Saturday, October 20, 2007

Three tickets to Acapulco

MP3: Bob Dylan and the Band- Goin' to Acapulco

MP3: Bonnie 'Prince' Billy - Goin' to Acapulco

MP3: Jim James and Calexico - Goin' to Acapulco

"Goin' to Acapulco" is a song I never paid attention to that much. Sure, "The Basement Tapes" from Bob Dylan and the Band is an enjoyable affair, but it's not exactly a stand out track by any means.

So why have Will Oldham and Jim James, some of my favourite songwriters and two of the greatest living American artists currently recording and performing, covered this song? Perhaps it is the general challenge behind it: it is not short and the instrumentation chosen to illustrate it are only semi-conventional. It must be the lyrics. After all, who cannot relate to wanting to escape somewhere far to a sweet woman's home, who puts it to you "as plain as day" and gives it to you "for a song"?

Taking a song away from it's lp is and making it create a completely different mini concept is hard, and backing that song's single with 2 songs you didn't write is damn near impossible. Bonnie 'Prince' Billy did just that when he released his single for "Lay and Love" earlier this year, adding 2 Bob Dylan covers to follow the title track, and (along with the artwork) created a 3 track ep of love. I believe Will Oldham covered "Goin' to Acapulco" because of the song's character "Rose Marie", keeping the song sparse other than a commanding trumpet and a rhythm section, slowing down to make sure all the feelings and emotions conveyed have their time to be taken in fully.

Jim James' contribution to the soundtrack of the upcoming "I'm Not There" Dylan biopic finds himself being backed by the mighty Calexico (who does multiple duties all over the album), almost leading the song with strong horns and wonderful drums but as we all know, it's impossible to trump the stellar vocals of James. The wonderful thing about these mp3s are that they're all led by unique and fantastic vocalists, and if anything what makes this special is completely all Jim James. As a whole it works, but without him, it is just any other cover, destined to get lost in the shuffle of obscure Dylan covers.

So while I passed over "Goin' to Acapulco" initially, hearing these 2 great interpretations from the people I trust made me want to go back and take the song in fully. I don't know if I understand it any better, but the covers help make the song a lot more fulfilling.

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