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John Wesley Harding
Genres: Country, Folk, Pop, Rock, Classic Rock
Bob Dylan's remarkable first album after his debilitating 1966 motorcycle accident isn't as urgent as the ambitious folk and rock songs he wrote earlier in the decade. Even considering the rocking "All Along the Watchtower... more »
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Bob Dylan's remarkable first album after his debilitating 1966 motorcycle accident isn't as urgent as the ambitious folk and rock songs he wrote earlier in the decade. Even considering the rocking "All Along the Watchtower" (covered famously by Jimi Hendrix), the album's overall feeling is soft and laid-back, all gently strummed guitars, perfectly timed harmonicas, and some of Dylan's best pure singing to date. The 1968 release sounds as if the songwriter and his three sidemen set up a few tape recorders in a bedroom and began playing as soon as they woke up in the morning. They open with the title track (a folk fable), move into the piano-driven "Dear Landlord," and close with the sweet love song "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight." --Steve Knopper
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Member CD Reviews
Barbara S. (gonepie) from TARRYTOWN, NY
Reviewed on 11/30/2008...
One of Bob's truly underrated gems. A must in every collection.
Dylan Comes Back Quietly
Thomas Magnum | NJ, USA | 10/05/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"After Bob Dylan had a severe motorcycle accident in Woodstock, 1966, he spent almost two years recouperating. During that time only his first Greatest Hits album was released. When he did finally release an album of new material in late 1968, it moved away from the electrified sounds of Bringing It Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde On Blonde and returned to his quieter folk roots. On John Wesley Harding, there is no electric guitar, just Dylan's acoustic guitar and harmonica backed with bass, drums and piano. The accident probably made Dylan more reflective on life and death and those themes lyrically permeate this great work. Of course everyone is familiar with "All Along The Watchtower", but there are other songs that deserve high standing in the expansive Dylan catalog. "The Ballad Of Frankie Lee & Judas Priest" has a classic Dylan narrative with cryptic lyrics and is one of his best. "I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine" finds him in fine vocal form and "I Pity The Poor Immigrant", "I Am A Lonesome Hobo" & "Dear Landlord" has him again singing about the trouble and travails of the little man. There is a country music feel running through the album and it laid the groundwork for his next release, the full blown country album Nashville Skyline."
A Simple Album
porkspam | San Diego | 10/30/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"JWH's draw is its simplicity: just three or four guys playing simple instruments simply while Dylan sings simple, powerful, moral tunes evoking Old Testament judgment and irony. Released in 1968 it was thought by some to be a response to the technological one-upmanship of the endless tape-loops of the just-then released Beatles' Sergeant Pepper and the Stones' Satanic Majesty's Request. In truth, Dylan's 1966 near-death experience - which resulted in an almost two-year absence from the recording scene - seems to have caused Bob to "bring it all back home" to both his rural and Jewish roots. (The evidence of Dylan's slowdown first appear in his [and the Band's] 1975 release, The Basement Tapes, which was actually recorded immediately after the motorcycle accident, bootlegged for years, and then released by Columbia.) The result of Dylan's introspection is stark background music with Dylan's voice leading the way through stories with lessons such as "The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest's'" "If you see your neighbor carrying something, help him with his load/and don't go mistaking Paradise for that home across the road." While the album is not more or less concerned with morality than any othe Dylan work, it is profund in its concern for personal repentance; there is a noticeable absence of Dylan's "You got a lot of nerve" finger-pointing. Indeed, "The Drifter's Escape" is a warning to the self-righteousness of a narrow society, a reminder that personal repentance does not include Puritanical purges of own's neighbor's conscience. JWH, while musically simple, does not suffer the way Springsteen's Nebraska does from its spare arrangements. Unfortunately, Springsteen's successful imitation of the dusty monotony of life on the plains does not make for interesting music; JWH, on the other hand, is a great piece of work because simplicity is inherently valuable while boring is, well, boring. Evocative of the Biblical books of Ecclesiastes and Proverbs, JWH is one of rock's great works, a moral retreat set to music, something to make one close the Wall Street Journal and consider the lilies of the field, the mate and children of one's heart and home."