May 242021

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40. The Magokoro Brothers – My Back Pages

Hidetoshi Sakurai and Yoichi Kuramochi are the Magokoro Brothers (not brothers, not named Magokoro) and wider recognition for their Japanese-language cover of “My Back Pages” was arguably the best thing to come out of 2003’s Masked and Anonymous, the film co-written by and starring Bob. Their cover is a glorious hybrid of every pop sound that was happening in 1967 or thereabouts. It chimes, it psyches, it surfs, but most of all fills the air with pure unadulterated joy. – Hope Silverman

39. The Walkabouts – Maggie’s Farm

Alt-country band the Walkabouts never made it big (at least not in their native America; Wikipedia claims they had a passionate fanbase in Europe). But every time they sang someone else’s song, they delivered. Their “Like a Hurricane” made Cover Me’s best Neil Young covers list. Their “House of the Rising Sun” made our 1996 cover list. When we finally tackle Nick Cave or Patti Smith or Nick Drake or The Carter Family or Tom Waits, they’ll be shoo-ins for those too. But until then, Bob Dylan.

They’ve covered Bob a bunch – most notably an entire set of late-’60s songs at Seattle’s Experience Music Project that is well worth a listen – but only committed one to a record: “Maggie’s Farm.” They chose well. The passion and fury comes through, channeling the aforementioned X in giving their alt-country a distinctly punk edge, as singers Chris Eckman and Carla Torgerson spit and snarl. – Ray Padgett

38. Elliott Murphy – Blind Willie McTell (Live in Germany 2002)

In this live, intimate recording, Murphy starts the song very similarly to the Dylan original. It’s quiet, with crisp acoustic and almost whispered vocals. But by the fourth verse, Murphy’s guitar becomes more insistent, joined by additional guitar and vocals. It feels like a raging storm is on the horizon, but it doesn’t really erupt until the solo halfway through this seven-minute track. The volume dynamics throughout this performance add a lot to an otherwise very simple song and help it hold your attention to the very end. – Mike Misch

37. The Dead Weather – New Pony

At first glance, Dylan’s pair of 1965 records might seem most rife to be channeled by The Dead Weather. The supergroup’s back-to-back LPs, Horehound and Sea of Cowards, brim with the same rambunctious energy that courses through Bringing It All Back Home and Highway 61 Revisited. Sartorially, too, the band could have easily blended into Don’t Look Back, eternally clad in leather jackets, black denim, and tipped boots. Instead, The Dead Weather forge a wild, mercurial sound from a far less obvious source: 1978’s big-band album Street Legal. Sparks fly from Jack White’s ruthless drumming and Alison Mosshart’s fire-and-brimstone vocals. The call-and-response hollers — “how much, how much longer?” — are desperate and frenzied, clattering around like a cry for help from the bottom of a well. The Dead Weather follow all of their savage instincts, turning this “New Pony” into something feral. – Ben Easton

36. World Wide Message Tribe – Precious Angel

How many bands do you know that can turn a Christian Bob number and turn it into a house music banger? While the original melody is long gone, this interpretation of the track turns the gospel theme of angelic light and transposes it to the lights and presence of a dance floor in full flow. Keeping the choral backing vocals on top of the house beat is an inspired choice, making the track soulful while still remaining danceable. – Brendan Shanahan

35. Tom Landa & The Paperboys – All Along the Watchtower

It’s rare to find a “Watchtower” cover that owes nothing to Hendrix, but Tom Landa & The Paperboys’ comes pretty close. It’s hardly a “back to John Wesley Harding” roots exercise either. Rather, Landa and co. deliver a stomping Celtic-folk explosion, all sawing fiddles and high-stepping banjo over what could almost be a disco beat. In its way, it’s as radical a reinvention as Jimi’s version was, though far less well known. – Ray Padgett

34. Dierks Bentley ft. Punch Brothers – Señor (Tales Of Yankee Power)

When the ace musicians in the Punch Brothers join forces with the forceful country singer-songwriter Dierks Bentley, they overturn some tables (to borrow imagery from the song). Their rendition of “Señor” (from Bentley’s On the Ridge recording) features Bentley’s voice alone at first, but soon he is trading half-verses with Chris Thile. Momentum builds, and by the final stanzas their voices are wrestling together in spirited harmony. As you’d expect from any project with mandolin virtuoso Thile on board, the instrumental breaks are lyrical and intricate—fiddle, mandolin, and banjo in turn, each finding a fresh route over the same progression. The musical mood is vibrant throughout, more in the spirit of Tim O’Brien’s bluegrass version than, say, Jerry Garcia’s off-speed treatment. – Tom McDonald

33. Sertab – One More Cup of Coffee

This original duet with Emmylou Harris was notable for its sound, reminiscent of Middle Eastern musical styles. Sertab Erener, who brought home Turkey’s first win in the Eurovision song contest, makes this style even more explicit in her rendition, which, like the Magokoro Brothers a few spots up, got included on the Masked & Anonymous soundtrack. The strings swoop as she sings solo with controlled trills. There’s a heaviness in the overall mood, with the “valley below” given extra emphasis. – Sara Stoudt

32. Boombox – Who Killed Davey Moore?

If you like the feeling when you’re listening to a song for a minute and a half before you realize it’s a cover, this one’s for you. Boombox’s pulsating trance track and groovy jazz guitar line give no indication that you’re about to hear a cover of Dylan’s telling of the tragic death of boxer Davey Moore. The cutting words stand in stark contrast to the funky backbeats and flute solo, but you could put this song on in the middle of a party and it’s unlikely anyone would notice. – Mike Misch

31. Solomon Burke – What Good Am I?

The first time I heard this, I didn’t even recognize the swaggering faux-confidence of the rendition as being the same song. Solomon Burke paints a totally different picture, almost damning the witness over himself, much in the same way that Burke never quite, in real life, seemed to lack in any self-confidence or doubt. A huge voice and a huge personality, this song found Burke in a latter-day purple patch, his career revived by Joe Henry’s production of Don’t Give Up on Me, in 2002, with this bombastic powerhouse appearing on the 2005 follow-up, this time produced by onetime Dylan producer Don Was. The backing band are stellar, the vocal a passive-aggressive challenge. – Seuras Og

The list continues on Page 9.

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  13 Responses to “The 100 Best Bob Dylan Covers Ever”

Comments (13)
  1. Hope Silverman really really nails #98 for me (its my #1)…taking the complicated time, place and point of view of Tangled up in Blue and having the 2 of them sing it to each other is unreal.

  2. Great list. Some very well known, some really obscure and lots in between. Only one cover missing – Rod Stewart with Mama You Been On My Mind.

  3. What? No Joe Cocker I Shall be Released? An astonishing omission!

  4. Looks like a great list. I would have to add the Byrds version of Chimes of Freedom. (I once asked Roger McGuinn via email if they ever recorded it with all the verses, he said no. But for a partial take on the song, it’s just stunning in my book).

  5. Also a tip, there is a nice version of you ain’t going nowhere on the Nitty Gritty Dirt band’s Will the circle be unbroken Vol II with McGuinn doing the vocal and telling a story…

  6. Vote for 53. Heart of mine

  7. Not a single track from Dylanesque recorded by Bryan Ferry, that’s not ok. I Also miss Guns N’ Roses, knockin ‘On Heavens door and Nazareth, The Ballad of Hollies Brown.

  8. Michael Hedges “Watchtower”?

  9. Dylan Fans: You’ve GOT to check out Sinead Lohan’s stellar version of To Ramona!!!!

  10. Great list, one of my favs not on this list is Helio Sequence’s Mr Tamborine Man, it’s a fairly straight cover, but the guitar has a great depth and space to it that gives it a surreal quality that’s really nice.

  11. What a fantastic list! When Cover Me Songs gets its Sirius/XM station, I hope that Dylan covers will be its initial weekend — make that week, no wait, make that month — programming. I would like to recommend a wonderful jazz version of Mr. Tambourine Man by the great, dearly departed singer Abbey Lincoln. I never get tired of it:

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