Joan Baez

Vanguard Sessions: Baez Sings Dylan

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Culling 15 tracks from her 1968 release of Any Day Now and adding five tracks taken from her releases of the early '60s, Vanguard Sessions: Baez Sings Dylan is a wonderful example of Joan Baez's ability to transcend the work of other songwriters. Though it could be said that the genius of Dylan's songcraft can occasionally be obscured by the understated starkness of his presentation, Baez's use of slightly countrified arrangements to compliment her powerful vocals succeeds in recasting these classics in a slightly prettier package. Baez takes few liberties, so most tracks don't count as surprises, though a bluesy a cappella rendition of "Tears of Rage" and a funky, soulful "Dear Landlord" nearly qualify as such. More than anything, Baez's renditions make the listener realize just how incredibly nuanced Dylan's delivery can be. Though standards like "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere," "It Ain't Me Babe," and "I Shall Be Released" are covered, just as many tracks are of a lesser-known variety, such as "Walkin' Down the Line," "Love Is Just a Four-Letter Word," and "Walls of Red Wing." Of course, bringing out the genius in Dylan's work isn't exactly akin to pulling teeth, but the timeless quality of Baez's thoughtful renditions more than does the work justice.

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