21 April 2010

Your Weekly Dylan Cover (#1)

The Tallest Man On Earth
"I Want You"
Original Dylan version found on Blonde On Blonde (1966)

[Ed. note: Regular readers of this blog know that Bob Dylan is affectionately referred to as the "Patron Saint" of TNOP. This new weekly feature sifts through the thousands of cover versions of Dylan songs and provides you with our favorites, as well as a quick memory of our first exposure to the Dylan original.]

The Tallest Man On Earth is the stage name of 27 year old Swedish national Kristian Matsson, an up and coming folk singer definitely hatched from the (now) generations old Dylan tree. Manning only a banjo, his cover of "I Want You," culled from a fine Daytrotter session last year, puts a personal stamp on the tune.


There are three pop songs I first remember hearing as a child. Two regularly blasted from the jukebox affixed to the wall of the bar at my grandmother's restaurant: "Java" by New Orleans trumpet legend Al Hirt; and "Oh, Pretty Woman," the rock 'n roll classic from Roy Orbison. The third was a track I picked out of a promotional album shipped by Columbia Records to radio stations titled Our Best To You '66, a compilation of the label's pop roster of the time, including The Cyrkle, Simon and Garfunkel and Paul Revere & The Raiders. My father managed the local FM station at the time, but it was predominated (as most frequencies on that band at the time) by classical music. He'd bring home promo albums on occasion and invite me to listen to them on my portable record player down in the basement.

Maybe it was the wailing - but still somewhat understated - harmonica matched with the shuffling drum that caught this then eight year old lad right off the bat. Or the rambling organ complimenting the jaunty rhythm. But it was probably the voice that purposely emphasized the rhyme of the like-no-other pop verses (The silver saxophones! The Queen of Spades! The dancing child with the Chinese suit!) leading to an universal, plaintive chorus that made it so unique, so memorable.

All these years later, it's still thrilling to listen to "I Want You."

Original Listening: Bob Dylan, "I Want You" (album version)

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