Apart from a few notable exceptions most attempts at singing Dylan just don't seem to work. Let's face it, no-one does Bob as well as Bob does Bob. It's not so much the trademark delivery but the fact that the songs just don't seem to belong with anyone other than the great man himself. Somewhere in the mix the bitterness and beauty gets lost. Perhaps it's down to the fact that his songs have been busked to death by an Underground movement as far removed from the Weathermen as is possible.
Only one person has managed to capture the spirit of Dylan's early work and that's Joan Baez, a woman he first met back in 1961 at Gerde's Folk City in Greenwich Village.
At the time, Joan was the undisputed Queen of Folk while Dylan was just another singer on the New York coffee house circuit. What did distinguish him from the others was his songwriting. His compositions had a contemporary feel lacking in many of the more traditional based folk songs of the day. Lyrically they were like no other written. Sea-shanties were out and introspective angst and twisted love songs were in.
Dylan and Baez were soon to be found regularly sharing a stage together. When, in 1963 she covered Don't Think Twice, It's Alright and With God On Our Side on JOAN BAEZ IN CONCERT PART 2 it was the beginning of a musical relationship that has spanned nearly five decades. On BAEZ SINGS DYLAN she offers a tantalising selection of cuts from 1963 - 1968, her most Dylan-friendly period.
It was an era that forever linked the two as partners in time, always to be associated with a revolutionary chapter in the social and musical history of America. They were John and Yoko long before Lennon hid in a bag, leaders of the first generation to say "no" on a global scale. But those sandals could only cope with so many protest marches. Dylan's tales of love and longing are also well represented here.
Whether he was saying hello or goodbye Dylan always managed to put the boot in somewhere. Baez however takes the same sentiment but softens the blow. The pleasure and pain is still there but so is an overwhelming sense of humility that is lacking in the originals.
Never has a songwriter been treated so well by a singer. These are perfect takes on perfect songs, representative of an age when anything seemed possible. Even a decent Dylan cover.
By Mark Rogers