Ben Sidran ‘Dylan Different’ Album Review

Dylan Different is a tribute album to the songs of Bob Dylan, done up in a jazzy swinging style by none other than Ben Sidran , whose credentials are legendary in both rock and jazz circles. He wrote the lyrics to ‘Space Cowboy’ for Steve Miller, and has produced albums for such music luminaries as Van Morrison, Diana Ross, and Rickie Lee Jones.

Ben plays prodigious piano, organ, and keyboards and sings like Mose Allison, King Pleasure, and well, himself. Once you’ve heard Ben Sidran you will wonder where he’s been all your life. Making records, writing books, hosting radio and TV shows, operating his own record label: that’s where.

His 1977 album The Doctor Is In is a neglected, witty, bluesy, jazzy, underestimated, brilliant piece of work. Same for the rest of his 25 odd, dangerous, spicy and not-to-be-missed albums. Maybe with ‘Dylan Different’ he’ll get the kind of recognition he truly deserves. Or maybe not. Those who know his music treasure it. There’s no higher accolade.

What he has done with his 2010 album Dylan Different is something no one has ever done with Dylan songs – he’s found the jazz in them. He’s found new meaning in many of these impenetrable lyrics, and revealed the underlying attitude in all of Dylan’s work, something alluded to in many Dylan interviews in the ’60s, but long forgotten: Dylan’s wit and humour.

It’s taken almost 50 years to remember what we celebrated Dylan for when he first arrived on the scene. Dylan is one of the most acerbic writers who ever lived. Take a listen below to ‘Everything Is Broken’ and you’ll no doubt be impressed with Ben’s powers of interpretation and re-invention. It’s almost as if Dylan himself didn’t quite understand the power of his own tune, or maybe he just doesn’t have the chops to play it as he intended. In any event, I for one am grateful that Sidran took on this project. I could go on and on about this (and probably will) but just take a few moments to check out Sidran’s versions of ‘Highway 61 Revisited’ and ‘Tangled Up in Blue’ and see if you don’t agree that what Ben Sidran has accomplished here is nothing short of astonishing. These songs have been around forever, but suddenly it’s possible to hear them as though they’ve just been released. Very cool. And very rare.

The sound quality of this release is exquisite, so if you are an audiophile, or an aspiring one, you need to own this record for its natural, inviting and accurate reproduction of these memorable versions of such outstanding compositions. I don’t know if this is something Sidran insists on, but I do know that every record of his that I’ve ever been privileged to listen to has the sound of real music and real instruments, with nothing hopped-up, bassed-up, or Aphexed. No boosted midrange or ear-splitting vocoder mixing tricks with Sidran. It’s addictive, this natural sound, and it’s something music lovers the world over will treasure.

Sidran, as always, is accompanied by stellar musicians. In fact, he’s the kind of guy other musicians can’t wait to get involved with. The lineup here includes:

Rodolph Berger, the French musician/singer
Marcello Guiliani, the Italian bassist
Alberto Malo, the Spanish drummer
Jorge Drexler, the Academy Award-winning composer from Madrid
Georgie Fame, the legendary singer from England
Amy Helm, the daughter of Leon Helm, on background vocals
Bob Malach, of Stevie Wonder’s band, on saxophone and trumpet
Michael Leonhart (of Steely Dan) on trumpet, flugelhorn

This album won’t sell a million copies. That, my friends, is a good thing. But get one for yourself. It will be the beginning of your Ben Sidran collection.