John Wesley Harding by Bob Dylan

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John Wesley Harding by Bob Dylan
John Wesley Harding by Bob Dylan

Album Released: 1967

John Wesley Harding ::: Artwork

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1.John Wesley Harding2:58
2.As I Went Out One Morning2:49
3.I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine3:53
4.All Along The Watchtower2:31
5.The Ballad Of Frankie Lee And Judas Priest5:35
6.Drifter's Escape2:52
7.Dear Landlord3:16
8.I Am A Lonesome Hobo3:19
9.I Pity The Poor Immigrant4:12
10.The Wicked Messenger2:02
11.Down Along The Cove2:23
12.I'll Be Your Baby Tonight2:34


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?).

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by Reviewer: Don Ignacio (blogging at Don Ignacio's Album Reviews)

Some folks prefer Dylan the protest singer, and some Dylan the beatnik obscurantist. Myself, I prefer Dylan the narrative storyteller, which is why I count this as my second favorite album of his.

The atmosphere Dylan evokes here is no longer modern America and its road system, but 19th century America with its horse and buggies. It's a powerfully evocative album on mood alone, and it contains as many genuine Dylan classics as any other work he's done.

"All Along the Watchtower" is the best known song, but my favorite is the enigmatic morality tale, "The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest". Or perhaps it's the reverent mysticism of "I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine". Else the based-on-a-true Western legend title track, or the perfidity-of-wimmin in "As I Went Out One Morning".

Or maybe I'll flip the record over and hear "I Pity the Poor Immigrant" (not a political protest song), and the Depression nostalgia of "I Am a Lonesome Hobo" one more time.

Dylan moves in a quieter, more country direction on this album, which makes things easier on the ears than his painfully raw stabs at rockabilly circa 1965. And there's one more major change in Dylan's overall sound - the songs are all short and to the point. There are a dozen songs in barely over half an hour, which can be shocking to someone used to Dylan's typically lengthy ramblings (I know I was).

Not his most revolutionary work, simply some of his most listenable - intriguing and mysterious - perfect for summing up memories of the old weird America.

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by Reviewer: Creative Noise (blogging at Creative Noise)

A lot happened to Dylan during the Blonde on Blonde era and its immediate aftermath ... he toured with The Band, and attracted controversy at virtually every single concert they played. That has been captured well in the recently-released Royal Albert Hall live album.

The story has been told many times elsewhere of course, so I won't repeat it here. The way Dylan was living his life was reaching breaking point. And that point came with a motorcycle accident resulting in Dylan withdrawing from the public gaze for quite some time, before officially emerging with this set of recordings.

He recorded a bunch of classic songs after his motorcycle accident that were compiled by The Band's Robbie Robertson for release in 1975 and turned into hit singles by a whole number of acts prior to that release. With John Wesley Harding Dylan presented the public with a very different sounding record than the albums that had preceded it. Gone was the torrent of words, to be replaced by lyrics rich in story-telling and biblical imagery. So this is an album of stories.

The music is very stripped back, with Dylan handling all the guitar duties himself, bar two songs featuring pedal steel guitar. The rhythm section is understated, but perfectly suited to the material, the bass guitar in particular holds this album together musically.

The opening title song is a case in point - little shuffling drums, with Dylan on acoustic guitar and harmonica. The bass provides the melody and very fluent and fluid the playing is too. The words are story-telling, simplistic at first glance, but - like many songs here - presenting hidden depths of meaning after repeated listens.

"As I Went Out One Morning" for example seems a simple sort of song, but the lyrics are strangely captivating. A whole industry has sprung up just to detail the true meaning behind this album's lyrics - there are supposedly something like 61 or so Biblical references sprinkled across these twelve tracks. Knowing what they are isn't important in terms of enjoying the record however! The 'stories' make sense in any case, they can present themselves in a number of different ways - you don't need to know who 'Tom Paine' actually is!

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by Reviewer: Adrian Denning (blogging at Adrian's Album Reviews)

While Dylan was recovering from his motorcycle accident, the whole psychedelic movement was no longer just a-brewing (partly thanks to Dylan himself), but had become a full-blown cultural and musical storm.

The only sanctuary was a small house called Big Pink, where Dylan was converting and later (re)baptizing The Hawks into The Band. The word of the day was 'roots', and not just as in Dylan's humble beginnings in barebones acoustic folk, or the mostly Canadian-bred Hawks as Ronnie Hawkins' rock & roll backing combo, but as a musical unit fully immersed in America's musical past, especially the 19th and early-20th centuries.

With the year of psychedelia coming to a close, Dylan up and left for Nashville and - with a combo of veteran Charlie McCoy on bass and band newcomer Kenneth A. Buttrey on drums - recorded a dozen tunes previously unheard by the band he'd spent the last few months with.

The original plan wasn't to record an album that sounded like an early American minstrel who owned just a guitar, harmonica, a rusty piano, and a pair of vocal cords, backed by a contemporary rhythm section, but when Dylan presented the album to the former Hawks to decide on possible overdubs, it was agreed that the album had a worthy quality all its own.

It might be the album's mystical earthy feel that makes these songs seem as old as time itself, from the familiar melodies and rustic performance style, to the allegorical lyrics that recall the Biblical era. It couldn't be more different from Dylan's last three or four albums, and even the connection with his first three acoustic albums is marginal at best. Sure, Blonde on Blonde was mystical too, but that wasn't its focus, since it didn't have a single focus to begin with.

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by Reviewer: Mr X Music Reviews (blogging at When the Music's Over)