Bob Dylan as we had come to know him had effectively perished in a motorcycle accident on July 26th 1966, and for the next handful of years, he would be portrayed by Richard Gere ...
He withdrew from public, wrote some songs, and then … very quietly … released this short album in December 1967. It's completely unlike anything he'd released before. Whereas his previous albums were frequently complex and varied, John Wesley Harding
contains only simple folk and country & western ditties. Many people interpreted this move as a sort of antithesis to the overblown psychedelic movement. However, I don't believe Dylan himself said there was anything so pointed behind it.
Considering how revolutionary and involved albums like Blonde on Blonde
and Highway 61 Revisited
were, it would have been reasonable to suspect that such a different follow-up would have been met with pitchforks and torches by the press and audiences alike ... but lo and behold, they all liked it! It even holds up today, having secured a spot on Rolling Stone Magazine's Top 500 Albums of All Time
(you know your album has made it if it's in a Rolling Stone list).
And why shouldn't they love it? This is by far one of the most pleasant albums I've ever listened to. Take it with you the next time you're in the mountains on a cool breezy spring day, and see how it suits the atmosphere.
When I said this album is simple, I most certainly meant it. Dylan plays his acoustic guitar on most of these songs, and he strums it in the most basic way. It harkens back to his folk days, but this is still a vastly different album from those. And that's not just because there's a drummer and bassist present on this album. Before, Dylan was a youth and a bit of a renegade - on this album, he is cool and calculated. It was like he had transformed into a middle-aged man (is it really any wonder how the filmmakers of I'm Not There
got the idea to have different actors portraying him at different stages of his life?).
by Reviewer: Don Ignacio
(blogging at Don Ignacio's Album Reviews