This week Bob Dylan turned 80, and singers and musicians have been covering his songs for roughly 60 of those years. Still, it’s always a treat when someone digs a little deeper into Dylan’s catalog than “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” or “Like a Rolling Stone.” On her new collection of Bob remakes, Chrissie Hynde brings back the oft-neglected likes of “Don’t Fall Apart on Me Tonight” and “Every Grain of Sand,” and the Dylan Broadway musical Girl from the North Country (set to reopen in the fall) includes “Tight Connection to My Heart (Has Anyone Seen My Love),” “Sweetheart Like You,” and not one but two New Morning obscurities, “Sign on the Window” and “Went to See the Gypsy.”
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When Rolling Stone conducted a readers’ poll of Dylan’s best songs of the Eighties, “Most of the Time,” a deep cut on 1989’s Oh Mercy, came in at Number Four. It’s been covered here and there; soul legend Bettye LaVette and veteran British indie rocker Lloyd Cole are among the few who’ve tackled it. But, well, most of the time, this song — a regret-filled rumination that sounds like a beautiful hangover — feels like it deserves a whole lot more.
Luther Black and the Cold Hard Facts is the nom de rock of veteran indie singer, musician, and songwriter Rick Wagner, who’s played with well-regarded indie legends like the dB’s and the Silos and is currently in the band Storytown. By his own admission, Wagner first heard “Most of the Time” when Swedish singer-songwriter Sophie Zelmani covered it for the soundtrack of Masked and Anonymous, the bizarro early-2000s film that co-starred Bob himself.
“Oh Mercy sort of fell through the cracks with me,” Wagner admits. “I was more focused on the Replacements in 1989, but one of the great things about Dylan is the timelessness and the staying power of his music. So when I discovered Oh Mercy 25 years or so after its release, it sounded fresh and exciting to me, and it still does. It ended up being one of my favorite Dylan albums.“
“Most of the Time” remains an indelible song. As Dylan himself noted in Chronicles Volume One, “Dan [Lanois, producer] thought he heard something. Something that turned into a slow melancholy song.” On his new remake of the song, Wagner stays faithful to the original arrangement and the sound of Dylan’s older voice, and very intentionally so. “I love the transformative nature of this song, the sense of calm in the face of turmoil,” he says. “Lanois’ production on the original is so great in creating the perfect atmosphere for the song. I tried to stay true to that and not reinvent the wheel, but to pay homage to this great piece of art.” Some of the time, great but neglected songs still bob to the surface.
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