May 242021
 

‘The Best Covers Ever’ series counts down our favorite covers of great artists.

best bob dylan covers

When we began our Best Covers Ever series a little over three years ago, Bob Dylan was about the first artist who came to mind. But we held off. We needed to work our way up to it. So we started with smaller artists to get our feet wet. You know, up-and-comers like The Rolling Stones and Nirvana, Beyoncé and Pink Floyd, Madonna and Queen.

We kid, obviously, but there’s a kernel of truth there. All those artists have been covered a million times, but in none of their stories do cover songs loom quote as large as they do in Bob Dylan’s. Every time one of his songs has topped the charts, it’s been via a cover. Most of his best-known songs, from “All Along the Watchtower” to “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” didn’t get that way because of his recordings. In some cases fans of the songs don’t even realize they are Bob Dylan songs. That’s been happening since Peter, Paul, and Mary sang “Blowin’ in the Wind,” and it’s still happening almost sixty years later – just look at the number of YouTube videos titled “Make You Feel My Love (cover of Adele)”.

So needless to say, there was a lot of competition for this list. We finally narrowed it down to 100 covers – our biggest list ever, but still only a drop in the bucket of rain. Many of the most famous Dylan covers are on here. Many of them aren’t. The only criteria for inclusion was, whether iconic or obscure, whether the cover reinvented, reimagined, and reinterpreted a Dylan song in a new voice.

With a list like this, and maybe especially with this list in particular, there’s an incentive to jump straight to number one. If you need to do that to assuage your curiosity, fine. But then come back to the start. Even the 100th best Dylan cover is superlative. Making it on this list at all marks a hell of a feat considering the competition. (In fact, Patreon supporters will get several hundred bonus covers, the honorable mentions it killed us to cut.)

In a 2006 interview with Jonathan Lethem, Dylan himself put it well: “My old songs, they’ve got something—I agree, they’ve got something! I think my songs have been covered—maybe not as much as ‘White Christmas’ or ‘Stardust,’ but there’s a list of over 5,000 recordings. That’s a lot of people covering your songs, they must have something. If I was me, I’d cover my songs too.”

The list begins on Page 2.

May 212021
 

Cover Classics takes a closer look at all-cover albums of the past, their genesis, and their legacy.

Bob Dylan

As a companion piece to our best Bob Dylan single song covers post, coming this Monday, it’s worth considering the myriad tribute albums to the bard of Duluth. To narrow that down at least marginally, we’ll focus on those by an individual band or artist (several Dylan sets appeared on our recent best tribute compilations countdown). There are a lot of them, many more even than you might imagine, encompassing all styles and stages of his ever-changing moods. So let’s start setting some real guidelines here…

We’ll rule out those put together retrospectively as a compilation, so no The Byrds Play Dylan or Postcards of the Hanging by The Grateful Dead. This piece only addresses those made for and released at one sitting. Space begets also a ruthlessness that further excludes participants put together solely and especially for one specific recording, so farewell the excellent Dylan’s Gospel and the intriguing Dylan Jazz. Finally, this is a Top Twenty list, squeezing out many further worthy gems like Joan Osborne’s Songs of Bob Dylan and Robbie Fulks’ 16, a track-by-track take on Street Legal that has some of the best individual songs, frustratingly alongside some decidedly not, perhaps due to the songs and not the singer. Finally, I felt it would be interesting/indulgent to add two essential bits of information about each record:

1. What is the deepest cut contained?
2: Does it feature “Like a Rolling Stone,” the benchmark Dylan song?

Will you disagree with my selections? Sure, and that’s fine, it’s what the comments area is for. Let me know what you think shouldn’t have missed the cut, and what shouldn’t have made it.
Continue reading »

May 262020
 

Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.

No Expectations covers

Like many selections in the Five Good Covers series, this song could easily support Ten or Fifteen Good Covers. “No Expectations” appeared on the Rolling Stones’ Beggars Banquet album from 1968, so it’s been around a good long time. And it appears to be aging quite well—not all songs do—so we have every expectation that up-and-coming artists will keep it alive in years to come. Continue reading »

Mar 222017
 

Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!

bringing it all back home covers

Bob Dylan’s 1965 Newport Folk Festival concerts is one of the most famous – or infamous – performances of all time, subject to numerous books, documentaries, and debates over why Pete Seeger threatened to cut the power cable with an axe. But the fact is, by the time he stepped on that stage, Dylan had already gone electric, four months prior. The first half of his 1965 album Bringing It All Back Home – which turns 52 today – is all electric. And not the sort of light electric augmentation other folk singers were experimenting with either. The first track “Subterranean Homesick Blues” may still be the loudest, hardest track of Dylan’s entire career. He’d already drawn his line in the sand; the folk-music crowd had just chosen to ignore it.

To celebrate this landmark album’s 52nd birthday, we’re giving it the full-album treatment. Our recent tributes to Dylan albums have covered underrated works like 1978’s Street Legal and 1985’s Empire Burlesque, but today we return to the classics. Such classics, in fact, that in addition to our main cover picks we list some honorable-mention bonus covers for each song. Continue reading »

Mar 172011
 

Download This scours the web’s dark corners for cool cover freebies. View past installments.

As their name implies, HI54LOFI Records releases music by artists who subscribe to the lo-fi, DIY ethic. They succinctly sum up their philosophy by saying that “the pie with the least amount of fingers in it [is] the best tasting pie.” Many an artist who has experienced recording an album with a booth full of record company execs looking on would surely agree. Continue reading »

Dec 102008
 

Regular readers will notice the appearance of ads in the past few days. I had hoped to avoid shilling out our space here, but though my expenses are small, they do add up. As you navigate the new look, I’d love some feedback in the comments. Are these ads a necessary evil, or are they annoying enough that you will visit the blog less? If you find them annoying though, you’ll note in the sidebar that if you sponsor the blog for a month, the ads go bye-bye.

The business out of the way, it’s time for December’s album! I’ll admit I was somewhat disappointed to see in the recent poll that this was the least popular feature we do here, but in my mind it is also what gives this blog a unique character among the litany of cover blogs you see on your right. So it’s not going anywhere. Who knows, it may just introduce you to a new favorite. This month’s is the Stones’ Beggars Banquet. A blues-rock classic, with several well-known songs and a classic album cover.

Gail Swanson – Sympathy for the Devil
The hellfire apocalypse of this Stones classic is stripped down to an acoustic grove, with plenty of Swanson’s soulful riffing. And is that a Jethro Tull-esq flute solo? Sweet. [Buy]

Odetta – No Expectations
A lot of good covers of this one, but we’ll feature a blues legend who just passed away last week. An inspiration from everyone from Bob Dylan to Rosa Parks, she found her voice in songs of hope and freedom during the 50’s and 60’s and kept growing strong through the 90’s, when she received a National Medal of the Arts from President Clinton. Listening to this song, you can see why. [Buy]

Dr. Sin – Dear Doctor
This South American metal group released a whole album of songs about doctors, yelling about everyone from Dr. Robert to Dr. Feelgood. They show a surprising adeptness at a bluesy folk sound here though, even (gasp) harmonizing. [Buy]

Barry Goldberg – Parachute Woman
Straight up electric blues that sounds straight outta Chicago, the crunchy guitar chugs along with some nice organ solos. Who needs words when you can say it all in the music? [Buy]

Gerald Collier – Jigsaw Puzzle
Slide guitar doesn’t just need to be for sappy country. It whirls and wails behind every line here, embellishing the driving rhythm. [Buy]

Rage Against the Machine – Street Fighting Man
Hard distortion and aggressive drumming, it’s all one would expect from the Rage. [Buy]

Rude Dog – Prodigal Son (Rev. Robert Wilkins)
It’s not a Stones original, but Mr. Dog gives it as good a treatment as Mick and Keith did, hopping along while making heavy use of that little scraper instrument everyone used in kindergarten. I miss that thing. [Buy]

Johnny Winter – Stray Cat Blues
Guitar god Johnny Winter never leaves anything out when he’s rocking, and he goes all out here in this cut from his ’74 classic Saints & Sinners full of pedophilia goodness. Blues rock at its most badass. [Buy]

The Radiators – Factory Girl
Some New Orleans funk here from a classic bayou jam band. True to jam tradition, it’s a live one, and go here to hear it in the context of a longer medley that includes “Quinn the Eskimo,” “Lonesome Whistle Blow” and “Mountain Jam.” [Buy]

Dandy Livingstone – Salt of the Earth
Reggae straight out of Kingston, Dandy’s not afraid to let the strings and steel drum shine, serving the vocals (both his and the chorus’) instead of distracting from them. I’m surprised McCain didn’t use this one to introduce Joe the Plumber. One of the best of the bunch. [Buy]