How to pick a Dylan song: Brian Ferry explains

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As lead singer of legendary art-rock band Roxy Music, Bryan Ferry earned a reputation as one of music’s great innovators. But as forward-looking as Roxy Music was, there was always a side of Ferry that enjoyed looking back. His first solo album, 1973’s These Foolish Things, began with a cover of Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall.” On that album, and throughout his solo career, Ferry has covered classic rock, Motown and jazz standards. Since his latest album, Dylanesque, is a collection of 11 Dylan covers, Ferry discusses five of the songs he plucked from Dylan’s massive catalog.

1. “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door”
“It was a bit of a risk because it’s been done a million times,” Ferry says. “But so has ‘Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.’ Both stand up to many interpretations. The stronger a song is in the writing, the more possibilities there are for how you can do it.”

2. “Gates of Eden”
“It has some very powerful images. There’s also a rich use of language and words you don’t normally hear in pop songs. It’s a very interesting song, the way he’s kind of rambling and free associating.”

3. “To Make You Feel My Love”
“I don’t know his work from this period [the 1990s] terribly well. But this song has a bleakness about it that makes it different from the others. Those were written when he was hanging out in Greenwich Village and seemed on a poetic mission. This one is much more plain and desolate, which I found attractive.”

4. “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues”
“This song always makes me think about New York. The Velvet Underground was one of my favorite bands and it’s somehow reminiscent of them. It has a street thing about it that’s quite cool.”

5. “All I Really Want to Do”
“I was actually more aware of The Byrds’ version than Dylan’s. They made Dylan palatable to a lot of people. Some people don’t care for Dylan’s singing voice. But I love it. I think he has a wonderful voice.”

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