wed 01/12/2021

Album: Standing in the Doorway - Chrissie Hynde Sings Bob Dylan | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Standing in the Doorway - Chrissie Hynde Sings Bob Dylan

Album: Standing in the Doorway - Chrissie Hynde Sings Bob Dylan

Lockdown album offers fresh perspectives and great company

An enduring lockdown companion

The release into a world in lockdown of Bob Dylan’s first original album in almost a decade caught everyone by surprise last year. Rough and Rowdy Ways drew widespread and universal praise. Its coming was heralded by a single, “Murder Most Foul”, a lengthy song, released without fanfare, addressing the Kennedy assassination which was, of course, the subject of great textual exegesis.

When Pretenders guitarist James Walbourne sent it to Chrissie Hynde, she was immediately hooked. “Listening to that song completely changed everything for me. I was lifted out of this morose mood that I’d been in. I remember where I was sitting the day that Kennedy was shot – every reference in the song… That’s when I called James and said, ‘let’s do some Dylan covers’ and that’s what started this whole thing.” Released as a download in May to mark Dylan’s 80th birthday, Standing in the Doorway: Chrissie Hynde Sings Bob Dylan is now available as a CD, and Hynde is playing a series of concerts celebrating the album. The opening gig last month, at London’s Royal Opera House, was a somewhat ragged affair – but then it’s been 18 months since anyone made live music.

Recorded on mobile phones, Walbourne sending Hynde an instrumental idea to which she added a vocal, and so on, back and forth, Standing in the Doorway is a quietly compelling album that gets seriously under the skin. The production is of necessity stripped back and simple, guitars, mandolin, and keyboards, Hynde’s husky voice to the fore, with its distinctive catch, and push-pull phrasing inviting you to listen anew to the lyrics, especially on songs from alums that reside largely unplayed in our Dylan collections.

There have been countless albums of all-Dylan songs, not least the Joan Baez set Any Day Now (1968), in which 16 of them, few obvious, were arranged into a song-cycle. What’s interesting about Standing in the Doorway is its weighting toward Dylan’s 1980s song catalogue, with two songs from Shot of Love (1981), the third and least distinguished of his Christian albums, and three from the Infidels sessions (1983), in which Dylan walked the hyphen of Judaeo-Christian belief.

The unplugged, vamp-till-ready quality is immensely appealing and there’s some very nice playing – though from who it’s not clear, as there are no notes. The noises-off and count-ins, the noodling fades, and laughter all add atmosphere and authenticity to an album that has plenty of light and air and which breathes.

“You’re a Big Girl Now” is from Blood on the Tracks, the 1974 album that ranks by any measure in Dylan’s top five. Hynde’s version takes its cue from the original yet reinvents the song, its perspective inevitably changed. From 1963, “Tomorrow is a Long Time”, a tender love song from the Freewheelin’ sessions, takes us back down those foggy ruins of time, and from Bringing It All Back Home (1965) comes “Love Minus Zero/No Limit”. Both offer a change of pace and atmosphere and the birdsong in the latter is a nice touch (is it a raven, as the song specifies?).

Songs from Shot of Love bookend the album, “In the Summertime” opening it and “Every Grain of Sand” closing. The latter, an exquisitely crafted Blake-inspired vision, was written for Nana Mouskouri, after she and Dylan met backstage in LA – it arrived in the mail at her Geneva home a few weeks later! Hynde’s version is a notably affecting mix of angst, self-doubt, despair, resignation and so much else. “Hanging in the balance” indeed, and, with “Blind Willie McTell”, it is one of the highlights of the collection, Hynde’s voice perfectly suited to both. You listen with new ears and realise how profound are both songs.

Standing in the Doorway has become a great companion in large part because it feels down-home and real at a time when we still badly need those qualities. It’s heartfelt, Hynde inhabiting the songs and inviting us to think once more about the originals, about Bob Dylan and his extraordinary canon and his reinvention of popular music. It makes me want to pick up a guitar once more. Thank you, Chrissie.

It’s heartfelt, Hynde inhabiting the songs and inviting us to think once more about the originals, about Bob Dylan and his extraordinary canon

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Average: 4 (1 vote)

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