Wow folks, things have really changed around us. And thus when I put on some records from times past, reinterpretation is inevitable. This happened recently during the Covid-19 lock down when I put on Bettye LaVette’s 2018 release Things Have Changed, an album which I somehow missed upon initial release and what we’re exploring today.
Here on this collection featuring incredible reinventions of songs written by Bob Dylan, Bettye LaVette’s interpretations shine new light and focus on the writer’s words. The best Dylan songs have always had this effect on me — lyrics will jump out of the mix and resonate with a significant moment. That happens a lot on this album when Bettye sings:
“People are crazy and times are strange, I’m locked in tight, I’m out of range, I used to care, but things have changed.”
Of course, at this moment we still DO care. But those other parts of that chorus, Bettye sinks the message hook-line in a game winning basket swish that slices to the soul. And that is just the opening title track from this Grammy-nominated album of the same name.
Bettye LaVette is renown as an interpreter, creating vital new perspectives to the compositions which the writers didn’t even anticipate (click here to watch Pete Townshend reacting to Bettye’s performance at the Kennedy Arts Center of his classic, “Love Reign O’er Me” for an example).
So on don’t expect a straight reading of Dylan’s “It Ain’t Me Babe” or even “Emotionally Yours” on Things Have Changed.
Heck, Bettye’s take on “Do Right To Me Baby (Do Unto Others)” is downright revelatory, turning this song into a rock pile-driver this side of Led Zeppelin — especially ironic given the original comes from Dylan’s religious period.
“Political World” gets wrappped in a slinky groove this side of War’s “Slipping Into Darkness.” “Mama, You’ve Been On My Mind” is effectively an entirely new song. Crafted around a poignant piano-pedal steel guitar arrangement, here it is more akin to Paul McCartney’s “Let It Be” than the folksy song originally recorded by folk artists like Judy Collins and Joan Baez (as “Daddy, You’ve Been On My Mind”) in the 1960s.
Both sound about the same, although to my ear I prefer the way the MQA handles the vocals — a smoother vibe going on there. Its also on Amazon HD if you prefer that platform, but that version sounded the harshest of the three streaming options I heard even though it is in Ultra HD (click here).
You should catch up on Bettye LaVette’s albums. She has a new one coming out later this Spring.