What could be easier than refining and redefining Bob Dylan's sandpaper and glue vocals? Quite a lot as it turns out.
With a few notable exceptions like Jimi Hendrix's 'All Along The Watchtower' and Jeff Buckley's 'Mama You Been On My Mind', Dylan's words mostly just sound wrong when rendered by anyone else. Being sung in a heavy Swedish accent adds another barrier.
Vargen ('The Wolf') is the stage name of singer-songwriter Reine Johansson. He got the idea for this album from Mia Rosengren who recorded nine Dylan sungs in Swedish on her own record - 'Tänk inte efter' (Don't Think Twice). Rosengren is also a key voice on this album singing lead vocals on many of the tracks and duetting on others.
Johansson says that the choices focus on love, loss, leaving and longing, a broad sweep of themes which effectively accounts for the bulk of Dylan's back catalogue. "We aimed for a timeless sound on Bob Dylan's timeless songs", he says, but transforming them into bog standard Americana arrangements just doesn't cut it.
These brisk, ill-conceived versions remove all the power, pathos and poetry from the songs. The rendition of Love Minus Zero/No Limit shows up the duo's limitations most starkly and you may well ask if we really need yet another cover of Knockin' On Heaven's Door.
The Swedes are not the first, nor will they be the last, to die on this hill and they serve to confirm that, for the most part, the raw intensity of Dylan's songs are nigh on untouchable.
Hear 'Love-Leave' on Bandcamp