"...been wadin' through the high muddy water"
Hallelujah / Bob Dylan
Live - Montreal, July 8th, 1988
Leonard Cohen's spiritual love song, "Hallelujah," has been recorded by so many people that Cohen himself called for a moritorium on "Hallelujah" covers. Jeff Buckely's gorgeous, stately version has become the most widely heard version. Cohen's own recording of the song is probably the definitive one. In 1988, Bob Dylan was playing "Hallelujah" live, and this version from
a Montreal show is a searing, strident take, where he spits out the words at times, sounding as if he's singing for his life and redemption. In other words, for whatever reason Dylan chose to cover it at that time, it was personal,
not academic. He strips a lot of the melody away for the pure power of shouting expression in his singing - back when Dylan's voice could still do such a thing. In "I and I", from Infidels, Dylan sang about a woman asleep in his bed - "In another lifetime she must have owned the world, or been faithfully wed to some righteous king who wrote psalms beside moonlit streams. The righteous king of history who wrote psalms was, of course, the Jewish King David, and Dylan is slyly inferring in the song that they are replaying the relationship, where in that past he was the king writing psalms, then, and he's Bob Dylan writing songs now. So, it makes sense that Dylan choses to cover "Hallelujah," a song that features David and his secret chord, composing a song while baffled by love and life's unending mysteries. Dylan turns the song's soft prayer into a forceful, demanding declaration, and except on his live "Hard Rain" album, Bob's never sounded so stripped bare and righteous, standing alone, donned only in the cloak of naked truth.
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