Dylanesque

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There is a racing, joyous intensity to Bryan Ferry’s interpretations of the songs of Bob Dylan. Just as his legendary version of ‘A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall’, recorded back in 1973, exchanged apocalyptic vision for exuberant swagger, so at the heart of these new recordings lies Bryan Ferry’s brilliance in both paying homage to the original track and reinventing it as entirely and iconically his own.

Much of Dylan’s writing is densely poetic, with the very shape of the words honed to the rough, hardened, almost dismissive quality of his particular intonation. In these new versions, however, Ferry has created a vocal and musical atmosphere in which he inscribes his own artistic signature: the meticulous balancing of plangent romanticism or soulful introspection, against robust, highly energised and assuredly modern musicianship.

Added to this is that unique quality which Ferry alone appears to possess as a singer: a shade of feeling in his voice which is at once enticing and world-weary, steeped in emotional presence yet luxuriating in cool distance, enabling the words of a song to open the doors to a somehow more exciting, heightened world – a place of intensified feelings.

With this is mind, Dylanesque hits the ground running, opening with ‘Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues’ and followed by ‘A Simple Twist of Fate’. The former introduces the musical mood that Ferry builds up across the eleven carefully selected songs on this album. In a style at once sparse, keen and hard edged, the musicians tease their way into the song, gathering a muscular momentum which perfectly suits Dylan’s lyric of beatnik lament, shot through with poetic irony and hard bitten cynicism.

Part of Ferry’s genius in interpreting songs by other artists lies in the way he can intensify the mood of a song by virtually reversing its original temper. This is the case on ‘Simple Twist of Fate’, recorded by Dylan as a drifter’s hymn to the play of fortune, and recast here by Ferry as vivacious, lightly handled and irresistibly sure footed. It is a version that brings to life the uncomplicated energy of the old American pick-up bands, creating a solid chassis of rhythm to carry the vivid imagery and resigned fatalism of the lyric. This version plays itself out to a bravura performance by Ferry on harmonica, recalling the tremendous energy and stylishness with which he has used that instrument since the early days of recording ‘Let’s Stick Together’.

In recent years, the pianist Colin Good has created brilliantly sensitive accompaniments to both Bryan Ferry’s solo recordings and his performances with Roxy Music. On Dylanesque there are plentiful inspired contributions from Good, not least on ‘Make You Feel My Love’. Similarly, the quality which has been well described as the ‘jazz noir’ styling of Ferry’s eerie recreation of ‘Gates of Eden’.

There has always been an element of Ferry’s musical style which brings to mind the lonely yet exulted atmosphere of piano bars and dives. To this end, Ferry’s interpretation of the peerlessly scathing ‘Positively 4th Street’ takes its place as a masterpiece of mood and emotional control. With consummate elegance, Ferry converts Dylan’s vitriolic address to a musical community into a love song of towering force – slowing and softening the original version in such a way that it sharpens the bitter intensity of the lyric.

Dylanesque also includes new versions of three of Dylan’s best-known songs – ‘The Times They Are A-Changin’’, ‘Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door’ and ‘All Along The Watchtower’.

Ferry has remarked that as a musician with a formative love of jazz, there are no limits to the ways in which a song might be played and sung. Hence, like Andy Warhol’s portraits of Elvis, which enshrine the myths of both the artist and his subject, these interpretations of the songs of Bob Dylan are amongst Ferry’s finest creations.

–Michael Bracewell, 2007 (edited by Hal Norman, 2010)

1. Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues

(Dylan)

When you’re lost in the rain in Juarez
And it’s Eastertime too
And your gravity fails
And negativity don’t pull you through
Don’t put on any airs
When you’re down on Rue Morgue Avenue
They got some hungry women there
And they really make a mess outa you

Now if you see Saint Annie
Please tell her thanks a lot
I cannot move
My fingers are all in a knot
I don’t have the strength
To get up and take another shot
And my best friend, my doctor
Won’t even say what it is I’ve got

Sweet Melinda
The peasants call her the goddess of gloom
She speaks good English
And she invites you up into her room
And you’re so kind
And careful not to go to her too soon
And she takes your voice
And leaves you howling at the moon

Up on Housing Project Hill
It’s either fortune or fame
You must pick up one or the other
Though neither of them are to be what they claim
If you’re lookin’ to get silly
You better go back to from where you came
Because the cops don’t need you
And man they expect the same

Now all the authorities
They just stand around and boast
How they blackmailed the sergeant-at-arms
Into leaving his post
And picking up Angel who
Just arrived here from the coast
Who looked so fine at first
But left looking just like a ghost

I started out on burgundy
But soon hit the harder stuff
Everybody said they’d stand behind me
When the game got rough
But the joke was on me
There was nobody even there to call my bluff
I’m going back to New York City
I do believe I’ve had enough

Copyright ©1965; renewed 1993 Special Rider Music

2. Simple Twist Of Fate

(Dylan)

They sat together in the park
As the evening sky grew dark,
She looked at him and he felt a spark tingle to his bones.
‘Twas then he felt alone and wished that he’d gone straight
And watched out for a simple twist of fate.

They walked along by the old canal
A little confused, I remember well
And stopped into a strange hotel with a neon burnin’ bright.
He felt the heat of the night hit him like a freight train
Moving with a simple twist of fate.

A saxophone someplace far off played
As she was walkin’ by the arcade.
As the light bust through a beat-up shade where he was wakin’ up,
She dropped a coin into the cup of a blind man at the gate
And forgot about a simple twist of fate.

He woke up and the room was bare
He didn’t see her anywhere.
He told himself that he didn’t care, pushed the window open wide,
Felt an emptiness inside to which he just could not relate
Brought on by a simple twist of fate.

He hears the ticking of the clocks
And walks along with a parrot that talks,
Hunts her down by the waterfront docks where the sailers all come in.
Maybe she’ll pick him out again, oh how long must he wait
One more time for a simple twist of fate.

People tell me it’s a sin
To know and feel too much within.
I still believe she was my twin, but I lost the ring.
She was born in spring, but I was born too late
Blame it on a simple twist of fate.

Copyright © 1974 Ram’s Horn Music

3. Make You Feel My Love

(Dylan)

When the rain is blowing in your face
And the whole world is on your case
I could offer you a warm embrace
To make you feel my love

When evening shadows and the stars appear
And there is no one there to dry your tears
I could hold you for a million years
To make you feel my love

I know you haven’t made your mind up yet
But I would never do you wrong
I’ve known it from the moment that we met
No doubt in my mind where you belong

I would go hungry, I’d go black and blue
I’d go crawling down the avenue
There’s nothing that I wouldn’t do
To make you feel my love

The storms are raging on the rollin’ sea
And on the highway of regret
The winds of change are blowing wild and free
You ain’t seen nothing like me yet

I could make you happy, make your dreams come true
Nothing that I wouldn’t do
Go to the ends of the earth for you
To make you feel my love

Copyright © 1997 Special Rider Music

4. The Times They Are A-Changin’

(Dylan)

Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
Accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’.

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Beyond your command
Your old road is
Rapidly agin’.
So get out your new one
If you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’.

For the times they are a-changin’.

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
The present now
Will later be past
The order is
Rapidly fadin’.
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin’.

5. All I Really Want To Do

(Dylan)

I ain’t lookin’ to compete with you,
Beat or cheat or mistreat you,
Simplify you, classify you,
Deny, defy or crucify you.
All I really wanna do
Is, baby, be friends with you.

I ain’t lookin’ to fight with you,
Frighten you or tighten you,
Drag you down or drain you down,
Chain you down or bring you down.
All I really want to do
Is, baby, be friends with you.

I don’t want to fake you out,
Take or shake or forsake you out,
I ain’t wanting you to feel like me,
See like me or be like me.

I ain’t lookin’ to block you up
Shock or knock or lock you up,
Analyze you, categorize you,
Finalize you, advertise you.
All I really wannna do
Is, baby, be friends with you.

I don’t want to meet your kin,
Make you spin or do you in,
Or select you or dissect you,
Or inspect you or reject you.
All I really want to do
Is, baby, be friends with you.

Copyright © 1964; renewed 1992 Special Rider Music

6. Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door

(Dylan)

Mama, take this badge off of me
I can’t use it anymore.
It’s gettin’ dark, too dark to see
I feel like I’m knockin’ on heaven’s door.

Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door

Mama, put my guns in the ground
I can’t shoot them anymore.
That long black cloud is comin’ down
I feel I’m knockin’ on heaven’s door.

Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door

Mama, take this badge off of me
I can’t use it anymore.
It’s gettin’ dark, too dark to see
I feel I’m knockin’ on heaven’s door.

Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door

Mama, put my guns in the ground
I can’t shoot them anymore.
That long black cloud is comin’ down
I feel I’m knockin’ on heaven’s door.

Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door

7. Positively 4th Street

(Dylan)

You’ve got a lotta nerve
To say you are my friend
When I was down
You just stood there grinning

You got a lotta nerve
To say you got a hand to lend
You just want to be on
The side that’s winning

You say I let you down
You know it’s not like that
If you’re so hurt
Why then don’t you show it

You say you lost your faith
But that’s not where it’s at
You had no faith to lose
And you know it

I know the reason
That you talk behind my back
I used to be among the crowd
You’re in with

Do you take me for such a fool
To think I’d make contact
The one who tries to hide
What he don’t know to begin with

I wish that for just one time
You could stand inside my shoes
And just for that one moment
I could be you

Yes, I wish that for just one time
You could stand inside my shoes
You’d know what a drag it is
To see you

8. If Not For You

(Dylan)

If not for you,
Babe, I couldn’t find the door,
I couldn’t even see the floor,
I’d be sad and blue,
If not for you.

If not for you,
Babe, I’d lay awake all night,
Wait for the mornin’ light
To shine in through,
If not for you.

If not for you
My sky would fall,
Rain would gather too.
Without your love I’d be nowhere at all,
And you know it’s true.
If not for you

If not for you

If not for you,
Winter would have no spring,
I couldn’t hear the robin sing,
I just wouldn’t have a clue,
If not for you.

If not for you
(If not for you)
(If not for you)
(If not for you)
(If not for you)

9. Baby, Let Me Follow You Down

(Dylan)

Baby let me follow you down
Baby let me follow you down
Well Ill do anything in this God almighty world
If you just let me follow you down.

Can I come home with you
Can I come home with you?
And Ill do anything in this God almighty world
If you just let me come home with you.

Baby let me follow you down
Baby let me follow you down
Well Ill do anything in this God almighty world
If you just let me follow you down.

Baby can I come home with you
Baby can I come home with you?
Yes Ill do anything in this God almighty world
If you just let me just come home with you.

10. Gates Of Eden

(Dylan)

Of war and peace the truth just twists
Its curfew gull it glides
Upon four-legged forest clouds
The cowboy angel rides
With his candle lit into the sun
Though its glow is waxed in black
All except when ‘neath the trees of Eden

The savage soldier sticks his head in sand
And then complains
Unto the shoeless hunter who’s gone deaf
But still remains
Upon the beach where hound dogs bay
At ships with tattooed sails
Heading for the Gates of Eden

With a time-rusted compass blade
Aladdin and his lamp
Sits with Utopian hermit monks
Side saddle on the Golden Calf
And on their promises of paradise
You will not hear a laugh
All except inside the Gates of Eden

Relationships of ownership
They whisper in the wings
To those condemned accordingly
And wait for succeeding kings
And I try to harmonize with songs
The lonesome sparrow sings
There are no kings inside the Gates of Eden

The motorcycle black madonna
A two-wheeled gypsy queen
And her silver-studded phantom cause
The gray flannel dwarf to scream
As he weeps to wicked birds of prey
Who pick up on his bread crumb sins
And there are no sins inside the Gates of Eden

At dawn my lover comes to me
And tells me of her dreams
With no attempts to shovel the glimpse
Into the ditch of what each one means
At times I think there are no words
But these to tell what’s true
And there are no truths outside the Gates of Eden

Copyright © 1965; renewed 1993 Special Rider Music

11. All Along The Watchtower

(Dylan)

“There must be some way out of here,” said the joker to the thief,
“There’s too much confusion, I can’t get no relief.
Businessmen, they drink my wine, plough men dig my earth,
None of them along the line know what any of it is worth.”

“No reason to get excited,” the thief, he kindly spoke,
“There are many here among us who feel that life is but a joke.
But you and I, we’ve been through that, and this is not our fate,
So let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late.”

All along the watchtower, princes kept the view
While all the women came and went, and barefoot servants, too.
Outside in the distance a wildcat did growl,
Two riders were approaching, the wind began to howl.

Copyright © 1968; renewed 1996 Dwarf Music

bryan Ferry Dylanesque Cover

1. Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues

2. Simple Twist Of Fate

3. Make You Feel My Love

4. The Times They Are A-Changin’

5. All I Really Want To Do

6. Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door

7. Positively 4th Street

8. If Not For You

9. Baby, Let Me Follow You Down

10. Gates Of Eden

11. All Along The Watchtower

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