25 March 2007

Major Tom's a cheeky monkey!

Also taking up some time in the brain recently has been Bryan Ferry's new LP, "Dylanesque".

Yes, another album of cover versions from suave legend Byron Ferrari, but only because the Roxy Music reunion record has been progressing slowly and it is for the most part a cracker.

Bryn Fury is a past master of the cover version, of course, offering a radical re-working of "A Hard Rain's A Gonna Fall" as his first solo single, and turning his hand to standards and rock and roll classics with aplomb in his time.

The LP opens with two typical "Ferry Does Dylan" tracks, "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues" and "Simple Twist Of Fate" in the "stomp-stomp" style of his earlier "Hard Rain" and "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" from his last collection, "Frantic". There are a couple of embarrasing moments "The Times They Are A-Changing" is a period piece and resurrecting it seems a bit nonsensical, and "To Make You Feel My Love" disappointly retreads the Dylan original and Billy Joel's version. However, the already magnificent "Postively 4th Street" is brilliantly handled, substituting Dylan's biting dismissal with resigned melancholy over a lover determined not to learn the lessons the singer had been trying to teach. The closing instrumental minute is worth the price of admission alone.

And so, to cover versions in general....one rule and one rule only, they need to be different. They need to add something to the song that the original didn't highlight. Hence my top 5 cover versions (most of whose originals are excellent too):

5. Comfortably Numb - Scissor Sisters. Weld the Pink Floyd original to a Disco beat and a Bee Gees delivery, revelatory.

4. You're Beautiful - Fred MacAulay. From the recent "Comic Relief does Fame Academy" (don't dwell on the awful title). Now this was an annoying song when sung by the wettest trained killer ever to grace the charts. There was no emotion. Fred nailed it. He saw her face in a crowded place and....he didn't know what to do (blub!).

3. Mr Tambourine Man - The Byrds. The greatest intro to any record ever? Pure sunshine in a bottle!

2. Always On My Mind - Pet Shop Boys. The inability to express regret makes the expression of it even more poignant. Best experienced in the video version from the film "It Couldn't Happen Here" with Joss Ackland. "I smell youth, vintage youth."

1. With A Little Help From My Friends - Joe Cocker. About as far from the "identikit" cover version as you can get. Ringo's singalongaPepper transformed into a behemoth of heavy pop, so wrought you could build Victorian gates out of it!

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