There’s no mistaking an ANOHNI cover. Since back when she was performing as Antony and the Johnsons, her imitable voice was instantly recognizable whether covering Beyoncé or the Velvet Underground. She hasn’t done as many covers since adopting the name ANOHNI – the most memorable, “Black Peter,” appeared on the sprawling Grateful Dead tribute Day of the Dead. But she begins to expand her covers repertoire with a new 7″ of Bob Dylan and Nina Simone covers.
Neither, as it turns out, is entirely new. “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” comes from a recording session a few years ago and “Be My Husband” from even before that – an Antony and the Johnsons show in 1999. The Simone sounds like a vintage ANOHNI/Antony cover, but the Dylan gets a slight twist as she distorts her vocals. Still, though, her sound remains unmistakable. Here’s what she said about both tracks:
I recorded “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” with Kevin Barker one afternoon a few years ago. I listened to it recently and it reminded me of Now, a nausea of nostalgia for the suffering of the present, or even the future. I did a couple of songs by Bob Dylan at that time, encouraged by Hal Willner, the producer who we lost to COVID-19 in April. I hope that this period, and this repugnant presidency, will be over soon, and that these bigots and apocalyptic capitalists and evangelicals will crawl back into their rotten little holes. But how can this happen unless the American media and social media are forced to tell the truth? I am glad to see the mobilization of Black Lives Matter and the re-emergence of the Occupy movement. When Biden said “Americans don’t want revolution, they want a return to decency,” he was wrong. We all know deep down that the continuation of our civilizations for much longer will require seismic change.
I saw Nina Simone perform at Carnegie Hall in 1991 while I was still in college. The concert was not properly publicized, and the theater was only half full. I think it may have been her first time back in NYC in many years. She was rumored to be volatile and unpredictable. That night she sang and played with such dignity, so incredibly, and she did five or six encores. For me, she was the greatest musician of the 20th Century. She didn’t write many songs, but the ones she wrote were among the most profound of the era. “Be My Husband” was one such song. The lyrics spin a paradox of romantic assertion and submission. This live version of the song was recorded at an Antony and the Johnsons concert at the Knitting Factory in NYC in 1999.
Watch them both below – the first with a creepy, Eraserhead-ish video.