Friday, November 25, 2011

The Perfect Reinterpretation Of A Song (And Another Pop Number): "I Want You" Is Incredible.

The Good: Amazing vocals, Great reinterpretation of "I Want You," Decent instrumental accompaniment
The Bad: SHORT, "Live And Let Love" gets tiresome
The Basics: An absolutely perfect song which could hold the interest of listeners on its own is brought down by a poor choice of b-sides with Sophie B. Hawkins's "I Want You."

With my many reviews of c.d. singles lately, I have gotten a few people asking me "What does it take for you to recommend a single and to rate it above a five out of ten?!" My answer, usually, is "A perfect song." So, with that ridiculously high standard in mind, it is unfortunate that the next opportunity I have to review a single which would be perfect with the one song is hampered by another song which is not anywhere near perfect. So, while I was perfectly prepared lessen my "poor use of the medium" argument for "I Want You," the two-track single is not perfect and the second track on the disc makes it impossible for me to rate this as a perfect single.

"I Want You" is a classic folk song from Bob Dylan which was brilliantly reinterpreted by Sophie B. Hawkins and was one of her standards she performed to get her recording contract with Columbia Records. Hawkins does what a cover artist ought to do, which is not simply re-sing the already known song, but she reimagines "I Want You" as a lonesome pop ballad which is nothing short of brilliant. The full version of "I Want You" appeared on Hawkins' debut album, Tongues & Tails alongside the b-side on this single, "Live And Let Love."

As a c.d. single, "I Want You" is not as wonderful or creative as Sophie B. Hawkins envisioned it. Slightly edited - removing the crowd noises before the first pounding of the keyboards - the song still reimagines Bob Dylan's uptempo ditty as a soulful ballad, but it pairs the song with Hawkins' original track, "Live And Let Love." "Live And Let Love" appears as the identical track to what appears on Tongues & Tails, so there is very little value in the single. With under ten minutes worth of music, this is a remarkably tough sell, even for fans of Sophie B. Hawkins. Hawkins, however, does show her creative influence well in that she wrote "Live And Let Love" and her arrangement of "I Want You" truly is a startlingly new version of the song. Hawkins provides lead vocals on both songs and plays keyboards on each track as well. Hawkins was not, however, involved in the production of either song. Having seen her perform both tracks live, though, it is pretty clear that the sound on the single is what Hawkins wants the songs to sound like.

What makes the single so wonderful is how powerfully and originally Hawkins reimagines "I Want You." Bob Dylan's version is up-tempo, energetic and . . . well, hokey. Hawkins slows the song down and emphasizes the poetry and the angst of the lyrics. She has an amazing alto voice which she is able to bring into the soprano range for the refrain to emphasize the sense of longing that the lyrics clearly establish. Between the tempo and the pitch, this becomes a completely different song from Dylan's original.

Also completely overhauled is the musical accompaniment. The song has a rich keyboard accompaniment which is deep in the bass and creates an instantly murky mood. The percussion is prevalent and steady, which is a contrast to the way Dylan strummed "I Want You" out on a guitar and harmonica. Hawkins's version of "I Want You" is lonely and soulful and the feminine voice presenting it makes a distinct impression. It is amazing Hawkins got so much out of the original when the original was so stark. The presence of bells in the middle and end of the song is also incredible and makes the song sound deep and universal.

Of course, what Hawkins had to work with was a set of pretty incredible original lyrics. Hawkins, however, makes it sound like her own when she sings "Now all my fathers, they've gone down / True love, they've been without it / And all their daughters, they still put me down / 'Cause i think about it . . . I want you / Darling, I want you, oh / Oh, I want you / Oh, so bad" ("I Want You"). Dylan is a master poet and Hawkins takes those lyrics and run with it.

By comparison, "Live And Let Love" is a huge letdown and a poor track to pair with "I Want You" for the single. "Live And Let Love" is repetitive, sounds like Hawkins is inebriated while singing it and generally simple compared to the complexity and perfection of "I Want You." Fans of Hawkins's works will be disappointed that she does not provide a live version or an alternate version of "Live And Let Love." This does lower the need for collectors to hunt the single down.

That said, the "I Want You" single is great for anyone who cannot seem to find either Tongues & Tails or The Best Of Sophie B. Hawkins, both of which have the unedited version of the song. But for those who happen to stumble upon this single without having heard Sophie B. Hawkins's reimagining of "I Want You," by all means, pick it up; even without her original opening, it is a perfect track!

For other works by Sophie B. Hawkins, please check out my reviews of:
Tongues And Tails
"Right Beside You" (single)
The Cream Will Rise (documentary)
Live! Bad Kitty Board Mix


For other music reviews, please check out my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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