The Times They Are A-Changin' (1964)


 
1. The Times They Are A-Changin' 2. Ballad of Hollis Brown 3. With God on our Side 4. One Too Many Mornings 5. North Country Blues 6. Only a Pawn in Their Game 7. Boots of Spanish Leather 8. When the Ship Comes In 9. The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll 10.Restless Farewell

 

I wasn't alive at the time, but the overall consensus seems to be that the world radically changed for the worse on November 22, 1963, the day President John Kennedy was killed. This was Dylan's first release since that horrific event, and perhaps it's no coincidence that this is Dylan's most bitter effort to date - and perhaps of all time. In the decades before punk, rap and heavy metal, there was never quite an outlet to become overtly obscene and angry. Four letter words were unheard of in any popular medium, so the sentiments expressed here were about as bitter as one could possibly get without being banned and having the public gather for public burnings (see the Beatles around 1966).

The Vietnam war was not quite on everyone's mind yet, but hindsight would make you think we were smack dab in the midst of the conflict when listening to such tunes as Only a Pawn in Their Game and With God on Our Side which were brutally (for the time) strong anti-war statements. He attacks many other social issues - the stark poverty of many Americans in the land of "prosperity" in Ballad of Hollis Brown and women's liberation (not even sure that term was around then) in The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll. Fortunately, the title track (undoubtably the best thing here) is optimistic, even though still bitter.

Yet this is Bob Dylan. Protest songs were what he was about, especially in the early 1960s. The record is still a brilliant piece of work. Like all of his early folk releases, we mainly hear Dylan's whispery voice accompanied only by an acoustic guitar with the occasional harmonica, and lyrically he was still a genius. The record can be just a bit hard to stomach in places. The people and places felt real, and he said what needed to be said. It just can be darn depressing - even more than 50 years later.


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