Dylan’s Late-Career Classics: Not Dark Yet

In revious posts, we have discussed some of the classics song written by Bob Dylan late in his career. Recently, two of our favorite artists covered one such classic song when sisters Allison Moorer and Shelby Lynne recorded Dylan’s “Not Dark Yet.”

“Not Dark Yet” first appeared on Dylan’s Time Out of Mind album in 1997, and it later appeared on the soundtrack for Wonder Boys (2000) (which featured another Dylan gem, “Things Have Changed”). On an album with themes of aging and death, “Not Dark Yet” stands out as a great song tackling those issues.

Sometimes my burden seems more than I can bear;
It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there.

The song did not make the top 5 songs about death discussed in the movie High Fidelity (2000). But an alternate scene filmed for the movie did have John Cusack’s character Rob adding Dylan’s song to the list created by Jack Black’s character.

Allison Moorer and Shelby Lynne have chosen “Not Dark Yet” as the title track of their first album together. The CD features mostly covers, and “Not Dark Yet” does a great job of displaying the harmonies of the two sisters.

Their harmonies combined with an organ create a foundation for the song in gospel, a bit unlike Dylan’s more bluesy version. As NPR notes, the Moorer-Lynne collaboration give the song a “more searching sound.”

You can love both versions, and I do. Check out “Not Dark Yet” recorded by Moorer and Lynne.

The album Not Dark Yet hits stores and the Internet on August 18.

Check out our other posts on Dylan’s late-career classics. What is your favorite of Dylan’s late-career classics? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    October 1992: They Were So Much Older Then

    Our video for the day is the performance of Bob Dylan’s “My Back Pages” at The 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration.  The concert — held at on October 16, 1992 at Madison Square Garden — celebrated Dylan’s 30 years of recording.  And this performance featured Dylan, Roger McGuinn, Tom Petty, Neil Young, Eric Clapton and George Harrison.

    It is an amazing collection of legends onstage doing on of Dylan’s great early songs.  “My Back Pages” originally appeared on his 1964 album Another Side of Bob Dylan.

    What is amazing about this performance is how at the time of the concert, the singers were already legends and they seemed old at the time.  But looking at it now, they all seem so young.  Or maybe part of that is because I am so much older now.

    Check out the video, which begins with Roger McGuinn singing the song, which he had previous recorded with The Byrds and released in 1967.  Then, the others follow until Dylan takes the lead himself.  In the meantime, one may watch Dylan’s face to make any guesses about what he is thinking as the others sing his song.

    There are various interpretations of “My Back Pages,” although most read it as Dylan’s rejection of his younger idealism.  But like many of his songs, listeners may find their own meaning and a little of their own life in the song.  And, more than two decades ago, we found a little more connection to the song through many of the rock legends of our youth.

    What is your favorite version of “My Back Pages”? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    Bob Dylan Croons “I Could Have Told You”

    Bob Dylan, who has already released two albums of American standards in recent years, is doing it again. But this time, he is releasing a triple-album of such standards called Triplicate. Like the two previous albums, Triplicate will include a number of songs previously recorded by Frank Sinatra.

    Bob Dylan surprised some by releasing Shadows in the Night in 2015.  Then, he followed that album with another album of standards, Fallen Angels in 2016. The triple-album announcement illustrates that Dylan is going all-in on this style of music, at least for the immediate future.

    Triplicate will include a number of well-known and some lesser-known American standards. The track list includes Sinatra classics like “The Best Is Yet to Come” and “September of My Years.” Also, the set includes “As Time Goes By” and “Stormy Weather.”

    The first release from the upcoming album is “I Could Have Told You.” Carl Sigman and Jimmy Van Heusen wrote the song. And Sinatra first recorded it in December 1953 during the same sessions with Nelson Riddle where he recorded “Young at Heart.”

    Below is the new recording of “I could Have Told You” by Bob Dylan.

    Below is Sinatra’s take on “I Could Have Told You.” The first time Sinatra included the song on an album was on Look To Your Heart (1959).  That collection featured singles and B-sides that he recorded between 1953 and 1955.

    Bob Dylan’s Triplicate set will hit stores and the Internet in various forms — including a Deluxe Limited Edition LP — on March 31, 2017.

    What do you think of Dylan’s take on the standards? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    A Famous Encounter and “Like a Rolling Pin”

    A “Talk of the Town” segment in The New Yorker featured a short profile of record producer Scott Litt, who had produced records by the likes of Nirvana and R.E.M. In the article, Litt told an interesting story about the first time he met Bob Dylan.

    More than a few decades ago, Litt was producing a Replacements album, working in the studio with the band. Dylan was working on his own record nearby, so he stopped by to check out the Replacements.

    When Dylan walked in the studio wearing a hoodie, it just happened to be the same time that the Replacements’ leader Paul Westerberg was singing a parody of Dylan’s hit song “Like a Rolling Stone” called “Like a Rolling Pin.”

    Westerberg did not notice Dylan standing there, and Litt failed to alert the singer, who continued with the parody. Finally, when Westerberg finished, Dylan asked, “You guys rehearse much?” Then he left.

    The lyrics to “Like a Rolling Pin” are nothing special, using phrases from Dylan’s original mixed with some small changes. I believe the song did not end up on the album at the time, appearing later with B-sides and unreleased tracks on All For Nothing/Nothing For All (1997). But the Replacements can sing the phone book and make it sound like a great song. So when they start off with a great Dylan song, one cannot complain.

    More than twenty years later, Litt finally got to work with the singer of “Like a Rolling Stone” when he was the engineer for Dylan’s 2012 album Tempest. While working with Dylan on Tempest, Litt did not mention their previous studio encounter. [Nick Paumgarten, Hello, Bobby, The New Yorker, 1 Oct. 2012: 22-23.]

    What is your favorite Bob Dylan cover? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    Ramblin’ Jack and “Don’t Think Twice”

    Elliot Charles Adnopoz was born in Brooklyn, New York on August 1, 1931. Although his birth name and location are not generally associated with cowboys, the boy became fascinated with cowboys and at the age of 15 ran away from home to join a rodeo. Eventually, he would achieve a more cowboy-like handle, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott.

    Ramblin’ Jack

    The folksinger reportedly got his nickname from Odetta’s mother commenting on how Ramblin’ Jack tells rambling stories. But it is as an interpreter of folk songs that we recognize the man, who was largely influenced by his connections with Woody Guthrie.

    Elliott’s daughter made an excellent documentary about Ramblin’ Jack’s career and their relationship. It is worth tracking down the 2000 film, The Ballad of Ramblin’ Jack.

    “Don’t Think Twice”

    When thinking about Ramblin’ Jack’s songs, it is difficult to pick a favorite. But it is hard to top his interpretation of Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice.”

    Elliott tells a story about being snowbound, stuck in a cabin for three days after his wife ran off with another man. In the cabin, he had firewood, a bottle of whiskey, and a Bob Dylan record. So, in his pain, he listened to “Don’t Think Twice” for three days.

    Finally, the snow melted and Elliott drove to New York City and went to the Gaslight, where it was open mic night. There, Elliott began playing the Dylan song he had learned in the cabin. Suddenly, in the dark audience, a man stood up. It was Dylan, who yelled, “I relinquish it to you, Jack!” Elliott finished the song, and he has played it ever since.

    Elliott provides a weariness to “Don’t Think Twice.” Instead of interpreting it as an angry breakup song, he gives voice to an older man looking back through some years with regret. “Don’t Think Twice” is a great song when Dylan sings it; but it is a different great song with Elliott’s voice.

    Below, Elliott plays “Don’t Think Twice” in 2008. Check it out.

    Ramblin’ Jack remains an American treasure. Earlier this year, Folk Alliance honored him with its Lifetime Achievement Award.

    What is your favorite Ramblin’ Jack Elliott song? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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