John Wesley Harding (1967)


 
1. John Wesley Harding 2. As I Went Out One Morning 3. I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine 4. All Along the Watchtower 5. The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest 6. Drifter's Escape 7. Dear Landlord 8. I Am a Lonesome Hobo 9. I Pity the Poor Immigrant 10.The Wicked Messenger 11.Down Along the Cove 12.I'll Be Your Baby Tonight

 

After Dylan had conquered the world during the first half of the 1960's, the latter part of the decade and - the rest of his entire career, really - would be a series of ups and downs. Many of those self-imposed. His first "experiment" was this, sort of "concept" album. This has been dubbed Dylan's Country-Western album, but it's actually a lot more "western" than "country". The songs featured here,musically and lyrically, seem to loosely depict simpler times of yesteryore, such as the character in the title track John Wesley Harding.

This isn't a tribute to the "old west". No, Dylan is too much of a pro for that, but just a relaxed album that does transcend to the listener into the above mentioned genre. This music would sort of have a brief run of popularity during the late sixties and early seventies. It would give birth to such bands as The Flying Burrito Brothers and The Eagles and was pretty far removed from the hip, acid-laden sixties that Dylan had been lately associated. If anything, I find the album to be a bit on the redundant side. It's hard for me to differentiate a lot of the tracks. Had the album been powerful in sound and delivery, it would have resonated stronger with me. This album's strengths are its quietness and overall laid back feel, so even though pleasant, does tend to slightly drone on at times.

Standouts are All Along the Watchtower which, ironically was covered by Jimi Hendrix (now there's an incident of respect for you) and the closing, sweet I'll Be Your Baby Tonight. All of the songs are what you would call "good", as Dylan sings about good guys, bad guys, saints, hobos, and immigrants among other things. It's a very sweet diversion for him, and when it came to diversions, there were always plenty from Dylan. This is one of his stronger albums even if it doesn't rank amongst his classics.


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