Covering Bob Dylan and capturing the intonation of his work while blending his spirit and charm is a difficult task for any artist. Richard Hawley pulled it off in style, Ballad of a Thin Man is a roaring success for the Longpigs and Pulp alumni. Nick Cave reached deep into the annals of the Mr. Tambourine Man sensation and covered a delicate, forgotten number for Murder Ballads. It takes real guts to do it. Covering Dylan is not for everyone though, as Noel Gallagher finds on The Mighty Quinn. Stripped straight from the Out of the Now Sky original, this cover from Gallagher would be better lost to the void than it would be uploaded to YouTube as a fragmented live set.
Delicate a track selection this may be, all it does for Gallagher is show off that he owns a copy of Dylan’s Biograph. Charmless and annoying this routine addition may be, the elevated uselessness that Gallagher gives it during this live show is the primary issue. His voice adds nothing to this. A backing vocal to guide him along like a blind man’s stick maintains what the neutral listener will already have clicked. Gallagher does not have a voice strong enough to cover Dylan and even if he did, he lacks the understanding and intonation of a track as straight-shooting as The Mighty Quinn. What was a ballad for Quinn the Eskimo is turned into a jaunty acoustic number where Gallagher slaps on his best Dylan impression.
His best Dylan impression is equivalent to Jay-Z covering Wonderwall at Glastonbury. Heartless robbery and almost on the nose with the expectation of mockery. The Mighty Quinn cover comes from a place of love, obviously, but Gallagher misses the point entirely. Boastful and brash, brass numbers, backing vocals, as though applying more and more pressure to a delicate song would make any sense at all. At the core of any good Dylan cover is the implication that it is a nod toward quality songwriting. The Mighty Quinn here sounds as though drowning all of that out with a cowardly orchestral number. There is no standard set for those wanting to cover Dylan, but there are dos and don’ts for every artist. The Mighty Quinn is a massive don’t.
About as impressively flatlining as expected from Gallagher, this cover of a Dylan deep cut is not worth the time it takes to listen to his extended, minute-extra emptiness. Hoping to cement himself alongside Dylan as he did with The Beatles, Gallagher does well to copy the sound but shows he has no sparkle behind it. Dead in the eyes, Dead to the World proved that too. Conviction and power of a wildcard, unique character is present in the bootleg tapes and live recordings from Dylan but is absent entirely from Gallagher. Few can mix that wry humour and lyrical charm as Dylan did, but for Gallagher to expect that of himself is a bold move. It is not a risk when the outcome is already known. Gallagher does not cement his style as anything new or bold for a Dylan track, but he did not showcase it for his own works either.