How Many Roads: Black America Sings Bob Dylan – Various Artists (Ace)

Here’s another Bob Dylan-related compilation from Ace. This single-disc set contains 20 Bob Dylan songs recorded by black artists between 1964 and 1990. As is to be expected, the results vary wildly from cut to cut.

The set opens with O.V. Wright’s 1968 reading of Blowin’ In The Wind. Wright uses Stevie Wonder’s 1996 version as a template and then packs more gospel into the song. It’s a powerful version that fits the song perfectly. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for Howard Tate’s 1972 version of Girl From The North Country. Tate’s soulful bluster is too much for the song’s delicate melody.

Of the more unusual selections, the 1975 version of Mr. Tambourine Man by Con-Funk-Shun is something to behold. It is relentlessly funky. No doubt, not what Mr. Dylan had in mind, but pretty cool, none-the-less.

Other highlights include Esther Phillips version of Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You, The Isley Brothers’ Lay Lady Lay and Solomon Burke’s rockin’ version of Maggie’s Farm.

Even on occasions when the singer and the song don’t completely gel, the backing tracks are always excellent, usually featuring the cream of Memphis, Muscle Shoals or NY soul players, so every track has something going for it. Even Patti LaBelle’s over-the-top reading of Most Likely You Go Your Way And I’ll Go Mine has a darn good backing track.

Marty Duda

Click here to listen to Mr. Tambourine Man by Con-Funk-Shun: