TAKE WHAT YOU NEED: UK COVERS OF BOB DYLAN SONGS 1964-1969.

Take What You Need: UK Covers Of Bob Dylan Songs 1964-69.

Label: Ace Records.

As 1969 drew to a close, Bob Dylan was without doubt, one of the biggest names in popular music, and had come a long way since releasing his eponymous debut album on March ’19th’ 1962. This was the first of nine studio albums that Bob Dylan released during the sixties, and was the start of a glittering career.

By 1969, Bob Dylan had sold over eight million studio albums in America between the release of Bob Dylan in March 1962 and Nashville Skyline in April 1969. Two albums were certified gold, five certified platinum and when Blonde on Blonde was released in 1966 this classic album was certified double-platinum. Bob Dylan could do wrong in the eyes of critics, cultural commentator and record buyers. So much so, that when Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits was released in March 1967, it eventually sold five million copies. Bob Dylan one of the most popular and influential albums in America. It was a similar case in across the Atlantic in Britain.

Bob Dylan had already enjoyed four number one albums in Britain by 1969. Every album he had released between The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan in 1963 and Nashville Skyline in 1969 had reached the top ten in Britain. By then, Bob Dylan had amassed two silver discs, six gold discs and a platinum disc for Blonde On Blonde. British record buyers held Bob Dylan in the utmost regard, and had been won over by his music. It was a similar case with British musicians.

Many British artists and bands had taken to covering Bob Dylan’s songs since he made his debut in 1962. Especially between 1964 and 1969, when a whole host of British artists and bands covered Bob Dylan’s music. This includes the twenty-two who feature on Ace Records’ new compilation Take What You Need: UK Covers Of Bob Dylan Songs 1964-69. It features everyone from The Fairies, Marianne Faithfull, Manfred Mann, Noel Harrison, Julie Felix, The Picadilly Line, The Alan Price Set, Fairport Convention, The Mixed Bag, Cliff Aungier, Joe Cocker and Sandie Show. Their covers range from country rock to folk, pop and R&B, and include a number of songs that make their CD debut. Take What You Need: UK Covers Of Bob Dylan Songs 1964-69 also finds a number of artists reinventing familiar songs, and taking them in a new direction.

Opening Take What You Need: UK Covers Of Bob Dylan Songs 1964-69 is The Fairies cover of Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right. It was released by Decca on the ‘31st’ July 1964 as The Fairies’ debut single. This was the first of a trio of singles the R&B band from Colchester, in Essex released. Alas, it’s the only one to feature drummer John ‘Twink’ Alder who later joined Tomorrow, The Pretty Things and The Pink Fairies. He plays his part in the sound and success of Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right which marries country rock and folk beat, on The Fairies’ finest hour.

After the success of Marianne Faithfull’s debut singe As Tears Go By, it was decided that she eighteen year old should cover Bob Dylan’s Blowin’ In The Wind.  It’s given a baroque arrangement by producer by Andrew Loog Oldham Marianne Faithfull delivers a haunting, melancholy vocal. However, when Blowin’ In The Wind was released as a single by Decca in 1964, it failed to find an audience. For Marianne Faithfull, Blowin’ In The Wind  was the single that got away.

When Bob Dylan toured Britain for the first time in 1962, he met and became friends with the folk group The Three City Four. Three years later, they were about to record their eponymous debut album with producer Gerry Bron. One of the fourteen songs on The Three City Four was an impassioned rendition of Oxford Town which deals with the subject of racial hatred. Later in 1965, Decca released The Three City Four, and of the highlights was the powerful cover of Oxford Town.

When Manfred Mann released If You Gotta Go, Go Now in 1965 already enjoyed seven hit singles. If You Gotta Go, Go Now became number eight when it reached number two in the UK. That was no surprise, as Manfred Mann’s cover of If You Gotta Go, Go Now intense, emotionally charged and full of drama. It’s without doubt, one of the best singles Manfred Mann released during the sixties.

In 1963, Chad Stuart and Jeremy Clyde formed a folk pop duo, Chad and Jeremy. They were quite unlike many of the musicians around at the time. They were well-educated, polite and dressed smartly, and  immediately, comparisons were being drawn with Peter and Gordon.  By late 1964, and with commercial success continuing to elude Chad and Jeremy they made the decision to move to California. The man who brokered the deal was none other than Alan Klein. This move paid off, with Chad and Jeremy signed to Columbia and  enjoyed three hit singles. They also released a dreamy pop folk cover of Mr Tambourine Man which featured on their 1965 album I Don’t Want To Lose You Baby.

The Picadilly Line were a relatively short-lived band managed by Roy Guest, who specialised in managing folk artists and bands. In 1967,  his clients included Al Stewart The Picadilly Line. They went into arranger and producer John Cameron and recorded their debut album The Huge World Of Emily Small. It was a concept album that featured eleven tracks. When Emily Small The Huge World Of Emily Small was released by CBS in 1967, one of the highlights was the dramatic folk psych of Visions Of Johanna. Sadly, there  was no followup to The Huge World Of Emily Small, which nowadays changes hands for up to a €1,000.

Having departed The Animals in 1965, Alan Price embarked upon a new chapter in his career in 1966 when he formed The Alan Price Set. In 1967, The Alan Price Set returned with their sophomore A Price On His Head which was released on Decca. It featured To Ramona, which Bob Dylan had previously covered. To Ramona is given understated piano lead makeover, which featured  an impassioned and emotive vocal from Geordie troubadour Alan Price. 

Two years after starting playing the club circuit, Manchester based The Factotums were signed to Picadilly. They released I Can’t Give You Anything But Love as a single in 1966. Tucked away on the B-Side was a carefully crafted cover of Bob Dylan’s Absolutely Sweet Marie. It’s obvious that the members of The Factotums are fans of Bob Dylan, with the lead vocalist trying and succeeding to replicate Bob Dylan’s vocal style. This vocal plays a part in the sound and success of song that could only have been released during one decade…the sixties. 

I Shall Be Released is an oft-covered track, and in 1968 Boz added their name to the artists and bands that had covered Bob Dylan’s anthem. It was arranged by Jon Lord and produced by Derek Lawrence. The pair help Boz reinvent the song, as they add washes of wah wah guitar and blistering guitar lacks. Boz then released I Shall Be Released as a single on Columbia. Sadly, its pop rock sound failed to find an audience. Nearly fifty years later,  Boz’s hidden gem has been unearthed and introduces their rework of Bob Dylan’s anthem to a new generation.

Very few of the bands on Take What You Need: UK Covers Of Bob Dylan Songs 1964-69 are still going strong, that is apart from Fairport Convention. They covered  I’ll Keep It With Mine for their album What We Did On Our Holidays. It was released by Island Records in 1969, was one of Fairport Convention’s finest albums. One of the album’s highlights was I’ll Keep It With Mine, where the late, great Sandy Denny plays a leading role in the songs sound and success.

Joe Cocker was born and brought up in Sheffield, and went on to become one of Britain’s best male vocalists. This was a long way from when he was a gas fitter and sung in Sheffield’s pub’s. In 1969, Joe Cocker was about to record his debut album With A Little Help From My Friends. It was released in 1969 and released on the Regal label. One of the highlights of the albums a needy cover of Just Like A Woman where Joe Cocker combines raw power and emotion. This was a powerful combination, and was a taste of what was to come from Joe Cocker.

Closing Take What You Need: UK Covers Of Bob Dylan Songs 1964-69 is Sandie Shaw’s cover of Lay Lady Lay. She recorded the song for her 1969 album Reviewing The Situation, and in the process, reinvents a familiar song. Sandie Shaw delivers a beautiful, tender, breathy and sensual sounding cover of Lay Lady Lay. It’s one of the highlights of the compilation, and ensures that Take What You Need: UK Covers Of Bob Dylan Songs 1964-69 on a high.

During the sixties, many artists and bands covered Bob Dylan’s songs. That was no surprise, as he was one of the most successful and influential artists in music. Bob Dylan spoke to and for a generation, who bought his albums by the million. Other artists looked on enviously, wishing they had Bob Dylan’s way with words. Many, including some of the biggest names in music decided to cover Bob Dylan’s songs, including the twenty-two songs on Take What You Need: UK Covers Of Bob Dylan Songs 1964-69. 

It features songs from familiar faces, including some of the biggest names in British music between 1964 and 1969. They’re joined by artists and bands that many people won’t have heard of. Sadly, commercial success eluded these artists, and they never enjoyed the commercial success and critical acclaim their music deserved. However, they all  covered Bob Dylan songs between 1964 and 1969.

Some of the artists and bands on Take What You Need: UK Covers Of Bob Dylan Songs 1964-69 stay true to the original, while other reinvent familiar songs and take then in new and unexpected directions. That is the case several times, on Take What You Need: UK Covers Of Bob Dylan Songs 1964-69, which is best described as a lovingly curated homage to Bob Dylan. It features a mixture of best known songs and some leftfield choices. The majority of these songs on Take What You Need: UK Covers Of Bob Dylan Songs 1964-69 were penned by Bob Dylan and are a reminder, if any was needed, of how good a songwriter he was.  It’s no surprise that artists were almost queuing up to cover Bob Dylan’s songs.

Fifty years later, and artists continue to cover Bob Dylan’s songs. Ironically, on his last couple of albums, he’s taken to covering albums from the Great American Songbook. Maybe fifty years down the line, and the songs on Take What You Need: UK Covers Of Bob Dylan Songs 1964-69 will be regarded as part of the Great American Songbook? 

Whether that happens or not, Bob Dylan will always be regarded as one of the most important and influential singer-songwriters of his generation. Especially during the sixties, which was a golden period for Bob Dylan and is documented and celebrated on Take What You Need: UK Covers Of Bob Dylan Songs 1964-69.  

Take What You Need: UK Covers Of Bob Dylan Songs 1964-69.

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