While the United States—the rest of the world, really—was going bananas for all things British and Beatles-related, Bob Dylan was forging his own career path in England, and oddly found himself as influential to new bands and artists across the pond as Lennon/McCartney were in the States. Ace Records’ latest compilation, Take What You Need: UK Covers Of Bob Dylan Songs 1964-1969, does a superb job of highlighting Dylan’s influence during the British Invasion.
Of course, many of the names found here were established acts, so it’s not surprising that they covered him. Marianne Faithfull’s take on “Blowin’ In The Wind” is one of the earliest covers featured here, a relatively straightforward cover with baroque flourishes. Manfred Mann’s take on “If You Gotta Go, Go Now” gave the group a hit single with a then-unheard Dylan composition, while Chad & Jeremy’s version of “Mr. Tambourine Man” is gorgeous, even if it doesn’t radically differ from The Byrds’ arrangement. Joe Cocker’s version of “Just Like A Woman” is pure R&B heaven, and Fairport Convention’s Sandy Denny turns “I’ll Keep It With Mine” into something truly special, reclaiming the song from Nico, for whom Dylan wrote it.
More interesting are the covers by lesser-known acts of lesser-known songs. The Three City Four, a folk harmony group, give a rousing performance of “Oxford Town,” a notable inclusion as the group’s Martin Carthy was an early British friend of Dylan, when he visited shortly after releasing his debut album. Better still is former Animals keyboardist Alan Price’s heartfelt crooning on “To Ramona,” a passionate interpretation that one never would have expected from the otherwise jaunty original. Furthermore, don’t miss Cliff Aungier’s funky country-rock take on “Down On The Cove.”
There are fourteen more songs on Take What You Need, from names big and small, but there’s hardly a bum note in the lot. Then again, when you’re covering a songwriting dynamo like Sixties-era Bob Dylan, it’d be near impossible to offer up a mediocre rendition, and that’s what makes this record such a delight–all killer, no filler.
Take What You Need: UK Covers Of Bob Dylan Songs 1964-69 is available from Ace Records.
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