With the exception of the Beatles, it’s hard to think of any other composer in the rock era whose songs have been covered by so many other artists as Bob Dylan has been. While he has been very happy to get his sizable royalty checks, Dylan was fairly harsh in his autobiography, “Chronicles,” that was published a few years ago, on many of those who have recorded his songs. Surprisingly, he said that his favorite cover of all of his songs was when Johnny Rivers recorded “Positively 4th Street” for his 1967 “Realization” album. Actually that was a good choice.
With his newest album, “Shadows In The Night,” Bob Dylan gets a rare chance to sing the compositions of other songwriters. This isn’t the first time that he has done that. In 1973 Columbia Records released “Dylan,” which consisted of unreleased tracks of his recording of such familiar tunes as “A Fool Such As I,” “Mr. Bojangles,” and “Big Yellow Taxi.” Supposedly the only reason Columbia released this album was as a way of punishing him for jumping to rival Elektra Records at the time. Three years earlier, Columbia released “Self-Portrait,” with Dylan’s blessing, in which he sang Gordon Lightfoot’s “Early Morning Rain,” Paul Simon’s “The Boxer,” and the old Everly Brothers classic, “Let It Be Me.”
What unites the ten songs on “Shadows In The Night,” is that they were all sung at one time or another by arguably the greatest vocalist of all time, Frank Sinatra. Bob Dylan, who is certainly not known for his mellifluous voice, must have realized that he was putting himself in a steep hole.
To his credit though, Dylan selected songs that were either obscure or were not recorded by too many others for the most part. The first three tunes, “”I’m A Fool To Want You” (one of the few songs in which Frank Sinatra received a writing credit), “The Night We Called It A Day,” and “Stay With Me” are probably known only to Sinatra scholars. His versions here do little to make us question why they weren’t ever hits.
Dylan’s plaintive slow delivery works best on the wistful “Autumn Leaves,” as he eloquently conveys the song’s lyrics of regret about lost love. Bob is completely lost and out of his league however on Rogers & Hammerstein’s big “South Pacific” tune, “Some Enchanted Evening.” This song requires someone with real vocal chops and even the biggest Dylan fan would admit that is not their hero’s forte. If you want to hear this tune sung exquisitely, be sure to check out the 1965 hit record by those boys from Belle Harbor, Jay & the Americans.
“Shadows In The Night” is an interesting effort for one of rock music’s most enigmatic personalities (the only interview that he gave to promote this album was in AARP Magazine) but it’s hard to imagine anyone playing this CD more than a couple of times.
Various Artists “Now That’s I Call Movies” (Sony Music)
It seemed as if no one was happy about this year’s Academy Awards, from the films that were nominated to Neil Patrick Harris’s disappointing stint as host. My biggest gripe was how awful most of the tunes were that were up for Best Song that was won by “Glory.”
“Now That’s What I Call Movies” brings us back to a time not so long ago when popular movies frequently generated hit songs that very much deserved to be. Among the gems on this 18-song compilation are Bruce Springsteen’s “Streets Of Philadelphia,” Phil Collins’ “Against All Odds,” Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On,” Survivor’s “”Eye Of The Tiger,” the Bee Gees’ “How Deep I s Your Love,” and Seal’s “Kiss From A Rose.”
To be fair, a number of songs here were very popular well before they were inserted into a given film so that the director could help set a mood for a particular scene. Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” was recorded in 1971 and it was used in Cameron Crowe’s 2000 coming-of-age film, “Almost Famous.” The Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows,” Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl,” and Blue Swede’s “Hooked On A Feeling” were used in “Love Actually,” “Born On The Fourth Of July,” and “Guardians Of The Galaxy.”
This a fun album to put on when you have company.