All Along The Watchtower (live)

Even amongst the tributes, collaborations and references amongst the Rattle and Hum era to the likes of Billie Holiday, John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix, Elvis Presley and B. B. King, the one standout figure casting a shadow across the album and b-sides is a certain Mr. Zimmerman; a rendition of “All Along The Watchtower”, then, is one of those things that seems fairly reasonable. Placed between the two most gospel(ish) numbers on the album, though, is odd – this is early 60s freewheelin’ Dylan, whose lyrical style was frequently to mock the establishment with Absurdism. Essentially, its place in the tracklisting only adds to the careening and ramshackle feel of Rattle and Hum, which in retrospect gives said album certain charm, but also exposes how silly an idea it ultimately was to use such a concept to follow up Joshua Tree.

In any event, this cover isn’t bad, and it certainly doesn’t destroy or desecrate the original, but it doesn’t sound magnificent either. Perhaps the problem is that it doesn’t really add anything new, instead sounding very conservative, and very much how you’d expect U2 to cover “All Along The Watchtower”. Bono sounds particularly hoarse with his singing, as if he’s trying to channel the spirit of an ancient and long-dead bluesman, which probably wasn’t a great idea (the vocal tone or the attempt to channel spirits). The song isn’t devoid of merit – there’s a particularly effective intro (the first 10 seconds of a U2 song rarely fails, whatever happens after) to it, with a strong, rising rhythm section and a questioning tone to the guitar. Overall, however, the song winds up as solid, not brilliant.

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~ by 4trak on May 23, 2008.

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