Thursday, July 8, 2010

Joni Covers: Big Yellow Taxi

Bob Dylan: Big Yellow Taxi

[out of print]

Dylan was Columbia's revenge album. It was 1973, and Bob had temporarily jumped ship for David Geffen's young Asylum Records. The album was assembled using outtakes from the recording sessions for the New Morning and Self-Portrait albums, and released a couple of months before Dylan's Asylum debut, Planet Waves. The album is mostly covers, none of which have ever supplanted the originals in the hearts of music lovers. Upon release, it was easily Bob's worst album, and is currently out of print.

"Big Yellow Taxi", on the other hand, is one of Joni Mitchell's most well-known songs. It was released in early 1970 (Bob's version was recorded in November of that year). The song's first three verses tackle ecological issues, themes that captured the growing eco-consciousness of the times. But being in the thick of the early '70s singer-songwriter movement, she changes focus from the global to the personal for the last verse, and it raises the song above the typical "issues" song, into something more universal and timeless.

Dylan takes some liberties with the lyrics, mostly without affecting the meaning. However, he radically alters the last verse, and it brings the song down a couple of notches in the process. Still, it's miles better than his version "The Boxer".

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