Bob Dylan Pressing On: 2 great originals and 7 fine cover versions


Bob Dylan Pressing On: Cover versions audio and video

When I heard Alicia Keys’s cover of Bob Dylan’s Pressing On I felt compelled to search out some of the other great versions of this overlooked gem.
Saved was the second album of Dylan’s “Christian trilogy”, following his conversion. It expanded on themes explored on its predecessor Slow Train Coming, with gospel arrangements and lyrics extolling the importance of a strong personal faith.

Let us start with a couple of Dylan’s own takes on the song, the album version and a great live interpretation from a classic concert in Toronto in 1980:

Bob Dylan – Pressing On, from the album, Saved:

The fantastic Toronto 1980 version of Pressing On:

And now the cover versions.

Let us start with Alicia Keys who has actually been name dropped by Bob Dylan in a song.

“I was thinkin’ ’bout Alicia Keys, couldn’t keep from crying
But she was born in Hell’s Kitchen, I was living down the line
I’m wondering where in the world Alicia Keys could be
I been looking for her even clear through Tennessee.”
– Bob Dylan (Thunder on the mountain, Modern Times)

Alicia Keys does a very fine take.

Alicia Keys – Pressing On:

I love that she doesn’t exaggerate and keep the “voice gymnastics” in check, and it has a nice build-up, it sounds like a classic soul ballad.
The recording was made in Muscle Shoals Studio for a documentary about the very same studio. Some veteran session players gathered for the session.
Alicia Keys went into the studio with David Hood (bass) and Jimmy Johnson (guitar) and other local musicians at FAME Recording Studios to record Pressing On for the documentary. They were joined by Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame songwriter and keyboardist Spooner Oldham, guitarist Larry Byrom (Steppenwolf), and drummer Brian Owings.

‘There’s nothing about that girl I don’t like.’
– Bob Dylan

Great result!

Now, let’s go to church! This is a full-blown gospel anthem by Regina McCrary & Chicago Mass Choir.

Regina McCrary & Chicago Mass Choir – Pressing On:

I love the “Christian period” in Dylan’s career, always have. In the beginning I felt quite alone in my belief in Dylan, but now he is finally getting recognized for his faith-based songs. The Bob Dylan records from that period are so much better than the critics then wrote, they were simply too shocked by his conversion to see the beauty in the songs. I have to say that not all critics were harsh, some recognized quality.

Let’s continue with a truly great cover of Pressing On by John Doe, we see Christian Bale as Jack Rollins/Pastor John in “I’m not there”, lip-syncing to the song. The song starts about 2 minutes in.
This is my favorite cover version of Pressing On!

John Doe – Pressing On. Here is the soundtrack version:

The Film clip:

Well I’m pressing on
Yes, I’m pressing on
Well I’m pressing on
To the higher calling of my Lord

Many try to stop me, shake me up in my mind
Say, “Prove to me that He is Lord, show me a sign”
What kind of sign they need when it all come from within
When what’s lost has been found, what’s to come has already been?

Well I’m pressing on
Yes, I’m pressing on
Well I’m pressing on
To the higher calling of my Lord

Shake the dust off of your feet, don’t look back
Nothing now can hold you down, nothing that you lack
Temptation’s not an easy thing, Adam given the devil reign
Because he sinned I got no choice, it run in my vein

Well I’m pressing on
Yes, I’m pressing on
Well I’m pressing on
To the higher calling of my Lord

Here is a very nice live version from Liam O Maonlai & Glen Hansard recorded live in Dublin in 2011

Liam O Maonlai & Glen Hansard – Pressing On:

And now, an acoustic take, done with just a guitar live at home. The song works in very different setting.

Chis Taylor – Pressing On:

Antony and the Johnsons does a very fine and tender version. They completely turns it into a hypnotic clockwork ballad with a hypnotic repetitious melody. They are good at covering Dylan.

Pressing On – Antony and the Johnsons (audio):

Let us end our list with a wonderful and very special Hungarian version, recorded in a church in Budapest in 1985.

Pressing On (cover) – Bob Dylan – Credo együttes 1985:

Fantastic vocals and strangely beautiful even if I cannot understand the lyrics, a testament to the song’s greatness.


– Hallgeir

10 thoughts on “Bob Dylan Pressing On: 2 great originals and 7 fine cover versions”

  1. Great song. To me Dylan has no periods. In his own words his ‘spiritual songs evolved’ over the years. It’s a constant renewal. Faith never ends. There is a clear line between ‘Saved’ and ‘Pay In Blood’ , although some prefer not to see it.

  2. I am still a bit(well, actually a bit more than a bit)hesitant towards “Saved” and “Shot of Love”(I really, really love “Slow train Coming”). But “Pressing on” is a major Dylan-song in my opinion. Gotta check out these versions when I get home 🙂
    I also like Covenant Woman from this album, the rest is a bit so-so in my world.

    1. Yes, I did consider that one, but i already had a very fine choir version, but thanks for the feedback 🙂

      – Hallgeir

  3. I just love Dylan’s ‘Christian period and Pressing is a great track. I would love to hear him do it live today sitting at that Grand Piano!

  4. Alicia Keys, as usual, is simply awesome! I’d love for her to do more Dylan covers.

    I love Dylan’s gospel music too. Whatever genre he turns to, he takes it to another level. He even wrote a better Beatles song than the Beatles ever did: 4th Time Around.

      1. LOL – dont get me started on the Beatles’ song writing abilities, or lack thereof (Ok, Ok, technically, I started it, but even so …)

Comments are closed.