I don't think I could have reviewed this record without first
seeing the movie that it accompanies
at the least, I could
not have done justice to this collection without some of the images
in my mind, leftovers haunting from the excellent film. Unfortunately,
the film lends meaning to some of the songs that is a bit lacking
on the record
memories tied to slideshows in the mind. Most
disappointing is the Calexico & Jim James cover of
"Going To Acapulco" which had such immense power in
the absurdist funeral scene of the movie but sounds a bit lacking
(less powerful and more trebley) on the album - still it is one
of my favorite tracks. Also missing is the voice of young "Woody
Guthrie" (Marcus Carl Franklin) on the Richie Havens
cut, "Tombstone Blues". If I hadn't seen the movie,
this song would be simply perfect, but missing that vocal presence
leaves me wanting. That's really the only shortcomings
As for the longcomings, there are so many. This album is filled
with amazing versions of classic (and not so classic) Dylan
songs, not only inspired by the film, but also truly inspired.
John Doe's cover of "Pressing On" is stunning
and powerful, filled with a raw beauty and huge gospel heart.
Iron & Wine is joined by Calexico for a great low-tempo
funky world beat and sonic version of "Dark Eyes" before
Karen O launches into a ripping version of "Highway
61 Revisited". Jeff Tweedy covers "Simple Twist
Of Fate" in his warbling voice accompanied by sparse acoustic
instrumentation - the best thing he's done in years - before the
incredible king of dark Mark Lanegan performs an absolutely
terrific version of "The Man In The Long Black Coat",
his voice whiskey-soaked (even though he's sober these days) and
dense with the shades of twangy classic westerns. Calexico joins
Willie Nelson for a nice slow-down version of "Senor
(Tales Of Yankee Power)" to finish up the first disc.
The second disc features one more track from stalwarts Calexico
(well, at least Joey and John), this time joined
by Charlotte Gainsbourgh on the excellent downbeat and
quiet reading of "Just Like A Woman". Mira Billotte
performs "As I Went Out One Morning", sounding quite
a bit like a younger Beth Orton as she rambles through
the twisted tale of lovers. Jack Johnson slows down his
continual groove and plays a brilliant medley while Ramblin'
Jack Elliott does an amazing version of "Just Like Tom
Thumb's Blues". The Black Keys purvey their trademark
bluesy grit on "The Wicked Messenger" before Tom
Verlaine plays "Cold Irons Bound" with the Million
Dollar Bashers, a band formed up of various indie rock luminaries,
including Lee Ranaldo, John Medeski, Steve Shelley
and Nels Cline, that appears often on the soundtrack. Infact,
the Million Dollar Bashers back Stephen Malkmus on a weirdly
hopping version of the classic "Maggie's Farm", sounding
a bit more like The Band than anyone could have ever imagined
possible, I think. Marcus Carl Franklin finally gets his due on
the spirited "When The Ship comes In" before John Doe
plays again and Antony & The Johnsons wrap the album
with a warbly and strange downbeat "Knockin' On Heaven's
Door". As a bonus, included here pretty much for the first
time is the original version of Bob Dylan and The Band
performing "I'm Not There"
which Sonic Youth
does a really, really excellent version of on the first disc
filled with their trademark sonic exercises and spirited production.
So whether you've seen the movie and this soundtrack serves
to evoke memories of the amazing and sometimes troubling moments
of the film or you simply want to hear a really, really amazing
tribute to Bob Dylan and his amazing songwriting, it is well
worth the time and money invested. It still amazes me the wealth
of new inspiration a classic song can bring when re-interpreted
by a contemporary artist. This album is full of brilliance,
not only from the pen of Dylan, but from the artists involved
in re-working his tunes.
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