Monday, December 5, 2011

Dylan Cover #33 Faces - "The Wicked Messenger"

In this ongoing Monday Series we will be exploring various artists versions of Bob Dylan song's. Today's tune is a cover by Faces,"The Wicked Messenger"

This is RtBE's 2nd part of a "Best Of" for Dylan Covers, so strap on in. 

Thoughts on Dylan Original:
We talked about another cover version of this tune in August, so here are my thoughts then as they haven't changed:
A breezy musical number (only 2 minutes long) with some biblical lyrics that actually would foreshadow Dylan's religious musical phase that would arrive in the late 70's/early 80's "The Wicked Messenger" has a cool bass line to match the acoustic guitar.  Like most of John Wesley Harding there is a mellow mood that tends to play down the lyrics, live versions certainly have improved the tracks standing in my mind from the original. 


Thoughts on Cover Artist:
I have never been into the Faces at all, the bizarre deal with the rotating name (small faces? Faces?) and rotating members was one thing that always kept me at bay from the band, but in all honesty there was another more drastic hurdle I have never overcome: Rod Stewart 

Craig Finn, nailed it so hard on the head with his lyric in The Hold Steady's "Stevie Nix":  "You remind me of Rod Stewart when he was young/you got passion, you think you're sexy, and all the punks think you are dumb!"  Well color me a punk and I couldn't agree more.  If Mick Jagger is the perfect front man, I always considered Rod Stewart one of the worst, because he always seemed to think he was the perfect front man.  He just had an air to him I couldn't stand.  The bigger issue then my perceived arrogance of him was I never liked his voice, his choice of songs, or his style.  He sucked all over, and always has in my book.    

Quick side story, I actually had a chance to meet him once, while I was at Nevada Smiths for the FA Cup Final in 2007 I was rooting for my Chelsea boys to strike down the dreaded Manchester United.  The bar was packed and like always The New York Blues went to the backyard for a breather at the half.  Well who should walk out but Rod Stewart in full Man U garb to pose for some pictures with the Man U fans in attendance.

Well if I didn't hate him before I certainly did now!  He was actually very nice to the United fans, I didn't get a whiff of arrogance at all even if he was wearing a ton of makeup (which was really odd that early in the AM), so there's that but...fuck him!  Here is a video of that game, and the bar that is going crazy when Didier Drogba scores is actually Nevada Smith's too bad you can't see myself or Rod in the darkness, but only one of us came out victorious that 

Thoughts on Cover:
All that said this is a cracking cover.  One for the ages.  Rod's voice may have never sounded better with the organs and Ron Wood's snaking guitar lines, in fact this is my favorite thing Stewart has ever been apart of.  The Faces take is a shining example as to how you do a cover of this song, and it blows The Black Keys version off the map.  A gutsy bluesy take with holy overtones and cryptic feelings, leave it to a bunch of limeys to get that style down pat.  Whatever the country, this is a dynamite version ends up better then the original and a blueprint on how to dirty up the bard's sound.

Grade: A+ 

Wilson's Take:

Janasie's Take:
Of the albums which were released in Dylan's first decade as an artist, John Wesley Harding is probably one of the ones that I listen to the least.  I don't have a good explanation for that.  It is a fine record.  It is probably that some of the other albums from that era are just so f'in good.  It gave us "All Along the Watchtower", so that alone is worthy of appreciation.  And it provided the inspiration for this week's cover, which is a monster cut.

It is only my opinion, but I think Shawn should get over his Rod Stewart bias and listen to some more Faces.  While his work with this group coincided with his ascension to super stardom, Stewart was by no means the lone talent nor the driving creative force in the collective.  If you are looking for loose, fun, dirty rock (and we know Shawn is), this band is a great place to find some.  To me, for a short period of time, the Faces were one of the few bands to capture some of that magic that The Stones seem to have cornered the market on.  Consider grabbing a copy of Good Boys When They're Asleep and a bottle of your whiskey of choice.  Your head will hurt the following morning, but you're likely to have a smile on your face.

This version of "Wicked Messenger" is simply one of my favorite Dylan covers ever.  Those first strains on the organ and then guitar foreshadow a soon-to-come, rock-n-roll ass whoopin'.  Every single player on the recording is fully invested in burning it down.  I love listening to Kenney Jones beat the tar out of his drums on this track.  While I have no patience for Rod the Mod's theatrics (nor, for that matter, did the other Faces) or much of his solo career, I do think he is one of the great rock vocalists, and I think the evidence is right here.  Ian McLagan on that organ, Ronnie Lane all over the bass, Ronnie Wood with the wicked licks.  This kind of sound is why rock and roll conquered the world.  

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