Antony and the Johnsons :: The Dylan Covers

Bob Dylan is no easy cover. His distinctive voice, both vocally and lyrically, make it nearly impossible for many artists to capture the proper temperament. There are even some Dylan lyrics that just sound, well, wrong coming from the throats of anyone but him. Antony Hegarty’s gift for interpreting the music of others, however, has been on its finest display when he picks up the works of Dylan – something he has done several times in his career. Whether it’s taking a well-known standard and re-routing its soul, plumbing the rarer corners for more reverent treatments or taking less considered work and giving it new life, Antony’s channeling of Hibbing’s bard has been breathtaking.

Antony tackled “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” for the I’m Not There soundtrack and he takes what in the hands of Dylan was a defiant, stubbornly lost and almost bitter dirge and makes it something much more resigned and accepting. He’d go from the obvious to the rare on the Dark Was the Night benefit album by attempting “I Was Young When I Left Home.” It’s one of the more straight ahead covers that he’s attempted and it serves the song’s simplicity and story well. Finally, earlier this year he tackled the ‘born again’ era “Pressing On” and completely subverts it into a mechanical, hypnotic clockwork of a song that chimes and rings its way through its repetitious reading. And while it might be the least impressive of his Dylan readings, it illustrates the depths of the risks Antony has been willing to entertain with a body of work as sacrosanct as Dylan’s. words/ j neas

MP3: Antony and the Johnsons :: Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door (Bob Dylan)
MP3: Antony and the Johnsons :: I Was Young When I Left Home (Bob Dylan)
MP3: Antony and the Johnsons :: Pressing On (Bob Dylan)

10 thoughts on “Antony and the Johnsons :: The Dylan Covers

  1. His take on “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” is extraordinary and “I Was Young When I Left Home” is downright spectacular, but “Pressing On” is a massacre. Depths of the risks Antony takes indeed. But two out of three ain’t at all bad.

    John Doe’s version got to the root of “Pressing On.”

  2. @Aaron – I agree with you regarding John Doe’s version, but the more I listen to Antony’s version, the more I’m okay with it. My first listen was pretty rough though. I didn’t know what to make of it at first.

  3. There’s actually one more cover that you should here… On Jamie Saft Trios “Living the blues” Anthony does the vocals. A cool jazz version.

  4. @j. neas I can’t seem to get used to Antony’s version, which is too bad because before this new EP I loved everything Antony did. Why does the world need another version of “Imagine”?

    Repetition has always been Antony’s weak spot – even in great songs like “For Today I Am A Boy.”

    @BillW Few as interesting as Dylan and Antony.

  5. @BillW – The head Drunkard and I thought Antony’s covers have been a really impressive part of his oeuvre so far, so we wanted to take a look at those as well as his new record. He’s an artist well worth the exploration.

    I didn’t talk about his cover of Lennon’s “Imagine” from the same EP as “Pressing On,” but that’s another example of him taking something almost untouchable (ala “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door”) and really creating something rich.

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  7. @j. neas Okay I agree Antony’s cover of “Imagine” is lovely for it’s own sake. My dismissal is more a personal bias against John Lennon and The Beatles whose influence, I think, exceeds their worth. Mostly their songs just provide vague warmth with little substance to stand on, unlike artists, for example Dylan and Antony, who are more interesting because their songs are fraught with pain, and are thereby more inclusive of the real beauty of living.

    I didn’t realize you are the person who wrote this and other posts. I want to say thank you for the smart analyses and superb taste. This blog requires the least work, I find, because you have a piercing grasp for what’s interesting. It takes a lot of work to love music and your efforts make it easy on the rest of us.

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