Musikwissenschaft – Vol. 2

An appreciation of some of the finest performances in musical history.

 

In the second edition of this feature we bring you a version of Bob Dylan’s All Along The Watchtower that is like no other.  The original recording featured on Dylan’s John Wesley Harding album in 1967 but The Jimi Hendrix Experience made the song their own the following year when their searing interpretation transformed the folk rock classic into a psychedelic anthem.  The song has since been covered by many different bands and artists, including U2, Grateful Dead, Richie Havens, Neil Young, Eric Clapton, Paul Weller and Pearl Jam, but not since the release of Electric Ladyland in 1968 has there been a rendition of All Along The Watchtower as unique and exciting as the version regularly performed by U.S. rock group Dave Matthews Band.

 

Dave Matthews Band was formed in Virginia in 1991 and consisted of singer/songwriter and guitarist Dave Matthews, bassist Stefan Lessard, drummer Carter Beauford, saxophonist LeRoi Moore (who died in 2008 to be replaced by Jeff Coffin) and violinist Boyd Tinsley.  The band rose to fame the old fashioned way: through hard work, non-stop touring and word of mouth accolades.  They were seen as an adventurous group due to the fact that they combined elements from many different genres, including rock, jazz, soul and hip-hop and ever since their earliest gigs at Charlottesville nightclub Trax the band have performed All Along The Watchtower.  The song quickly turned into a fans’ favourite and it became tradition for them to play it at their live shows, often as a final number or as part of an encore.  At some concerts the crowd has even chanted “Watchtower” (as it is now known) throughout the entire show.  As one would expect, their version of the track has evolved over time; verses have been changed, solos have been added and they have even incorporated the final section of Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven into some of their more recent performances.

 

The song itself usually begins very slowly.  Up until the line “the hour is getting late” only the bass and acoustic guitar accompany Dave Matthews’ intensely powerful vocals.  However, from that moment onwards the tempo picks up and the rest of the band come in as the song turns into a lengthy improvisational jam.  The band has additional members that are present at all of their live shows and the skills of trumpeter Rashawn Ross and guitarist Tim Reynolds always contribute to the phenomenal energy created by every single Watchtower performance.  Each band member is given their time to shine on the track and are able to fully express themselves on stage as it develops into a musical free-for-all.  The track has appeared on numerous live albums and was even performed at Woodstock ’99 but an official studio recording of the song has never been released by the band, the power of the live version being so much stronger than any ‘canned’ version could ever be.

 

From the 500 or so Dave Matthews Band recordings we have provided one from 24th February 1995 at the Roseland Ballroom in New York.  It also guest features guitarist Trey Anastasio of Phish and harmonica virtuoso John Popper.  Live performances just don’t get any better than this.

 

Dave Matthews Band – All Along The Watchtower (w/ Trey Anastasio & John Popper)

 

 

– Load It, Check It

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