About two weeks ago, a massive set of Bob Dylan covers compiled to honor 50 years of Amnesty International—4 discs, 73 tracks and 73 different artists—hit shelves. Sure, it’s fascinating to see an expansive and eclectic roster that includes old-timers like Pete Townsend, Jeff Beck and Mark Knopfler alongside relative newcomers like The Gaslight Anthem, Cage the Elephant and, um, Miley Cyrus. But when we scoured the tracklist for Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan for any “extreme” representation, we were not surprisingly left with only two-time Decibel cover darlings Queens of the Stone Age. The sheer number of artists that have covered Dylan over the decades should mean that a fair number of dB-worthy acts have covered the Bard at one point or another, regardless of whether those tunes appeared on some highfalutin compilation album, right? RIGHT?! After all, legend has it that without Uncle Bobby, there’d be no Judas Priest (well, at least the band name).
Yet when the Deciblog went to the ends of the internet in search of “extremely extreme” Bob covers, we were shocked to find very few. In fact, we discovered a grand total of six that we were comfortable enough to share (although, for both elitist and technical reasons, that number will be more like four once you finish reading this). Our selections run the gamut from awesome to absurd, straightforward to bizarre. Not to mention, they include selections from three of our HOF inductees.
If nothing else, however, our painstaking research indicates that, at least in Decibel-land, the vast catalog of one Robert Zimmerman is ripe for picking! Plus, he exists in that cover song sweet spot somewhere between obvious (let’s cover Slayer…no one else has!) and monetary (just ask any ‘90s Roadrunner act). If Too Damn Hype can throw together a tribute to THE FUCKING CURE (nothing against my namesake and co.) that included the likes of Cave In and Converge, how is it that Dylan hasn’t yet gotten his?
We don’t have the answer to that weighty philosophical question, but if one of our flexis in the next year or two features a cover of Minnesota’s #1 export, you can really say that the times they are a-changin’ (like we could resist). And if we forgot to mention one below, don’t hesitate to let us know.
(1) The Good—Entombed covered Dylan you say? Of course they did, seeing as these Swedes have one of the most extensive repertoires of covers in the extreme universe (compiled nicely on 2002’s Sons of Satan Praise the Lord). Even better, they don’t go for the obvious, both in terms of song selection (“The Ballad of Hollis Brown”) and execution (though the murder-suicide slant certainly doesn’t hurt their street cred). Rise Against tackled this tune on Chimes.
(2) The Good—Ministry also went the non-obvious route, at least when it came to tackling one of Bob’s most popular, albeit country, tunes. The fact that Al Jourgensen and company’s cover of “Lay Lady Lay” (first appearing on 1996’s divisive Filth Pig) sounds nothing like the original is just part of the reason it works. The fact that it’s Ministry takes care of the rest. Angélique Kidjo put her spin on this on Chimes.
(3) The Bad—It takes some big time cajones to pick a Dylan song that, thanks to Hendrix, has long had a cover more famous than the original. But what makes such a decision even more unforgivable is barely deviating from Jimi’s version! We expected more from you, Candlemass, though we will always cherish your “All Along the Watchtower” (particularly Robert Lowe's vocal performance) more than DMB’s on Chimes.
(4) The Ugly—We respect the song selection, but Sergeant D may be the only person we know who could appreciate Arsonists Get All the Girls’ take on one of Bob’s most incendiary songs, “Masters of War”.
(5) The Best—Our favorite “extreme” Dylan cover belongs to Rage Against the Machine. Like the best cover bands, they’ve managed to make “Maggie’s Farm” their own while keeping part of its soul intact.
(6) Mystery Box!—Because we’ll take any excuse to talk about Brutal Truth, this column wouldn’t be complete with the quartet’s cover of The Minutemen’s “Bob Dylan Wrote Propaganda Songs”, which somehow didn’t make it on to Chimes.