Dylan Covers Week No 5: - Love Minus Zero / No Limit - the Family Dogg
As far as I am aware, Led Zeppelin never did a Dylan cover on any of their studio albums. But this m-o-r version of Love Minus Zero / No Limit features three of them amongst the studio musicians hired to provide the backing for one-hit wonder Family Dogg. Yes, it's Jimmy Page on guitar, John Paul Jones on bass and John Bonham on drums. Family Dogg were a band formed in 1969 by English songwriters Albert Hammond and Mike Hazelwood with American actor / rock impresario Steve Rowland; they had one hit and one hit album (both entitled "A Way of Life") before returning to the oblivion from whence they came. For the record, the other two band members were vocalists Christine Holmes and Pam "Zooey" Quinn. This version of one of his greatest love songs goes to show that Dylan's songs can survive, even benefit from, the full commercial easy listening treatment, especially if 3/4 of Zep are manning the battlements.
It's a terrific melody, I love the opening piano, Hazelwood's vocal is enchanting with a hint of passion, Chrissie and Pam's backing singing is great, and the orchestral build-up is a tad overdone. But the thing that makes a relatively ordinary group rise to the occasion and treat it like an epic is the poetry, opening with an almost Shakespearean oxymoron, and swiftly moving to hyperbole:
"My love she speaks like silence without ideals or violence she doesn't have to say she's faithful yet she's true, like ice, like fire...."
then he describes her philosophy on their relationship, and in so doing celebrates her wisdom-
"People carry roses make promises by the hour my love she laughs like the flowers valentines can't buy her
In the dime stores and bus stations people talk of situations read books, repeat quotations draw conclusions on the wall
Some speak of the future my love she speaks softly she knows there's no success like failure And that failure's no success at all...."
Then suddenly we're in the land of Chekhov, or is it Poe, the world of evening parties, these too she recognises as melting shadows beside their love-
"The cloak and dagger dangles madams light the candles in ceremonies of the horsemen even the pawn must hold a grudge
Statues made of matchsticks crumble into one another my love winks, she does not bother she knows too much to argue or to judge...."
-and no matter how sumptuous the banquet or the mansion, they're their for each other-
"The bridge at midnight trembles the country doctor rambles bankers' nieces seek perfection expecting all the gifts that wise men bring..."
and then he finishes, suddenly unexpectedly moving, revealing their love as something delicate, needing gentle care with Dylan's raven reference evoking the memory of that prince of obsessive passion, Edgar Alan Poe, and yup, somehow it is epic.
"The wind howls like a hammer the night blows rainy my love she's like some raven at my window with a broken wing."