Thursday, October 23, 2008

Album Of The Day #93: JOHN WESLEY HARDING - Bob Dylan

Title: John Wesley Harding
Artist: Bob Dylan
Label: Columbia
Released: 1967
Songs: John Wesley Harding/As I Went Out One Morning/I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine/All Along The Watchtower/The Ballad Of Frankie Lee And Judas Priest/Drifter’s Escape/Dear Landlord/I Am The Lonesome Hobo/I Pity The Poor Immigrant/The Wicked Messenger/Down Along The Cove/I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight
Written by: Bob Dylan
Produced by: Bob Johnston
Thoughts: I have such a hard time believing that this album came out in 1967. It’s like Dylan realized that the best way to make an impact was to blaze you own trail, rather than follow the new psychedelic, push-the-envelope idea that had quickly gone from revolutionary to standard in months.
The music housed within the sleeve is quite intriguing and has that feeling of the surrealistic lyrics of Blonde On Blonde mixed with the pedestrian melodies of Nashville Skyline. Thus, it is easy to call John Wesley Harding a true transition album, especially since he would not return to a basic rock format until 1974.
Writing these songs was probably an easy task for Dylan, since most just take the title and snowball from there. Only the overlong “The Ballad Of Frankie Lee And Judas Priest” fails to mention its’ title in the lyrics. My favorite track is “The Wicked Messenger”, which has this interesting chord progression and one of Dylan’s dirtiest vocals that perfectly fit this story. “All Along The Watchtower” is really cool and Dylan’s original version allows you to hear and appreciate the lyrics. I also like the duo of love songs that end the album. “Down Along The Cove” and “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” are both the only love songs on the album and create this idea of ending an album with a quiet, unassuming love song. (He used this technique again on Infidels, and, to a lesser extent on Nashville Skyline, but that whole album is a set of love songs, anyway.) Not only are the tracks perfectly coupled, but both feature Pete Drake’s awesome steel guitar playing.
The rest of the songs don’t quite accomplish anything separately, considering that if you deconstructed many of them, you would realize that they share some of the same melodies. Together, though, the songs come together for an exquisite and quite pleasing LP.
(On a side note, a live version of “Down Along The Cove” from one of his recent tours was released on the “Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I’ll Go Mine) – Mark Ronson Re – Version” CD single. It’s a pretty cool version that shows how Dylan can adjust a song to fit his vocal and twist a song into something that it was never intended to be.)

I did Nashville Skyline, Self Portrait and New Morning already, so the next album of the day will have me skipping all the way to Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid.

No comments: