Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!
For Bob Dylan’s 78th birthday today, we wanted to post covers of every song on one of his classic albums. Problem was, we’d already given the “Full Albums” treatment to so many contenders: Highway 61 Revisited, Blood on the Tracks, Blonde on Blonde, Bringing It All Back Home, and John Wesley Harding. We’d even done a couple of the oddballs: Empire Burlesque and Street Legal.
So, for the first poll on our new Patreon account, we put the question to our backers. Time Out of Mind beat out its competitors Desire and Freewheelin’ by a single vote – a testament to the power of Dylan’s latter-day work. Turns out, Dylan has a lot of classic albums.
Calling Time Out of Mind Dylan’s comeback, as many do, overstates it a bit. After, he was only eight years on from his last “comeback” album – 1989’s Oh Mercy – and had released several quite respectable records in between (though the less said about “Wiggle Wiggle” the better).
Most importantly, he’d been giving some of the finest live performances of his career in the interim. For our latest staff Q&A, we asked for examples of artists “covering” themselves, by dramatically altering their own compositions. My example was Dylan, and, though I highlighted a more recent song, any number of performances from his stellar 1995 and 1996 tours could have equally qualified. He famously reinvents his own songs with new tempos, instrumentation, arrangements, and vocal deliveries, and rarely has he done so more effectively than in the years leading up to Time Out of Mind.
The 11 artists below prove equally game for reinvention. From garage-rock to twee-pop, these performances reimagine what has grown into one of the most beloved albums of Dylan’s career. Some of these songs have been covered hundreds of times – one in particular – and some more sparingly. But we found at least one killer cover for each. Check out the best of the best below.
PS. Patreon subscribers at the “Piece of our Heart” level or above will be getting an exclusive playlist with bonus tracks – so why not join them!
The White Stripes – Love Sick
The White Stripes covered many Bob Dylan songs live over the years. But they busted out one song more than all the others combined: “Love Sick.” Watching this performance, you can see why. Its jagged edges and insistent beat perfectly suit the duo’s strengths. Jack gets to unleash his highest-pitched yelps while switching between guitar and organ, while Meg pounds out one of her most primal beats. It’s practically a White Stripes Greatest Hits tour – and it’s not even their own song.
Saturday Nite Fish Fry – Dirt Road Blues
“Dirt Road Blues” remains the only song on Time Out of Mind that Dylan himself has never performed live (yet…). Surprising, frankly, that he would attempt epic closer “Highlands” over a basic blues number that his band could deliver in its sleep. The song hasn’t been covered much either, but Canadian blues band did a great job on a 2007 album where they also delved into other rarely-covered Dylan songs (“10,000 Men,” “2×2,” “Lonesome Day Blues”). The spiky horns bring this a level above the typical bar-band choogle. Honestly, I think I prefer this version to Dylan’s original. “Dirt Road Blues” cam seem a pretty underwhelming toss-off when surrounded by Time Out of Mind’s many masterpieces, but bring it out onto its own as a rave-up party song and it works wonderfully.
Jenny Lewis – Standing in the Doorway
The most recent cover on the list, former Rilo Kiley frontwoman Jenny Lewis debuted this cover a couple weeks ago at a radio taping. The stunning arrangement of her vocals, a slide guitarist, and a string quartet is so polished we imagine she may record a studio version soon. If she does, we hope she can maintain the intimacy of this tender live performance.
Bonnie Raitt – Million Miles
On her 2012 album Slipstream, Bonnie Raitt also covered “Standing in the Doorway.” She must have been on a Time Out of Mind kick that year; that was one of two songs she covered from that Dylan album. The second, “Million Miles,” works better. A swampy blues number right in Raitt’s wheelhouse, the song benefits from Joe Henry’s production and her own killer slide guitar. Bill Frisell joins as well, but you don’t need a guitar ringer when you’re Bonnie Raitt.
Lucinda Williams – Tryin’ to Get to Heaven
Two years ago, Lucinda Williams topped our best-of-the-year list with a Dylan cover: an eight-minute spoken-jazz “Masters of War,” backed by Charles Lloyd & The Marvels (which also features Bill Frisell). Her “Tryin’ to Get to Heaven” cover, from a 2012 tribute album, is less audacious, but no less beautiful. Lucinda wraps her inimitable voice around every lyric, and even digs up some lines Bob left on the cutting room floor.
Hide & Seek – ‘Til I Fell in Love with You
My favorite version of another rarely-covered song comes from Israeli quartet Hide & Seek. It was recorded live at a Jerusalem teahouse, so the audio quality leaves something to be desired (unless you like clinking china in the foreground), but the inventive arrangement, folk-jazz with klezmer flourishes, is worth the hurdles.
Ruby Amanfu – Not Dark Yet
Jack White pops up again here. Ghana-born, Nashville-based singer Ruby Amanfu got her professional start in White’s band when he first went solo. And she wasn’t just in the background either; that’s her sharing lead vocals on his very first solo single, “Love Interruption.” Since then she’s played with John Prine, Hozier, Norah Jones, and Weezer (now there’s a diverse list), and she’s released a killer covers album: 2015’s Standing Still. Fun fact: Amanfu’s album, and this Dylan cover, was produced by Mark Howard, Daniel Lanois’s longtime production partner who engineered Dylan’s original Time Out of Mind (in his book Chronicles, Dylan says Howard bought him a motorcycle to cruise New Orleans).
Tom Verlaine and the Million Dollar Bashers – Cold Irons Bound
The weird soundtrack to Todd Haynes’ weird movie I’m Not There eschewed all sorts of obvious song choices. Despite a mammoth 35-song tracklist, no one covers “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “Like a Rolling Stone,” or “Mr. Tambourine Man.” Instead, the soundtrack abounds with wonderful oddities like this. Television’s Tom Verlaine delivers a ghostly, barely-sung cover of one of Dylan’s late-career classics (also the track Bob has played more than other except “Love Sick”)
Ane Brun – Make You Feel My Love
Calling “Make You Feel My Love” the album’s most-covered track is an understatement. It’s been a hit three times, for Billy Joel, Garth Brooks, and Adele (that one provided the final chapter of my book). It’s become a modern American-songbook standard. What other late-period Dylan song would be covered by both Michael Bolton and the cast of Glee? In the wrong hands, it quickly turns schmaltzy. Props to Norwegian singer Ane Brun for ditching the typical swooning orchestra and lavish production to bring the song back down to earth. Even when some strings do appear, they keep things quirky.
Georgia Sam – Can’t Wait
We end with two tracks off of the only two Time Out of Mind tribute albums I know of. On Voices in the Night, guitarist Stephen Michael re-christens himself Georgia Sam (nice “Highway 61” reference) to tackle every track. He aces the swampy-blues vibe throughout, never more so than on this killer “Can’t Wait.” Bonus points for including a cover of one of Bob’s best-ever outtakes, the stunning “Red River Shore.”
Arve-Gunnar Heløy – Highlands
Arve-Gunnar Heløy not only covered this entire album, he translated it into Norwegian! One imagines that proved a particular challenge on the 15-minute “Highlands.” I can’t speak to how accurate his lyrics are, but, accompanied by jazz guitar and accordion, they sure sound nice.
Here again are the links to all the other Dylan albums we’ve explored covers of:
* Highway 61 Revisited
* Blood on the Tracks
* Blonde on Blonde
* Bringing It All Back Home
* John Wesley Harding
* Empire Burlesque
* Street Legal