Friday, October 19th, 2007

Highway 61 Revisited

While Todd Haynes’ Dylan pseudo-biopic I’m Not There isn’t out until late November – the 21st in the US in limited release and the 28th in Canada, presumably also in limited release – the soundtrack will be out on October 30. And while the concept of having different actors “cover” a single figure in the same film, as Cate Blanchett, Richard Gere, Christian Bale and others do in I’m Not There is far more novel, the soundtrack of Dylan covers is just as star-studded.

You’ve got the likes of Jeff Tweedy, Karen O, Cat Power, Yo La Tengo and Calexico all over the place across two CDs and 34 tracks and Dylan himself shows up on the title track. They’ve got four of the tracks – the contributions from Tweedy, Cat Power, Sufjan Stevens and Jim James streaming off the record’s MySpace and I gotta say, the way Cat Power wraps her voice around Dylan’s words on “Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again” as though each syllable were a delicious morsel is particularly sumptuous. If that’s where the bar for this record is set, then hot diggity dog. But then, I love Dylan, I love most of these artists and I love covers – It’s probably mathematically impossible that I’d dislike this collection.

And so I’m pleased to be have, courtesy of Filter, two copies of the soundtrack to give away. If you want to take a shot, I want you to leave a comment below telling me what your dream Dylan cover would be – who doing what song and why. Because even though he may well be the most oft-covered musician in history (save maybe the Beatles and even that I won’t say is a gimme), there’s surely far more interesting potential permutations out there. I want to hear em. Make sure to leave an email address you’re contactable at – spamproof it if you need – and I’ll pick two winners on October 29, so get entries in before midnight the eve of October 28.

Random thought – anyone dressing up as one of the Dylan personas for Hallowe’en? No? Too dorky? Gotcha.

And to celebrate the release of the film – and to celebrate Dylan in general – they’re holding a special concert in New York City on November 7 that will feature many of the artists on the soundtrack as well as others singing the songs of Bob. I’m sure tickets would be nigh impossible to score even if you did live in New York, but you can be certain that there’ll be something – webcast, DVD, concert album – released to allow the rest of us to sit in on the show.

And finally, while the film got mixed reviews when it premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last month, the Rotten Tomatos rating is a little more promising. And even if it does turn out to be a failure, it’ll at least be a spectacular one. Either way, I can’t wait. Check out the just-released second trailer to the film and I’ve dug into my own vaults for a few Dylan covers that I’ve posted over the years. Just to get you in the mood. Update: Here’s the New York Times interview with Todd Haynes that Aimz mentioned in the comments – thanks!

Trailer: I’m Not There (trailer 1)
Trailer: I’m Not There (trailer 2)
MySpace: I’m Not There
MP3: Billy Bragg – “Positively 4th St”
MP3: Yo La Tengo – “It Takes A Lot To Laugh It Takes A Train To Cry”
MP3: Mojave 3 – “Girl From The North Country”
MP3: Drive-By Truckers – “Like A Rolling Stone”

While we’re discussing tribute albums to living legends, let’s talk Neil Young. In 1994 an all-Canadian double disc entitled Borrowed Tunes was released with one disc dedicated to his acoustic work (Out Of The Blue) and one to his electric (Into The Black). I was then, as I am now, a raging Neil-o-phile so I had it on cassette and played it to death but in hindsight, I didn’t really care for a lot of the artists on it. But when you’re working with material as good as Neil’s, even the most uninteresting performer can sound decent. Except for Our Lady Peace’s “Needle And The Damage Done”. That was just abhorrent. ANYWAY the point is that 13 years later, they’ve released a sequel album – Borrowed Tunes II and honestly, it makes the lineup from the first one look like the ’77 Canadiens. Who wants to hear Finger Eleven butcher “Walk On”? No one, that’s who.

More interesting is the Cinnamon Girl compilation, which is accurately subtitled “Women Artists Cover Neil Young for Charity”. It’s two discs of, well, women artists covering Neil Young and the proceeds are going to Casting For Recovery, a foundation for breast cancer recovery. It’s not exactly and all-star cast but the presence of Tanya Donelly and Britta Phillips is certainly enough to get my attention. There’ve been a number of delays in the album’s release but they’re promising that pre-orders will ship this December, well before the formal retail street date of February 2008. You can stream a few of the songs on the album’s MySpace page.

MySpace: Cinnamon Girl: Women Artists Cover Neil Young for Charity

And a little while ago I pointed to the first part of an ongoing piece at Stylus that was trying to inventory every Neil Young cover ever recorded. Obviously it’s nowhere near comprehensive, but it’s still an impressive body of work they’ve put together. And while not striving for authoritativeness, The AV Club’s Neil Young primer is a good intro to the man’s long and fascinating career. The next chapter in said career, Chrome Dreams II, is out on Tuesday and he plays three nights at Massey Hall on November 26, 27 and 29. The first 18-minute single is still available to download and you can preview four of the songs from the new record with these sorta-videos.

MP3: Neil Young – “Ordinary People”
Video: Neil Young – “Dirty Old Man” (YouTube)
Video: Neil Young – “The Believer” (YouTube)
Video: Neil Young – “The Way” (YouTube)
Video: Neil Young – “Spirit Road” (YouTube)

Lastly, we’ve got some Springsteen. No, not that Arcade Fire video (which, if you don’t know what I’m talking about you probably don’t care), but a cover of “The River” by Josh Ritter that’s been released to the internets. It’s a live performance from Berlin and it’s okay, but only reminds me of how much better Crooked Fingers did it on the Reservoir Songs EP. When it comes to rough, raw and emotive vocals, Ritter can’t touch Eric Bachmann… but not many can. Also worth reading are eye‘s cover story from last week looking at how Springsteen became the ubiquitous name-drop in indie rock references that he is today and Radio Free Canuckistan’s interview with Mac McCaughan of Merge/Portastatic/Superchunk about the same (it was conducted as research for the eye piece). And The Idaho Statesman has an interview with Ritter, MPR a session.

MP3: Josh Ritter – “The River” (live)
MP3: Crooked Fingers – “The River”

Okay, no more classic rock tributes? Fine.

NME is premiering the video for the new Bloc Party single. The song isn’t anything exceptional but the video is goofy fun.

Video: Bloc Party – “Flux” (WMV)

Maximo Park talks to PopMatters about their adventures in touring around the world.

Both Maximo Park and Bloc Party are involved with the Love Music Hate Racism organization in the UK and have contributed tracks to a free awareness CD released in the UK this week. Maximo’ Paul Smith talks to XFM and Bloc Party’s Kele Okereke to NME about why they participated in the project.

BeatRoute talks to Jason Tait, drummer of The Weakerthans while frontman John K Samson answers five questions from The Detroit Free Press. They’re at the Phoenix November 7 and 8.

Also doing a mutli-night stand at the Phoenix later that month (November 26-28) are Stars. Frontman Torquil Campbell has an interview with The AV Club.

By : Frank Yang at 8:32 am
Category: Uncategorized
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  1. Tualla says:

    As a Contest whore, I would love to have the Broken Family Band do a driving version of Gotta Serve Somebody. Why would I get a Dylan-y type band to cover a born again period song? Well, The Broken Family band excels at crack timing and Brit-indignation. Plus they have a couple songs about god and devil worship, so it sorta fits. And, personally I love the Born-Again Bob stuff.

  2. len says:

    iron & wine. sad-eyed lady of the lowlands. perfect.

  3. The Playlist says:

    Very nice post. You’re one of the few that has impressed us. We would wager a friendly bet that we have more info on "I’m Not There" than anyone else on the web.

    ad free too (so far ;)

  4. Chris says:

    The National covering Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right. Slow it down and add some lushness and it could be brilliant. Plus, for some reason it’s always reminded me of About Today.

  5. matt Hawker says:

    I’d like to see The Constantines tackle "Tell Me. Momma" I think the song’s only official release is the live ’65 official Boot. The song is simply perfect for them.

    Although you only ask for one I’d be mistaken not to include this silly little pipe dream of mine. In this dream The Deadly Snakes reunite (I know they’ve only been gone a year but I miss them so, take to the stage at the Silver Dollar and rip into ‘I Wanna be Your Lover’. The reasons are obvious, like the Cons, this song suits them to a tee. And if they were performing it this would mean they had in fact reunited and i could rest easy.


  6. mailman says:

    Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again – The Hold Steady, I know they could pull it off

  7. Unknown Joe says:

    I´m not sure if I´m disqualifying myself by posting two suggestions for the Dylan-competition, but here I go:

    Firstly, I´d love to hear Asobi Seksu do "Absolutely Sweet Marie".
    Secondly, I´d be even more stoked if Joe Henry made a version of "Nettie Moore" from "Modern Times".
    And thirdly, I happen to believe that Joe Henry also ought to be roped in as producers for Bobs next record.

    Take care,

  8. ross says:

    I would love to have a recording of Joshua Radin w/ Priscilla Ahn covering Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright.

    They’re the mondern day version of Dylan and Baez.

    His sound is much like early Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel and Nick Drake. It’s no coincidence Josh also signed to Columbia.

    Plus it’d be another excuse to have Josh and Priscilla play together again.

  9. Hugh says:

    Matt Mays & El Torpedo
    I Pity The Poor Immigrant (Full-Band-Rockin’-Out-Balls-Version)

    What they can do with that tune…whoo!

  10. Joey C says:

    Maybe its obvious, but I’d love to hear Dr. Dog doing "Rainy Day Women" or really any Dylan tune post-Highway 61. They’s do a nice "Isis" as well.

  11. mike says:

    I was fortunate to get to see "I’m Not There" during the Toronto International Film Festival and I loved it. A most unconventional bio-pic, beautifully filmed and a score that really makes me regret not becoming more familiar with Dylan’s music all these years(aside from the best-of cd’s and countless covers I’ve heard). My impression is that, yes the film is quirky and some won’t "get it", but those of you that do get it will love it.

  12. Sasha Furlani says:

    I’d like to hear M. Ward do "Going To Acapulco". Great Dylan song, and he always throws a nice curve into his covers, keeping he heart of the song intact but very much making them his own. Frankly, any song from "The Basement Tapes"….easily one of th great all time albums….just a bunch of musicians making music with no outside pressures. If anyone hasn’t heard that album, do yourself a favour and get it.

  13. Chad says:

    I’d love to see M. Ward do a cover of "Corrina, Corrina"…can’t imagine a song seeming more made for him than that one. I’d also die to see Okkervil River take on "I Shall Be Released".

  14. Aimz says:

    Great post Frank. I too caught the Dylan biopic at the Toronto Film Fest and I loved it. It is artsy-phartsy, but if you are a Dylan fan or if you like film as an art medium, you will love this film! Plus, you get to see Heath Ledger (mostly) naked. What’s not to like? Todd Haynes uses a lot of Dylan’s original music too. I won’t bother you for a copy of the soundtrack, cause I already pre-ordered it! Two weeks ago there was a big article in the New York Times about Todd Haynes and the making of the film. Check it out.

  15. Rob says:

    The Besnard Lakes doing a version of "I Want You" based on Dylan’s slowed-down performance for MTV Unplugged…with lots of guitars, of course.

  16. Art says:

    I got two:

    Dr. Dog-The Man In Me, off New Morning (as well as The Big Lebowski soundtrack): They could really do this justice with their patented lo-fi production and Band-like rhythm section. The female harmonies in the background and lalala’s seem to be tailor made for these 1970’s-philes.

    Wilco-It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)-One of my favorite Dylan songs, and also quite different from the romanticism of the above track. I was thinking Jeff Tweedy could of course do this one well all by himself, but a full band version would be neat. The song could slowly build with their signature squall a la Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, and Nels could even bust out a guitar solo following the cadence of the verses. It’s epic and weird enough for them. Hell, the more I think about this, the more I want to send it along to Wilco HQ!

  17. christina says:

    jeff mangum
    visions of johanna
    (you said "dream" cover, right??)

  18. Janet says:

    I would love to hear The Sundays doing I Want You. Strip it down, slow the tempo and Harriet Wheeler’s voice would make for a hauntingly beautiful cover.

  19. Josh says:

    Erika Badu doing Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues.

    You laugh, but one of the most heart-stopping Dylan covers is Nina Simone doing that song.

    As Chan Marshall obviously sees, there’s a bit of undiscovered (or glossed over, anyway) soul in Dylan’s music. Maybe that’s why I can’t stand the Drive-By Truckers covering Bobby’s stuff.

  20. Matt says:

    Andrew Bird doing Like a Rolling Stone, with the violin in place of the harmonica.

    Or Joseph Arthur doing Desolation Row.

  21. andie says:

    I would love to hear Devendra Banhart cover the seven curses. Put some freak on that folk.

  22. tom thumb says:

    Pavement doing Sooner of Later (One Of Us Must Know) – a la Grounded/Black Out style

    or Okkervil River tackling One Two Many Mornings – semi acoustic like Love to a Monster

    or modest Mouse with Groom’s Still Waiting at the Altar

    If only one suggestions counts – I’ll go with Okkervil


  23. ryan says:

    In the wake of the recent concert announcements – how about Spiritualized doing Love Sick from Time Out Of Mind. I could easily see them turning it into a 12 minute long spaced-out-swampy-blues-jams a la Cop Shoot Cop… don’t forget the strobes!!!

  24. Jeff says:

    I’m not sure if the Weakerthans have ever covered a song of Lucky’s, but I can imagine Mr. Samsun having some fun with "The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest."

    "So when you see your neighbor carryin’ somethin’,
    Help him with his load,
    And don’t go mistaking Paradise
    For that home across the road."

  25. joe says:

    How about Bob Dylan doing his own songs, and everybody else aiming to write songs of their own that are half as good as his? I’d sooner see him once than be handed tickets to any of the above-mentioned artists’ shows.

    Tonight, I’m hoping he does Desolation Row. The circus is in town [Chicago].

  26. Thierry says:

    How about Nicole Atkins covering "Ballad of A Thin Man"? I think we can all agree that that would be awesome…