Several weeks ago, I embarked upon a mildly obsessive compare-and-contrast of all the versions of "Atlantic City" that we had in our music library, the results of which I will now share with you all, because why not.
Here's the official lyrics
(click the little horizontal lines next to the song to expand them).
Here's Bruce Springsteen's original: ( video embed )
Acoustic guitar, harmonia, slightly eerie echoing backing vocals, and that delicate guitar work under—is that the bridge, the bit that starts with "Our luck may have died and our love may be cold"? (My musical vocabulary is almost non-existent.) Not the version that crawls into my head and doesn't come out for days, but powerful.
Here's a recent Bruce rendition, with the Sessions Band, off Live in Dublin
:( video embed )
Starts with banjo and acoustic guitar; eventually brings in the full 18-piece backing band including multiple vocalists. Love the banjo-and-guitar sections, but think the overall big-band style fails to convey the necessary darkness.
A classic cover by The Band: ( video embed )
Acoustic Americana; apparently the version that half the world thinks is the original. Very competent, love the mandolin (at least, the Internet claims that's what that first instrument is), but (1) one of the changes it makes to the lyrics has bad associations for me [*] and (2) I also think it doesn't get the tone right.
[*] Instead of, "Now I've been looking for a job but it's hard to find / Down here it's just winners and losers and don't get caught on the wrong side of that line," they have "there's winners and there's losers and I'm south of the line." That reminds me that it's the same band that did "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down," which I cordially loathe, because it's an extremely catchy and well-crafted song about, as Wikipedia
concisely notes, "the last days of the American Civil War and the suffering of Southern whites," which, fuck the Confederacy
And the cover that sent me down this road, several weeks ago, because it kept coming up on shuffle play at bedtime, by the Hold Steady:( video embed )
Piano, sax, electric guitar. Granted, it's Craig Finn's voice, but I like the way this version highlights "Last night I met this guy, I'm going to do a favor for him," and I think it hits the proper tone—more sinister than eerie, but that's appropriate too. This
is the version that crawls into my head and doesn't come out for days, for whatever reason.
Plus one I came across while looking for the above links, by Mumford and Sons with Haim (contains one audible "fucking"):( video embed )
(Oh hey, look at that, we can use the non-old embed code on DW now and specify start time with a URL parameter. Cool.)
Electric guitars, full band including strings and horns. Normally I do not care for Mumford and Sons at all, but I like the bass-heavy bluesy feel of the opening verses, especially the second one, which is sung by Este Haim. I just wish the harmonies were tighter (I know, tour, different bands, blah, it just makes me sad). Also there's lots of jamming, if you like that.
And that's about enough of that.