The Best of the Bob Dylan Covers – Playlists on Parade

Originally posted 2010-11-20 12:40:07. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

With some sources placing Bob Dylan as the #2 most covered artist (behind the Beatles, of course), there are some excellent performances of his songs.

Predominantly, though, there are hundreds and hundreds of inferior versions of his work, ranging from mediocre all the way down to openly offensive.

As a Dylan fan now for over a decade, I have accumulated quite a number of covers.  Folk?  I have it.  Bluesgrass?  Regrettably, yes.  Gospel?  You betcha!  Reggae?  For reals.

Suffice it to say, there’s some utter crap.

I’ve been thinking for weeks now about putting together a playlist of my favorite Dylan covers.  Finally, after coming across a Jimi Hendrix recording of “Tears of Rage” on iTunes today, I sorted through the archives and pieced together eighteen of my favorite recordings.  For those who don’t know me, you should understand that I’m often the guy who will remind you that, “This song was actually written by…” or ask you, “Have you ever heard the original?”  So, for me to say I love these songs means that they’ve truly made the cut for me.

And I hope you’ll enjoy them as well!

The artists are as wide ranging as George Harrison and Beck.  They go back as far as the sixties, with a sampling of classics by the original masters of the Dylan cover the Byrds, and are as recent as the Dead Weather, that super-ish-group co-fronted by Jack White.  In the case of the former, I love the Dylan versions about as much as Roger McGuinn and company’s, but in the case of the latter, a forgettable Street Legal track was revived and successfully reimagined.

There are some that you absolutely must listen to the originals – “Simple Twist of Fate” for one, and “Born in Time” for another (that is, if you find the Bootleg Series version).  There are some that are, frankly, better as covers – I’m thinking of “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat” here.

So, go explore.  Visit Amazon and iTunes.  Expand your Dylan horizons.  And, most of all, remember why Bob Dylan was, is, and forever shall be the freakin’ man.

1)  “Mr. Tambourine Man” – The Byrds

2)  “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat” – Beck

3)  “All Along the Watchtower” – Jimi Hendrix

4)  “If Not for You” – George Harrison

5)  “Mama You’ve Been on My Mind / A Fraction of Last Thoughts on Woody Guthrie” – Jack Johnson

6)  “Masters of War” – Pearl Jam

7)  “New Pony” – The Dead Weather

8)  “Simple Twist of Fate” – Jeff Tweedy

9)  “My Back Pages” – The Byrds

10)  “Absolutely Sweet Marie” – George Harrison

11)  “Tears of Rage” – Jimi Hendrix

12)  “I Shall Be Released” – The Band

13)  “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” – Eric Clapton

14)  “Mississippi” – Sheryl Crow

15)  “John Wesley Harding” – Wilco

16)  “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” – The Byrds

17)  “Born in Time” – Eric Clapton

18)  “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” – Warren Zevon

The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s “Electric Ladyland” (1968) – The Weekend Review

Originally posted 2010-02-14 23:30:59. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

RATING:  2.5 / 5 stars

Let me begin by saying I love and have the utmost respect for Jimi Hendrix’s music, as much if not more than the average music fan.  Although many simply know a couple hits (and are, even from that sampling, able to acknowledge the fact that he was a guitar legend), I have heard all of his albums multiple times — hits, misses, deep tracks, and all.

Although Electric Ladyland is widely considered the pinnacle of his recording career, I must adamantly argue that it is not.

There is no denying the mastery that Hendrix demonstrates on the third and final studio release of his brief career.  Even on a track like “Little Miss Strange,” his guitarwork is intricate, interesting, and unsurpassed.  “Voodoo Chile” is a testament to his mastery (and his justification for moving beyond) the blues.  And his production on “1983… (A Merman I Should Turn To Be)” is nothing short of expansive and impressive.

And yet, great songs do not in and of themselves a great album make.

To be fair, there are some excellent tracks on this album.  In addition to those aforementioned gems, the highlights of Electric Ladyland are certainly to be found in the brilliant rock’n’roll of “Crosstown Traffic” and their electrified take on Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower,” a version that redefined the way Dylan himself approached the song in concert.

On Electric Ladyland, the Jimi Hendrix Experience is tighter and yet more relaxed than on any previous release.  Hendrix is more experimental stylistically and vocally, Noel Redding’s bass parts are even more manically masterful, and Mitch Mitchell’s drums are both an anchor and a vivid instrument unto themselves.  There’s something compelling about a band that can run through a fourteen minute blazing blues epic like “Voodoo Chile” and go on to construct such a melancholy opening as you find on “Burning of the Midnight Lamp.”

The Jimi Hendrix Experience's "Electric Ladyland" (1968)

The Jimi Hendrix Experience's "Electric Ladyland" (1968)

Where this album begins to fall short is in all the nooks and crannies, all the self-indulgent jams that stretch some wonderful tracks out beyond a reasonable length, all the inferior, overly-simplistic tracks that never would have found their way onto a previous Experience release.

From the opening, Electric Ladyland is a unique and exciting album.  “…And the Gods Made Love” is a forgettable, albeit tone-setting album opener.  “Have You Ever Been (To Electric Ladyland)” is a warm, inviting, and promising number.  “Crosstown Traffic” and “Voodoo Chile” make good on that invitation, putting an outstandingly tight, single-worthy track back to back with a jam-based track that takes its time — a quarter of an hour, to be more precise.

After this is where the album loses some of its focus.

The Redding-penned “Little Miss Strange” suffers from the same assessment as Axis: Bold As Love‘s “She’s So Fine”:  it’s okay.  Nothing more, nothing less — neither the track you’ll run to first, nor the track you’ll skip.

Then comes a trio of tunes that are not terribly impressive.  “Long Hot Summer Night” is good, “Come On (Let the Good Times Roll)” is an excellent, unique take on this cover, and “Gypsy Eyes” has its moments.  If this is the best that can be said about these tracks, then they have no business being at the heart of a Jimi Hendrix Experience album.

I can even look beyond the ho-hum nature of “Rainy Day, Dream Away,” if only for its thematic, lyrical tie-in three tracks later on “Still Raining, Still Dreaming,” but it never ceases to amaze me how, depending on the artist and on the general trends in music criticism at the time, an album that has strong ties to what has come before can either be a masterful sampling of genres or a derivative romp in mediocrity.  In this case, the former was decided upon, as evidenced by the slew of five-star ratings the album has accrued.  Still, I find it difficult to view some of these reviews as unbiased.  Is Electric Ladyland a breakthrough effort, an album that took the ways we view genres and recordings and turned them upside down?  Yes.  But is that to say it should overshadow the cohesion, uniqueness, and beautifully tight arrangements of Are You Experienced? Should it cause us to set Axis: Bold As Love aside as a sophomoric, somewhat forgettable effort?

No!

Let us not forget that this is an album with a track like “Moon, Turn the Tides… gently gently away,” a song with no content and with no discernible purpose as anything more than a transition between tracks, perhaps a tone setting device.

By the time “House Burning Down” comes, I often find myself suffering from jam fatigue.  This is an excellent track, and yet I have a hard time getting fired up for it, or for the album-closing “Voodoo Chile (Slight Return).”

I do find myself seeking sweet refuge in the track that comes between them… “All Along the Watchtower.”

This is what Electric Ladyland lacks — others may praise the jazz mentality of this record, but I find myself yearning for the rock’n’roll mentality that Jimi Hendrix practically created on his first two releases.  Others see the expansive and the interpretive as mastery, but I long for the tightness and originality of those early Jimi Hendrix recordings — hits like “Purple Haze,” “Stone Free,” and “Bold As Love” and deep tracks like “Love or Confusion,” “51st Anniversary,” “Spanish Castle Magic,” and “Little Wing.”

It is no wonder that John Mayer has gone to the Hendrix well thrice for covers — an excellent version of “Wait Until Tomorrow” for the Experience-imitating John Mayer Trio, an okay take on “Bold As Love” on Continuum, and “The Wind Cries Mary” live in concert.  After all, his career has generally followed the patterns I see in Hendrix’s: a mind-blowing debut, a strong follow-up, and a critically acclaimed, if inferior third release.  Say what you will about Mayer — channeling Hendrix, however criticized a move it may be in some circles, has worked as planned.

So, I will continue listening to Electric Ladyland and loving it at times.  For me, it can’t compare to what came before, and to what may have come after…

Jimi Hendrix’s “First Rays of the New Rising Sun” (1970/1, 1997) – Yes, No, or Maybe So, Retro

Originally posted 2010-02-17 22:30:45. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

First Rays of the New Rising Sun (Jimi Hendrix) – MAYBE

Jimi Hendrix's "First Rays of the New Rising Sun" (1970/1, 1997)

Jimi Hendrix's "First Rays of the New Rising Sun" (1970/1, 1997)

(intended for 1970/1, released April 22, 1997))

Review:

Listening to First Rays of the New Rising Sun — this composite of what Hendrix’s fourth studio album may have sounded like — is a bittersweet experience:  it is clearly incomplete, but there is evidence here — tight, upbeat, brilliant evidence — that this could have approached the quality of Are You Experienced!

Top Two Tracks:

“Freedom” & “Night Bird Flying”

The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s “Are You Experienced?” – Yes, No, or Maybe So, Retro

Originally posted 2010-02-11 22:43:06. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Are You Experienced? (The Jimi Hendrix Experience) – YES

The Jimi Hendrix Experience's "Are You Experienced?" (1967)

The Jimi Hendrix Experience's "Are You Experienced?" (1967)

(May 12, 1967)

Review:

This is one of those rare albums that defies all of the rules about debut releases; it is an excellent set of outstanding songs (each and every one of them) that sets the bar so high that even Hendrix himself would be unable to top it.

Top Two Tracks:

“Purple Haze” & “Stone Free”