The Spinners

♪ Mr. Tambourine Man (Kumisolo, 2009) ♪

In Japanese, Rex Baylon, Track Reviews on April 10, 2010 at 11:24 am

In 1965, two iconic folk acts premiered their versions of what would eventually become a pop standard: “Mr. Tambourine Man”. The original song, written and sung by Bob Dylan, became the litmus test on which all folk songs afterwards would be judged. Not to mention the fact that Dylan’s version catered to the boho intelligentsia of New York’s Lower East Side with its surrealist lyrics and evocative melody. At the opposite end of the spectrum, The Byrds version of the song, released two weeks after Dylan’s, became a hit but turned out to be a pale imitation of Dylan’s masterpiece.

Now forty-four years later, Japanese chanteuse Kumisolo releases her version of the song as part of Dylan Mania, a compilation album featuring various artists covering songs from Bob Dylan’s oeuvre. Unlike The Byrds, Kumisolo doesn’t take the easy way out and just karaoke her way through the song. No, like any true artist, she brings her soul into the Dylan classic and what was once a 60’s protest anthem for freedom becomes a 21st century techno-pop hit.

Whereas previous interpretations of the song have always yielded angst-ridden covers, Kumisolo has eschewed such cliché affectations and created a bubbly dance track. Instead of dour harmonies we are treated to a panoply of instruments, urging us to dance even before the first note is done playing.

Also, I can’t get enough of the trumpets. They bring a playful gravitas to the tune and help announce to the purists that Dylan doesn’t have carte blanche ownership of the song. Another brilliant move on Kumisolo’s part is that she avoids getting trapped in facile mimicry. Instead of trying to copy Bob Dylan’s way of singing, she brings an upbeat interpretation to the lyrics.

And while Dylan’s tambourine man was the manifestation of all the insecurities of the burgeoning youth movement, Kumisolo’s modern-day tambourine man is apolitical. Kumisolo’s version captures perfectly the plight of all youth today: instead of struggling to be loyal to a movement we all struggle to be true to ourselves. Whether we can or not we at least have Kumisolo’s music to keep us company on the long road from adolescence to adulthood.

– Rex Baylon

Download “Mr Tambourine Man”


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