Sunday, February 03, 2008

"Make you feel my love"

I've been listening to Adele's jaunty, but shallow debut album, "19". About two thirds through, the tone changes and melancholy piano ushers in a song I recognise. Here, on "Make you feel my love", the undoubted depth in her voice is matched by a song that is all depth. It took me a few minutes to remember where I'd heard it before, on Dylan's "Time Out of Mind", the album from 1997, that wrestles with "Blonde on Blonde" as my favourite. The 56-year old's voice, shot to pieces, sings this potent lovesong, that speaks of sexual power diminished, but of a late flowering desire for the song's object. It's a song purely about yearning for something that may have passed beyond you. It's strange hearing it in the sixth form context of Adele - yet I'm fascinated by the way that her version, whilst losing that subtext of an opportunity that may forever have gone, still manages to maintain a sense of powerlessness. In literary terms, the ageing man wanting one last chance at discovering happiness through love - even if his physical powers are waning - is as potent a subject as any; yet listening to the versions back to back, I'm wondering whether those thoughts - never noble anyway - are as solipsistic as a teenager. Of course, listening to Dylan's version, you hear the echo of the voice he once had - the potency he once had - and its the stripping down, like in Johnny Cash's "The Man Comes Around", of a male life by time, that gives the song such power. And though the young often write the best songs, one can't help comparing Dylan's lyrics, that "I'd go hungry, I'd go black and blue, I'd go crawling down the avenue" with Adele "Chasing Pavements" to see where they might lead. If the difference between youth and middle age is between wondering what you might do, and regretting what you haven't done, then, strangely, these two versions of this lovely song manage to highlight it.

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