“John Wesley Harding” by Bob Dylan - album review

features in: Album Chart of 1967Album Chart of the Decade: 1960s

TJR says

As terrific as it is, the come-down LP from the preceding epics had an air of inevitability about it. 12 tunes recorded in 12 hours (3 sessions) with sparse arrangements, a subdued Bob and a lyrical turn towards religion. What’s going on? After recovering from the worst of the results of his motorcycle accident in the summer of ’66, Dylan went to work on “John Wesley Harding” in the fall of 1967, some 18 months since the completion of “Blonde on Blonde”. The artist used the crash to escape from the public eye. He noted: “I had been in a motorcycle accident and I’d been hurt, but I recovered. Truth was that I wanted to get out of the rat race.” For this one, it was back to Nashville again, under the production watch of Bob Johnston for the third album in a row. Apart from Pete Drake’s steel guitar parts on “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” and “Down Along the Cove”, the rhythm section of drummer Kenneth A. Buttrey and bassist Charlie McCoy was the only support for Dylan, who handled all harmonica, guitar, piano, and vocal parts. “I didn’t intentionally come out with some kind of mellow sound”, Dylan said in 1971… “I would have liked … more steel guitar, more piano, more music… I didn’t sit down and plan that sound.” It’s said that this is the record which opened the floodgates for Country Rock. Which, let’s face it, is not the most exciting thing that could’ve happened in music’s timeline. Still, there was much to enjoy – the pensive ballad “I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine” comes across as a contemporary cousin of Lead Belly’s brand of spiritual Folk. The lyrics convey a deeply felt sense of guilt, as well as a vision of faith, righteousness, fear and betrayal. It’s heavy stuff. “The Ballad Of Frankie Lee And Judas Priest” is laced with Dylan’s amazing drawl, and he finds a right bit of irresistible form – 5 and a half minutes of demi-talk-rock without a chorus in sight. It’s a story with a moral message: “Well, the moral of the story, the moral of this song, is simply that one should never be, where ones does not belong. So when you see your neighbor carrying something, help him with his load, and don’t go mistaking Paradise, for that home across the road”. Simplistic brilliance. Elsewhere, the nagging refrain hooks well on “Drifter’s Escape”, the story of an outsider who’s oppressed by society, but not defeated – in a court-appearance, lightning strikes the court and he escapes. “John Wesley Harding” is a brilliant LP, yes, but, to analogise with the themes herein, he’s down from the clouds of the gods and back in amongst the mortals…

The Jukebox Rebel

A1 [02:58] 7.0.png Bob Dylan - John Wesley Harding (Robert Zimmerman) Folk Rock / Americana
A2 [02:49] 7.5.png Bob Dylan - As I Went Out One Morning (Robert Zimmerman) Folk Rock / Americana
A3 [03:53] 8.0.png Bob Dylan - I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine (Robert Zimmerman) Folk Rock / Americana
A4 [02:31] 7.7.png Bob Dylan - All Along The Watchtower (Robert Zimmerman) Folk Rock / Americana
A5 [05:35] 10.0.png Bob Dylan - The Ballad Of Frankie Lee And Judas Priest (Robert Zimmerman) Folk Rock / Americana
A6 [02:52] 8.2.png Bob Dylan - Drifter’s Escape (Robert Zimmerman) Folk Rock / Americana
B1 [03:16] 6.0.png Bob Dylan - Dear Landlord (Robert Zimmerman) Folk Rock / Americana
B2 [03:19] 7.6.png Bob Dylan - I Am A Lonesome Hobo (Robert Zimmerman) Folk Rock / Americana
B3 [04:12] 7.4.png Bob Dylan - I Pity The Poor Immigrant (Robert Zimmerman) Folk Rock / Americana
B4 [02:02] 6.8.png Bob Dylan - The Wicked Messenger (Robert Zimmerman) Folk Rock / Americana
B5 [02:23] 5.8.png Bob Dylan - Down Along The Cove (Robert Zimmerman) Blues Rock / Soul Rock
B6 [02:34] 8.0.png Bob Dylan - I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight (Robert Zimmerman) Country

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