. It doesn't work at all. But so many others do. The black and bluesy voice of Gary Davis imbibes the truly lovely "Sweetheart Like You" from "Infidels" with such tenderness - really great - and Greg Brown's "Pledging My Time" from 1966's "Blonde On Blonde" is probably the closest of them all to the original - it boogies along in a bluesy way like an Eric Bibb shuffle or EC circa "461 Ocean Boulevard".

The 20-page booklet allows each artist space to explain their choice - the record label has given the great man a two-page letter of appreciation - and there's a card wrap on the outside - giving the whole project a classy feel.

Most will yawn at the idea of yet another tribute to Bob Dylan - but even those who don't like him at all will find something beautiful in here. "A Nod To Bob" is easily one of the most captivating and lovely listens I've heard in years and accomplishes that rarest of things - it properly compliments the great man and his unparalleled body of work.

If you want an audio taste of the music - try "Love Minus Zero/No Limits" by ELIZA GILKYSON or JOHN GORKA'S quiet version of "Girl From The North Country" - both are available as snippet-listens on iTunes.

Lovely, lovely, lovely... Highly recommended.

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Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

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