I’ve been waiting for Todd Haynes’ “experimental” film about Bob Dylan for some time now. It’s an intriguing concept…it tracks the Bobmeister through 7 various incarnations (played by 6 different actors, no less…including Richard Gere, Christian Bale, Marcus Carl Franklin, and Cate Blanchett!). Over his 40+ years of recording, Dylan has consistently managed to reinvent himself, both musically and personally. “I’m Not There” deals with every aspect of Dylan’s career…from pseudo hobo/Woody Guthrie to rock star…to his back to the earth/found religion phase…to movie “star”…to rock icon status---including his “I’m not really trying to look like Vincent Price phase.
Early buzz on the film is that it’s going to be very challenging. If the soundtrack is any indication, this is going to be a “must see” film. The OST includes a wide range of artists, each of whom interprets Dylan in their own unique style. Despite the sheer volume of his musical output…Dylan may be ultimately be regarded as an artist whose music is best interpreted by a very wide range of other artists. In the early years, Dylan (admittedly, his vocals are a cultivated taste) was brought to a larger audience with Peter Paul and Mary’s recordings of “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “Don’t Think Twice”. The Byrds took Dylan to a new level with the “folk rock” translation of “Mr. Tambourine Man”. Jimi Hendrix reimagined “All Along the Watchtower” in spectacular fashion.
The “I’m Not There” OST doesn’t disappoint. It’s filled with different readings of Dylan’s music. The list of contributors is impressive. They include artists who have influenced Dylan (Ramblin’ Jack Elliot---with a great read of “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues”)…artists whose careers were built on interpreting Dylan (Roger McGuinn…who, with Calexico does an incredible version of “One More Cup of Coffee”…artists who are known for their contributions independent of Mr. D…Eddie Vedder ((“All Along the Watchtower” (with the Million Dollar Bashers))…Sonic Youth “I’m Not There” (compare this to Dylan’s version on the OST…which one wins?)…Cat Power with an absolutely stunning version of “Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again”…Yo La Tengo captivates with Dylan’s version of Norwegian Wood with “Fourth Time Around”…Sufjan Stevens has a lovely vocal read of “Ring Them Bells” (although the instrumentation in places is just painful)…Jeff Tweedy (Wilco) has a nice read on “Simple Twist of Fate”…I could go on…Jesus…even Willie Nelson appears with Calexico (Senor- Tales of Yankee Power).
Other standout cuts…”As I Went Out One Morning” by Mira Billette…”You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova (think the recent indie film hit “Once”…thankfully they do Dylan’s version with the line…”Pack up your money, put up your tent McGuinn..you ain’t goin’ nowhere”---a reference to McGuinn changing Dylan’s lyric on the Byrds version for the seminal country-rock album “Sweetheart of the Rodeo”…”Can You Please Crawl out Your Window” by Hold Steady. “Cold Irons Bound” by Tom Verlaine is simply beautiful. Marcus Carl Franklin a young black actor who plays Dylan in his early days, delivers the best version of “When the Ship Comes In” I’ve ever heard. Likewise, Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door by Anthony and the Johnsons…a great song recorded by a few trillion artists…this version brought me to tears…imagine Aaron Neville meets Dylan.
Damn…I loved this OST. It’s a loving tribute to a man who has been called the voice of a generation…I expect that his influence will continue over many generations.