FROM ANOTHER WORLD: A TRIBUTE TO BOB DYLAN Album Set for Release 2/11
The tour never ends, the words and music still flow, onstage and on album. More than half a century after he first performed in Greenwich Village, Bob Dylan remains the master. His songs have becomes beacons of the times, from the fire of the 1960s to the embers of revolution that burn today. He's that rare artist where cover versions of his material have sometimes taken on lives of their own: the Byrds with "Mr. Tambourine Man" or Hendrix transforming "All Along The Watchtower."
Never just an American figure, Dylan has long been global. His words speak to people all around the world. And now they're speaking back, refracting his music through the prisms of different cultures on From Another World: A Tribute to Bob Dylan (Buda Musique; release: February 11, 2014).
"I wanted people who were like Dylan," explains producer Alain Weber, the driving force behind the project. "People with the same spirit, poets in their own culture. Some of them knew his music, others didn't. We translated the lyrics. It was vital that they could identify with the words, to feel the images and meanings."
"I'm a Dylan fan," Weber states. "Dylan is the only artist to make the connection between tradition and its poetry in his own music. He's an outcast but he's influential. And that's just like the musicians in traditional societies. They're professionals but they stand apart from society and influence it with their words and music."
With contributions from spectacular talents like Eliades Ochoa (Buena Vista Social Club), Taraf de Haïdouks, the Musicians of the Nile, Paban Das Baul from Bengal and Macedonia's brass powerhouse, Kocani Orkestar, From Another World has been 10 years in the making, a labor of sheer love from the man who's spent the last two decades working with traditional music. He's worked with groups from Asia to the Americas, was musical director for the groundbreaking Gypsy film Latcho Drom and the producer of countless albums. These days he runs annual festivals in France, Portugal and India, including the prestigious Sacred Music Festival in Fes, Morocco, where he's been the director for the last five years. Music isn't just his passion; it's his blood.
The whole journey began with the Musicians of the Nile, the Egyptian group Weber formed more than two decades ago. "They live like rock musicians," Weber laughs, "but they're very deep in their own tradition." They took the epic "Tangled Up In Blue" on a trip far upriver, a lifetime from its origins (their take also featured in 2003's Masked and Anonymous, a movie that starred Dylan, who also co-write the script). It set the bar high for the acts that followed.
Eliades Ochoa ignores the guitar pyrotechnics and intensity that stud the history of "All Along The Watchtower," instead giving it the glistening feel of sunlight on the walls of his native Santiago de Cuba. Kocani Orkestar march "Rainy Day Women" straight into a Balkan wedding party, heralded by a cacophony of drums before the horns blare and the dancing begins. It's Dylan in a way you've never imagined him before. Just how diverse the interpretations can be is evident in the two versions of "I Want You." The familiar descending melody is there with Burma Orchestra Saing Waing, but it twists and turns like something from the other side of the funhouse mirror. Flip the coin and Taiwan's Trio Mei Li Da Dao treat the song with formal elegance, each note descending like a gentle breath of cool air.
"Some artists could reproduce the melody," Weber explains. "Some found it just too far away from what they know, so they ended up doing it in their own way. That's what happened with the Aboriginal People Yolingu of Yalakun Arnhem and "Father Of Night." "It's hard to hear Dylan's song in there, but it is. It's how they heard it. They live very much in nature and it's a celebration of ritual, the way the original is," notes Weber. "And that's what I wanted, to have the spirit of the songs. I wanted to hear the artists themselves in the songs. To simply do straight covers would just be artificial."
Bob Dylan himself morphs and changes. From his name onward, he's kept shifting shapes, still a work in progress, even after all this time. And so isFrom Another World.
"After so long, I'm not sure that I knew when to stop! Finally a friend of mine had to push me and say 'Enough!' But there are so many more songs...the remarkable thing is that he's still able to produce music that's so good."
But has the man himself heard the album?
"I know he's been given a copy," Weber answers. "Knowing his personality, I think he'd like it." When Dylan's Neverending Tour resumes and he starts playing "Corrina, Corrina" with Romanian Gypsy fiddles, you'll know that he approves.