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the pioneer of Dylan Studies; writer, public speaker, critic; became a Doctor of Letters in 2015 (awarded by the University of York, UK)

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Monday, December 12, 2011


This morning I had my attention drawn to this version of the great Dylan song 'Jokerman', thanks to our old friend C.P. Lee and via BBC radio producer Peter Everett. On first hearing of the first few lines, I thought it was just going to be one of those clumsy, slightly embarrassing vocals by someone whose first language is so obviously not English, but then I changed my view and have come to appreciate the rhapsodic shine of the musical performance, including the vocal.

I'm curious to know how others respond.


Blogger Pope Leo said...

Certainly a very interesting version of one of my most favourite Dylan songs.The percussion gives a kind of lolloping rhythm which works well with the vocal. I thought that for most of the song Veloso’s phrasing was intelligent and expressive, but was disappointed with his hurried delivery of the last verse. In what is one of Dylan’s best lyrics of the 80s, this final verse weaves wonderful patterns of sound that at the same time absolutely clinch the song’s meaning. Anyone who thinks the 80s were a lost decade for Dylan need only listen to this song to realise how wrong that notion is. And anyone who thinks that Dylan lost his performance art many moons ago need only listen to boots of his wonderful London concerts of 2003. His performance of 'Jokerman' at Hammersmith was truly sublime.

But back to Veloso. I think he has just about done justice to the song . It’s certainly a whole heap better than some of the cover versions on the new Amnesty International quadruple CD set, Chimes of Freedom. Listen to Sting’s dreary and mannered ‘Girl from the North Country’ to see what I mean...

Oh, and by the way, what is Allen Ginsberg doing on bass in Veloso’s band?...

4:48 pm  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

Thanks, Pope: a fair verdict. If he has "just about done justice to the song" then he's done a lot: not an easy song to sound in command of, I imagine, and he's up against Bob's own studio takes, which are marvellously sung (to say nothing of the live versions, which have mostly been so very good).

The fibrillations Veloso achieves on some of the chorus lines remind me of Dylan's remark about Om Kalsoum - ie that he knew of no-one else who sang like that, and then added (a propos of his vocal on 'Sara', I believe) "except maybe me". Veloso manages it decently, I think - and I'm strongly hostile to the similar but gruesomely mannered styling that seemed to start with Aaron Neville and now decorates almost all pop balladry.

Oh yes, and I have no intention of listening to Sting's 'Girl of the North Country', thanks. In my opinion, he should only be allowed to cover 'Woogie Boogie'.

5:39 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great version. I somehow hear the ghost of early Tim Buckley lurking behind this - I can imagine what Buckley would have sounded like had he lived to cover Jokerman.

I don't always like foreign singers singing in English, but Dylan songs usually do translate very well into other languages - or at least the way the songs sound. If it isn't too much like advertising, may I direct you to Renzo Cozzani's version of Senor on youtube.

Please remove the link if objectionable.

9:35 pm  
Blogger LarryK said...

Great is right on and Caetano is intense...thanks for posting.

2:54 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A Venezuelan friend of mine introduced this to me over a decade ago, I can't dig it, the original is too good and this interpretation almost too straight...

An aside; I've met two people that both learned to speak English by obsessing over Bob Dylan and his lyrics...

3:17 pm  
Blogger Richard Wells said...

I love this version, always have. The rhythmic delivery is outstanding, as is the backup. And aren't Caetno's arms and hands just gorgeous - fine and simple choreography. And - if AG would have loved being in the band!

5:55 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great version.

Linguistic treat too.

A Portuguese speaker singing in English with Spanish subtitles.

I wonder where the programme was originally broadcast.

6:24 pm  
Blogger Wm McCall said...

Sometimes, this happens: two artists meet in a world that exists in some third place, a place of transcendence and beauty.

The great Brazilian artist covers Dylan—5:30 minutes of pure aesthetic pleasure.

Gorgeous and significant as art. Thanks for posting it.

11:00 pm  
Blogger Unknown said...

Here in Brazil we loved Caetano Veloso. Congratulations
for your cleverness.

7:46 pm  
Blogger Unknown said...

Here in Brazil we loved Caetano Veloso. Congratulations
for your cleverness.

7:49 pm  
Blogger Aaaa said...

Caetano is one of our very best musicians.
Brazil has a lot of great musicians and composers, and Veloso is there.
Dylan is my all-time favorite music artist. As a lyrcist and as a musician, but I gotta say: this version is almost as good as the original. Almost, almost.

1:54 am  
Blogger Unknown said...

Caetano's phrasing, including his arabesques/fribillations, give layers of complexity and beauty to the lyrics. If you speak Portuguese and know Caetano's repertoire, you'd understand why this poet-singer-artist admires Dylan's poetic capacity. By the way, Caetano and Pericles Cavalcanti did a Portuguese version of "It's all over now, Baby Blue" (Negro Amor) that is spectacular--as far as lyrics/translation go. Poets translating a poet. See the 70s version in Gal Costa's voice on Youtube. Some Brazilian rock bands and singer covered it later on as well.
Back to this version of Jokerman: the band is fantastic. Some mentioned the percussion and I second that. Also, the cello, the arrangement... Pretty awesome. Dylan's lyrics are fantastic. I'm glad Caetano is broadcasting this. I believe this show took place in Spain during Caetano's 1992 "Circuladô de Fulô" international tour.
Thanks for posting.
"Some may like a soft Brazilian singer, but I gave up all attempts at perfection" Bob Dylan's words in the 60's, quoted by Caetano Veloso at the end of his song "O Estrangeiro" (1989)

4:47 pm  
Anonymous Dylanitas said...

In my opinio is the best cover of Jokerman and is in my top 10 of best covers of all Dylan songs

4:53 pm  

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