The Many-Sided
Please note: MP3s are only kept online for a short time, and if this entry is from more than a couple of weeks ago, the music probably won't be available to download any more.


Dave Van Ronk - "Both Sides Now"

After reading Saul Bellow's Henderson the Rain King, Joni Mitchell wrote this song that posits love, like a cloud, as an amorphous, inscrutable thing whose shape is constantly shifting along with our perception of it. It's a song that makes me think of the clouds in Carly Simon's coffee and then of another Mitchell, the novelist David, who writes of "a galaxy of cream unribboning" in his cup. (If I were a reactionary YouTube troll I would complain about the dearth of contemporary Billboard hits inspired by or evocative of great works of fiction, but I dislike those people and anyway I have no reason to believe music was ever more literate on average than it is today, which begs the question: why did I raise this?) When the late NYC folkie Dave Van Ronk first listened to Mitchell's song in 1969 he heard no Carly Simon, no David Mitchell; he heard in it the possibility of something slower and gruffer, warmer and more deeply felt in the singing.

It could be said that there are as many great versions of a song as there are great appreciators. But it's only when a great appreciator is also a great musician that the rest of us get access to one of these versions. The best interpreters of song are both preservationists and stylists; they protect the essence of a piece of music and add to it something of themselves - Ronkness, for instance, in the case of Ronk. The best interpretations, such as Ronk's lovely live rendition of one of his friend's many masterpieces, are those that show us that even when we think we've looked at it from both sides, we still really don't know the song at all. [Buy]

Rufus Cohen and Wade Patterson - "So Long: Go"

And when Rufus Cohen and Wade Patterson listened to West African folk music they heard in it something of the early sound of the American south. [Buy]

Posted by Jordan at May 12, 2011 10:14 PM

first time viewer of your blog, just wanted to compliment you guys on the layout and purpose of it. i look forward to following your blog and the others you've listed as some of your favorites.

Posted by James at May 13, 2011 4:15 PM

Joni Michell has apparently often said that Van Ronk's version of Both Sides Now is her favorite, and now I see why.

Posted by David at May 19, 2011 6:58 PM

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Sean Michaels is the founder of Said the Gramophone. He is a writer, critic and author of the theremin novel Us Conductors. Follow him on Twitter or reach him by email here. Click here to browse his posts.

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our favourite blogs
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Back to the World
La Blogothèque
Weird Canada
Destination: Out
Endless Banquet
A Grammar (Nitsuh Abebe)
Ill Doctrine
A London Salmagundi
Words and Music
Petites planétes
Gorilla vs Bear
Silent Shout
Clouds of Evil
The Dolby Apposition
Awesome Tapes from Africa
Matana Roberts
Pitchfork Reviews Reviews
i like you [podcast]
Nicola Meighan
radiolab [podcast]
CKUT Music
plethoric pundrigrions
Wattled Smoky Honeyeater
The Clear-Minded Creative
Torture Garden
Passion of the Weiss
Juan and Only
Horses Think
White Hotel
Then Play Long (Marcello Carlin)
Uno Moralez
Coming Up For Air (Matt Forsythe)
my love for you is a stampede of horses
It's Nice That
Song, by Toad
In Focus
WTF [podcast]
The Rest is Noise (Alex Ross)
My Daguerreotype Boyfriend
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blue skies turn black
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