The InsiderOne Daily Report

  Monday, May 21, 2001

Dylan, My Way #2

InsiderOne's Michael Goldberg writes: It's possible for an artist to record a Bob Dylan song and create something that's unique and even, in its own way, equal to Dylan's own recording. Few manage to pull it off, though. Joan Baez did it on Any Day Now (a whole album of Dylan covers), and if she couldn't, who then? The Byrds' version of "Mr. Tambourine Man" makes the cut, as does Fairport Convention's "I'll Keep It With Mine." Yeah, the Band, but then they were family. I once saw Van Morrison make a Dylan song his own at Winterland, but now I can't remember which song. Sal Valentino — he could sing Dylan all day and you'd come back for more. Some people feel pretty strongly about Hendrix's "All Along the Watchtower," too. There was a Dylan tribute concert some years ago; it's since been released as an album, which serves as a good example of what can go wrong — you want to avoid that one. More recently, there's this country/folk tribute album, A Nod to Bob. I'm struggling with it, trying to figure out if I'm being too hard on it. See, when I got a review copy in the mail, the CD was cracked, and that's never a good sign. The publicist "working the project," as they say in the biz, was nice enough to send me another copy. Meanwhile I'd read some good reviews. So I was really ready to dig it. There it sat with some other CDs that I haven't gotten around to yet, and, with Dylan's 60th birthday coming up, I figured I better check it out. It sounded OK. The playing is excellent, and I can't fault the professionalism or the emotion such artists as Greg Brown, Eliza Gilkyson, Suzzy and Maggie Roche and Cliff Eberhardt bring to their interpretations. They all mean well. They're all big Dylan fans and respect the work and all that. It's just that, well, after I heard Lucy Kaplansky's "It Ain't Me, Babe" (the 11th track) I took the CD out of the player. I put in Another Side of Bob Dylan, which contains Dylan's original version. Why do I think I'll never have the slightest inclination to listen to A Nod to Bob again? (Well, maybe the Roche sisters' take on "Clothes Line Saga.") Listening to it just made me long for Bob Dylan — his voice, his guitar, harp and piano playing. He recorded Another Side of Bob Dylan album all in one night, according to Dylan expert Clinton Heylin's "Bob Dylan: The Recording Sessions [1960–1994]." Just imagine! It's just Dylan, on either guitar or piano, and harmonica. I could listen to this album forever. Actually, I have listened to it forever. It was released August 8, 1964. I probably got my copy in 1966. I wore out a couple of vinyl copies. This, and other Dylan albums, are kinda like an old flannel shirt or pair of jeans or leather jacket that you've lived in. They're part of your life, part of you — well, part of me anyway. The performances on Another Side of Bob Dylan are so natural. Dylan may have an idiosyncratic voice, but he's at one with it, and he delivers his lyrics with what I think of as casual certainty. He may be making it up as he goes, but he knows what he has to say, and there's no question in his mind, as he sings these songs, that he's saying it, and saying it in a way that, decades later, makes me marvel. Among the album's better known songs are "All I Really Want to Do," "Spanish Harlem Incident," "Chimes of Freedom," "To Ramona," "My Back Pages" and "It Ain't Me, Babe." But possibly my favorite is "I Don't Believe You," which is Dylan singing about a lover who rejected him: "She just acts like we never have met." If you've ever had a fight with your lover, I'm sure you can understand. I feel both sad and happy, hearing that song sung by Bob Dylan.

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Michael Goldberg is the president of He founded Addicted To Noise in 1994.

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