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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Question Of Cover. If You Cannot Bring Good News Then Don't Bring Any?
Taking on the words & music of Bob Dylan can do favour to both the song and the artist involved. The consistent successes of both The Byrds & The Band immediately come to mind. Those were perfect marriages; the capable musicians took the great songs ("My Back Pages", "Nothing Was Delivered", "Tears Of Rage", "When I Paint My Masterpiece" & so on) adding something of their...
Published on 3 Nov 2007 by KMorris

versus
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars When Its Good Its Really Good , When Its Not...
I have to admit I was expecting a lot from this album. Since I'm a big admirer of Bob Dylan's work, and have always liked the idea of interesting new takes on time worn classics, it all looked very promising. Especially so upon seeing the calibre of some of the artists involved in this project(although cool points deducted for the inclusion of Jack Johnson(who actually...
Published on 29 Nov 2007 by William J. Walker


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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars When Its Good Its Really Good , When Its Not..., 29 Nov 2007
By 
William J. Walker "Billyjay" (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: I'm Not There (Audio CD)
I have to admit I was expecting a lot from this album. Since I'm a big admirer of Bob Dylan's work, and have always liked the idea of interesting new takes on time worn classics, it all looked very promising. Especially so upon seeing the calibre of some of the artists involved in this project(although cool points deducted for the inclusion of Jack Johnson(who actually does OK!)).

Unfortunately the material is very variable in quality with the overall tendency toward the mediocre or poor. I guess part of the problem is that the artists here are competing with both Dylan and the numerous people who have already released successful covers of Dylan tracks.

The usual maxim with covers is 'if you are going to do it, do something different(Hendrix: 'All Along The Watchtower') or do it better(Sandy Denny's rendition of 'I'll Keep it With Mine)and preferably try and do both(The Byrds 'Mr Tambourine Man' perhaps?). Too many of the artists here are content to plod through a 'straight' reading of the original(Eddie Vedder + MDB actually choose to 'cover' the Hendrix version of 'All Along the Watchtower') and those that try something different often sound rather half-hearted(or just fail)in their efforts.
Some of the track selection appears, at first glance, inspired, I was particularly looking forward to 'Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll' but Mason Jennings removes all the spirit and soul from the song.

OK so why three stars, not one, or two? Well there are some genuinely excellent tracks on the album. I'm not going to give a 'track by track' but a few standouts are: `Goin' To Acapulco' - Jim James & Calexico, `Pressing On' - John Doe, `You Ain't Goin' Nowhere' - Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova and, of course, probably the best track on the album `I'm Not There' - Bob Dylan with The Band, which, to my knowledge, has only been available in bootleg form prior to this.

You could certainly trim this down to one CD, just don't expect to fill the disc! However even some of the failures are interesting and I do feel that the best here would certainly justify the purchase of this record.
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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Question Of Cover. If You Cannot Bring Good News Then Don't Bring Any?, 3 Nov 2007
By 
KMorris (Nottingham, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: I'm Not There (Audio CD)
Taking on the words & music of Bob Dylan can do favour to both the song and the artist involved. The consistent successes of both The Byrds & The Band immediately come to mind. Those were perfect marriages; the capable musicians took the great songs ("My Back Pages", "Nothing Was Delivered", "Tears Of Rage", "When I Paint My Masterpiece" & so on) adding something of their own & producing interpretations of lasting value.

Covering Dylan has however been a minefield of considerable failure & embarrassment for some. William Shatner's theatrical reading of "Mr Tambourine Man" steps forward here (can we really buy the "it's so bad, it's good, the cult of kitsch" idea?). Even the involvement of acknowledged great musicians seems no guarantee of success; the attempted "Blowin' In The Wind" by Duke Ellington, although most probably a mere consession to fad & fashion at the time, may best be described as "quaint".

It appears to this listener at least that the validity of such "tribute" collections, which after all this here is as well as the official soundtrack of the film, depends not only on the choice of songs (maybe avoiding the obvious, bringing to the fore the unjustly neglected), but also the quality of imagination of those involved, their willingness to take a chance or two with their charges. We know that the songs are great already; we now require the contenders to add a little special magic of their very own as well.

We probably do not want yet another gung-ho rock out "All Along The Watchtower" such as the one opening proceedings here. The somewhat effete warbling "Knockin' On Heaven's Door" which (nearly) closes this collection is certainly not essential listening & definitely superfluous to our needs. These two songs have already been notably over-done; their simple, but attractive three & four chord cycles seeming irresistible to many would-be interpreters; but, hey, enough is enough, chaps.

On the brighter side however I'm pleased to report that between those two offerings here are many many unexpected treasures to be found. More than competent & pleasingly imaginative performances throughout make this double CD well worthy of investigation. On such cover-version sets as this it seems the individual efforts may be divided into three types . . . (1) the very good, the interesting, (2) the perfunctory attempt, the pale copy of the original, (3) the downright dismissible, even laughable. Luckily here there are plenty plenty of the first group to reward & hold the listener & only two or three of the last.

The "old guard" folks here, including Roger McGuinn (one of the early Dylan cover agents with The Byrds in 1965, of course), Willie Nelson, Los Lobos & Tom Verlaine (wow!) put in honourable performances on excellent tracks, all expanding the musical palate of the originals. Former Television man, Verlaine, it should be mentioned is also part of one of the "house bands" featured, the finely-named Million Dollar Bashers who also boast within their ranks current long-serving member of Dylan's band, bass player Tony Garnier.

There is such a wide variety of grand style on display here & the calibre of the songs, stretching from 1964's "The Time's They Are A-Changin'" to 1997`s "Cold Irons Bound" cannot be denied. There are many tracks that immediately hit the spot. Karen O gives us a bubbling, high spirited "Highway 61 Revisited" complete with slide guitar courtesy of Mr Verlaine and appropriate "police car" effects present & correct. Jeff Tweedy offers a heartfelt, desirable "Simple Twist Of Fate" while the brass-laden "Goin' To Acapulco" by Jim James is extremely impressive with it's controlled power.

The aforementioned Tom Verlaine ticks all the right boxes, unexpectingly slowing down "Cold Irons Bound" with formidable success. There is most soulful credibility in the renditions by Mark Lanegan, John Doe & Sutjan Stevens. The version here of "Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window", a favourite song of mine, is given a forcefully rocking treatment by The Hold Steady & even the "old-timers" Richie Havens & Ramblin' Jack Elliott (especially Jack) deliver the goods with gusto.

Finally, of course, there's the strange & compelling title song performed by the man himself accompanied by The Band (you can forget Sonic Youth, sorry). It makes me yearn for more excellent "Basement Tapes" material that is left shamefully hidden, without official release. (Come on, Columbia/Sony, how about it?) That, however, is another story. To conclude, what we have here with this film soundtrack is an album well worth investigating. You probably can't hope to like it all there being 34 tracks in total with such diverse musical landscapes, but in general this is very good news.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Bob's still too alive for some..., 30 Oct 2007
By 
Tiernan Henry (Galway, Ireland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: I'm Not There (Audio CD)
Back in the early 60s Columbia launched an ad campaign to sell Dylan records: Nobody sings Dylan like Dylan, ran the tag line. And even now, 40 or so years on, it largely rings true. Sure, Hendrix's regime change worked a treat on All Along The Watchtower, but in general Bob covers pale beside the old goat's (many, usually) versions.
This album is no exception: some gems, some duds, and mostly a harmless collection of so-so covers that are careful, well played and diligent. Given the adventurousness of the movie that this release is attached to I was expecting more from the music. I don't mean that I needed to hear Cradle of Filth doing Father of Night or Kanye West taking on Love Sick, but I was hoping for more, considering the pedigree of the participants.
I guess this is a bit like the recent Dylan release: how the hell do you pick a song from that catalogue and still get a sense of the weird, moustached gent behind it all? So, there's something here for everyone, and not enough for anyone.
The good things here, however, are really good, while the weaker stuff, is well, here. In the former camp are Jim James and Calexico, Cat Power, Tweedy, Sufjan Stevens, Yo La Tengo (sounding nothing at like YLT and everything like the Stones c. 1965), and John Doe. In the latter are Ramblin' Jack, Richie Havens, Sonic Youth (defeated by the almost unplayable title song - I mean that in the best sense, the song is an odd concoction of imagery and odd melodies - that is best played by Bob and the Band), The Hold Steady, The Black Keys, and so on.
Begin the games now: there's a really good single CD album here, off you go and start selecting the songs now.
Having said all of that I think you probably need to get this album for one song: John Doe's astonishing take on Pressing On. Originally from Saved, the song comes alive in Doe's take, ably assisted by Joe Henry's excellent production, and dammed near falls into The Weight. Holy moly!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my favourite cd's, 3 Aug 2011
This review is from: I'm Not There (Audio CD)
I absolutely love this album. Of course there are a few duds, with so many songs and artists. But most of the album is pure class.

I am a great Dylan fan, but also love to hear his masterpieces being performed by others (in many cases better than himself imo).
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dylan-the new covers update, 4 Nov 2009
This review is from: I'm Not There (Audio CD)
Loses a star because of the appalling Sonic Youth who see fit to cover the title song which is the last one here and by Dylan himself (previously only bootlegged)
Otherwise its business as usual with capable versions at the very least.
Standouts include the only girl version I ever heard of Just like a Woman-which comes across as an answer version by one Charlotte Gainnsburg (who is in Shelby Flint territory)
One of the few covers of my favorite Dylan song Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window-heard here by an act called The Hold Steady who slow down the song before the more familiar style kicks in.This is not unlike The Band who played on the original
Tom Verlaine delivers a fine version of Cold Irons Bound-surely one of the great Dylan songs.
I wanna be your lover-a song previosly bootlegged-is Dylan's most unoriginal song as it wallops wholesale from the Beatles/Stones song I wanna be your man.
But understandable knowing Dylan's modus operandus-not only is Fourth Time Around like Norwegian Wood but Dylan owes a lot to the British Invasion
The version by Ramblin' Jack Elliot of Just like Tom Thumb's Blues represents along with Dylan himself the earliest name-an American who moved to the U K and cut 6 albums for Topic,returning as Dylan was in New York in 1961.
Some reviewer on here shoots the entire collection down and has somehow decided its rubbish.Which indicates that it needs to be listened to properly as its rather stupid to lump in junk like Sonic Youth and the take it or leave it Anthony & the Johnsons with Elliot,Roger McGuinn or even Dylan himself
I've not seen the film nor even want to do-it sounds stupid
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars my kind of music, 3 Aug 2013
By 
E. Douglas "Eddie Douglas" (Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: I'm Not There (Audio CD)
I
have only played through once thus far, but I am very happy with both discs.
anyone into Bob Dylan will appreciate this I am sure
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent companion piece to the movie., 26 Mar 2013
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This review is from: I'm Not There (Audio CD)
A pretty eclectic and dangerously hip dash through Dylan's back pages. To call it a great soundtrack is only half the picture, as these two discs feature a lot of music nowhere to be found in the movie itself. Highlights include Cat Power's superb drawl through Stuck Inside of Mobile... , Jim James and Calexico's gorgeous treatment of Going to Acapulco, and a dreamy version of Fourth Time Around by Yo La Tengo. These are just my favourites though, the whole thing is pretty great.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Something is happening here, 25 Jun 2011
By 
Dangerous Dave (Berkhamsted, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: I'm Not There (Audio CD)
Released in 2007, as the soundtrack to Todd Haynes' Dylan biopic, not all of its tracks were used in the film. Indeed the album achieved an existence separate to that of the film. For reasons that may not immediately be clear, this album was easily the superior to any previous Dylan covers sets and probably any that have been released since. I feel I can make this statement with confidence even though I know that I'll probably only ever hear relatively few of the myriad of such covers.

So what makes this different?

1. All the performances were recorded purely for this album. This gives it a consistency of sound and a consistency of purpose for the contributors.

2. There were broadly two house bands used, the borderline boys Calexico, who've often been praised/accused for their cinematic approach, and a super group (the million dollar bashers) consisting of Tom Verlaine, Steve Shelley (Sonic Youth), Nels Cline (Wilco), Tony Garnier (Dylan's regular bassist), guitarist Smokey Hormel and organist, John Medeski. Again this gives consistency and gives the players a feel for a wide range of Dylan material.

3. There's a very wide range of vocalists used, hardly any household names - only Willie Nelson and, just possibly, Ritchie Havens come in that category - but a mix of established folkies, alternative rockers, alternative folkies, alternative country artists, alternative alternatives (!), and straight rockers (is Eddie Vedder alternative rock or just straight rock?). Some are just downright obscure but the weighting is towards the more modern performers.

4. The songs are far from the usual selection of hits. Plenty of the well known numbers are there but mixed with relative obscurities. The majority relate to the 60's which is in keeping with the film but they also come as far forward as "Cold irons abound" from "Time out of Mind".

Highlights below, but just because I don't mention a track doesn't mean I don't like it. Almost all the tracks are worth a listen. And I'm well aware that all tastes are different so someone else could be very impressed by a track I've omitted.

Disc 1 starts slowly but then the old trouper Richie Havens, plus a host of acoustic guitars and some latin percussion, liven things up with "Tombstone Blues". Cat Power does a very good job on "Memphis Blues Again" which takes the original and makes lots of rather neat little changes. This could have been recorded by Chips Moman in his prime at American Sound Studios - it's that good. Another "Blonde on Blonde" song, "Fourth Time around" gets a very sympathetic reading from Yo La Tengo - it has the required organ accompaniment but the vocal is very different, much more fragile than Bob. I hadn't realised this song was in waltz time - should check the original. "Dark Eyes" from Iron & Wine with Calexico is an unexpected delight with Sam's voice just cutting through from wah wah guitar with fuzz plus intriguing rhythm and vocal backing. I didn't know the song which is from one of the man's lesser albums, "Empire Burlesque". The Calexico sound comes to the fore again with added mariachi horns and a wavery, but just right ,vocal from Roger McGuinn in "One more cup of coffee". This is the border music that Calexico cut their teeth on and it's no surprise that it works so well. Then it's down south of the border for the Los Lobos version of "Billy 1" from the movie "Billy the Kid". I don't know Bob's original of this but I'd be prepared to bet that David Hidalgo and the boys improve on it with a vengeance. I know Los Lobos like to experiment at times but this is the sort of music they were born to play. A big Dylan song comes next: "Simple Twist of fate" from "Blood on the Tracks". Jeff Tweedy doesn't stray too far from Bob's cut with a sympathetic fiddle in the minimal backing, but he does do it very well. The good stuff is coming thick and fast now. Next we get Mark Lanegan sounding like a cross between JC and Nick Cave on "Man in a long back coat". Following this, and finishing the first disc strongly, is Calexico plus mariachi again, this time fronted by the old croaker himself, Willie Nelson, on what could be the definitive version of "Senor". Give Willie a song like this and he's in his element. We get his very distinctive finger picked guitar as well.

Disc 2 kicks off attractively with a take on "As I went out one morning" off "John Wesley Harding" from a lady called Mira Billotte who's the lead singer of a band called "White Magic". "Ring Them Bells" from Dylan's Christian period is given a very interesting treatment from Sufjan Stevens. This comes across like a mini-opera switching between restrained guitars and a full brass section; it's unlike anything else on the album. Only Stevens could do this. One of Dylan's best known songs follows: "Just Like a Woman" intimately breathed by Charlotte Gainsbourg. We're then right back to the folk days with a pleasing version of "Mama you been on my mind" - Bob used to do this in the form of a duet with Joanie. Yo La Tengo treat "I wanna be your lover" as a satisfying chunky rocker. It's nice to hear a different version of "You ain't goin' nowhere" but it won't replace the Byrds from "Sweetheart". "Can you please crawl out your window" gets the full rock treatment from the Hold Steady and survives very well. Another old folkie is up next. Rambling Jack Elliott himself, a peer of Dylan, takes the electric "Tom Thumb's Blues" and gives it an acoustic makeover with assistance from Loudon Wainright plus mandolin & dobro. Old Jack takes liberties with the scansion in just the way Dylan sometimes does, "I'm going back to New York City, I do believe I've had enough". They don't rush. We get nearly seven minutes complete with second wind. Another delight - it`s a great contrast to the more arranged stuff. Tom Verlaine's "Cold Irons Bound" with what sounds like mainly electronic accompaniment is a chiller, even more so than the original. "Maggie's Farm" gets the full Highway 61/Blonde on Blonde treatment from Stephen Malkmus and the Million Dollar Bashers. I've never been the greatest fan of the song "Knocking on Heaven's Door", don't know why, but Antony & the Johnsons produce a very good version with simple piano and guitar backing.- I rather like this one.

Disc 2 finishes with Dylan and the Band's version of "I'm not there" from the Basement Tapes sessions. It has all the ramshackle mystery and charm of those sessions and was an inspired choice for the film. A nice reminder of Dylan and Band in ultra relaxed and intimate mood with Hudson's organ weaving ghostly lines around Bob's vocal.

One of the conclusions I came to after listening to this album is that many of the so-called alternative artists contained herein give very good accounts of themselves and their interpretive abilities outside of their normal comfort zone, and some of these people may even be relatively unfamiliar with Dylan and his oeuvre. Which is a comforting thought for the future of popular music outside the narrow populist line - there are some pretty good performers around. In addition, this album is the ideal riposte to those people who say that "I like Dylan's songs but can't stand his voice". Unfortunately I'd suspect that the vast majority of the album's sales have been to fully signed up Dylan believers. Maybe some non-believers should give it a go.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Noone Does Dylan Like Dylan., 10 Dec 2007
This review is from: I'm Not There (Audio CD)
By their very nature, tribute compilations like this can be very hit and miss affairs.Getting different acts to cover others songs , even when focussing on one particular artist can produce varying degrees of success.To do so with Bob Dylan, who has displayed so many styles, ranges and persona over so long a career is further fraught with danger.For example few can match Dylan's own vocal snap and bite and authentic bluesy backing on such tracks as "Maggies Farm" or "Tombstone Blues", or duplicate his delivery on "Wanna be Your Lover" or "Please Crawl Out You Window".As a previous reviewer has mentioned "Watchtower" is just too obvious, whilst "Times" is played with such a straight bat (especially when compared with the recent Bryan Ferry version) as to be almost dull, and personal favourites like "Ring Them Bells" or "Cold Irons Bound" are but pale imitations, stripped of the power Dylan gave them.However that doesn't mean they are without virtue, (a great song is still a great song), and neither does it detract from the good tracks on offer on these discs, of which there are plenty.
Often it is the songs done quite simply that sparkle."Lonesome Death" and "When The Ship Comes In" being fine examples.As is Ramblin' Jack Elliott's ramblin' "Tom Thumb's Blues".Even the cover of a cover "Moonshiner" with it's haunting "the whole world's a bottle, and life is but a dram ..." ending, comes close to matching the intensity of Dylan's 1963 offering, and Blonde on Blonde wild mercury sound is obtained with the awesome "Stuck Inside of Mobile" and a "Just Like a Woman" which imitates the mathematical phrasing Dylan sought in live performances circa 1966.Other highlights include "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere" and "Goin' To Acapulco" where Glen Hansard and Jim James respectively merely accentuate the melodies already present in the Basement Tapes versions.Likewise JW Hardings "As I Went Out One Morning" and "St. Augustine" (another personal favourite) use what was already there in the fairly uncomplicated originals to good effect.A hint of violin in a simple "Simple Twist", and the use of spanish horns in "One More Cup Of Coffee" add to the song instead of trying to override it and are all the more special for it.Even the opera amid Willie Nelsons "Senor" only boosts the latin flavour of the song, and Antony and the Johnsons deserve only praise for their take on "Heaven's Door".It may take a few listens to appreciate but in turning the tune into almost a funeral dirge they only seek to compliment the lyrics.
What these CD's reveal of course is that noone can better the originals.The best example is shown with the title track, Sonic Youth's valient attempt not able to build up in the intense way Dylan and The Band manage.Even a superbly performed "Pressing On" (another favourite!) doesn't make the hairs on my neck stand on end like Bob manages in the way he sings the line "it runs in my veins", but that just shows the genius of Dylan, and that is exactly why such tributes exist at all.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fifty Shades of Dylan, 12 Dec 2013
This review is from: I'm Not There (Audio CD)
Normally I'm not a big fan of these types of tribute albums; they usually consist of karaoke covers of the artist's greatest hits. But this record is different, with mostly obscure Dylan tracks, with the acts trying to place there own individual style & interpretation of their given song.
With "Stuck inside.." by Cat Power given a funky horn section, or Yo La Tengo intimate version of "4th time around" with it's pretty Hammond organ a-compliment (I always find it interesting when women cover Dylan songs, & they don't change the her to him, which always makes the song jar to much). Even Jack Johnson's take on "Mama, You've Been..." with it's setting to the style of "Subterranean Homesick.." of Dylan's "Last Thoughts on Woody Guthrie" Spoken word piece is outstanding.
There are a couple of duds; Eddie Vedder's Hendrix clone of "All along the Watchtower" is hardly inspiring stuff, or the dreary overlong "Cold Iron Bound", but these blips don't detract from the overall quality of the rest of the record, with a good mix of simple & complex arrangement of the material.
You even get a previous unreleased Dylan track "I'm not there", taken from the Basement tapes sessions (it about time it was released as some type of box set).
So a good stopgap album in-between Dylan records, & not even spoiled by Mcguinn's contribution!
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