12 July 2010

Your Weekly Dylan Cover [#11]

"Down In The Flood"
Fairport Convention
Original Dylan version found on Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits, Vol. 2 (1971)

Outside of England the group Fairport Convention still doesn't register much name recognition. In the forefront of the English folk rock movement in the late 1960s, the band was inspired by North Americans Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell. Championed by legendary BBC disc jokey John Peel, Fairport Convention's first breakthrough on the charts was "Si Tu Dois Partir," a French language version of Dylan's "If You Gotta Go, Go Now."

The two members of Fairport Convention that would make an indelible mark on rock history would be ace guitarist, writer and singer Richard Thompson and vocalist Sandy Denny. While Thompson would leave the band in 1970 to strike out on his own, Denny would serve two terms with Fairport. It was on the second of these stints that she appeared at the Sanders Theater on the campus of Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1974. One of the selections on this particular evening was Dylan's "Down In The Flood."

Sandy Denny had covered "Down In The Flood" on her May 1971 solo LP The Northstar Grassman and The Ravens, on which Thompson played and served as co-producer. The song, originally recorded by Dylan with The Band in 1967, was bootlegged famously as part of The Basement Tapes and titled "Crash On The Levee (Down In The Flood)." Its first official recorded appearance was in November 1971 on Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits, Vol. 2.

The Cambridge performance highlights the sharp move to a harder electric sound for Fairport Convention. Denny mines the natural blues in Dylan's composition, adding a extra edge that shows her to be more than a pretty English voice. Tragically, within four years she would be dead, a victim of a cerebral hemorrhage after a fall down some stairs.

Original Listening: Bob Dylan, "Crash On The Levee (Down In The Flood)"

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