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This album continues the jaw-dropping brilliance of "Freewheelin'," but be warned - it is a much tougher listening experience. It is pretty much downbeat and serious all the way through, earnest to the extreme, and it's really no surprise that immediately after recording this album Dylan chose to record the much lighter (but equally as good) "Another Side..."
Saying that, this album is stuffed to the core with quality songwriting and performances, but perhaps the one downside to it - in my opinion - is that it can be a bit of a downer to listen to. As such, it's never quite had a place in my heart the same way that "Freewheelin" or especially "Another Side" has. But that may be only personal opinion, because there's no doubting the quality, as such that it's literally impossible to pick out highlights - every song is, literally, a highlight. But there is no light relief. Even "Boots of Spanish Leather," a simply gorgeous love-struck song, is pretty heavy going - probably only "When the Ship Comes In" is the only light moment, and when you're saying that about a song which is (taking it literally) about the end of the world, that tells you something. That's not to say the album isn't enjoyable - it is - but simply that it may not be to everyone's tastes. While it's an album I would rank as one of the best ever made, it's not one that I feel inclined to play regularly.
Dylan's first collection of originals, and while not a huge step forward from it's predecessor 'Freewheelin', it is nonetheless a magnificent collection in it's own right. A darker collection than what had gone before, with tracks as melancholy as 'Only a Pawn in Their Game' & 'With God On Our Side', it shows another side of Dylan.
The title track included, this is probably the closest thing to a protest album Dylan ever recorded, & if 'The Times They Are A-Changin' almost equalled 'Blowin' In The Wind' as an anthem for the ages, there are plenty of overlooked gems to be found beneath the surface here.
'When The Ship Comes In' features amongst my favourite Bob Dylan compositions, given a restless delivery here, it soars over you & demands repeat listens. 'One Too Many Mornings' & 'Boots of Spanish Leather' would be the standout tracks on any other artist's album, but with Dylan, they're case aside as mere album tracks, there to be discovered by the more discerning listener.
Digs a little deeper than 'Freewheelin', covering new & different ground.
I am not entriely sure why i am bothering to write this review after the first review of this album, as i would call it one of the best reviews of anything that i have ever read, and at over 2000 reads, i am not even contemplating trumping such an achievemnet, although i do notice that she ahs unfortunately been absent for about a year. The historical side and prominence of this album has been dealt with in great depth in the other review (at the time of writing) and as such, i shall briefly cover this. The album was brought out in 1963 following what was seen as Bob Dylan's true debut in the form of The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, and was hailed as a masterpiece. And as scuh, The Times They Are A'-Changin' had a hard act to follow with the weight of expectation hanging over it. And as such it is often seen as a the Freewheelin's' weaker cousin, and as such, this view could easily be taken, as Dylan looks more to the political to gain inspirtation for his songwriting and it becomes possibly too over political for its own good. But then this was the sixties and the drive for change was in the air and Dylan was being forced to the frontline, and he believed that he had to deliver. For this reason, i see the next album Another Side as the album where he begins to gain control of his own destiny and stops looking to the obvious political message and the follow-up i believe trumps this due to the nature of the writing and the poignancy in which it was done when the event didn't control the lyric. But regardless of all this, it is a good album and considering the album as a whole, it does contain quite a few gems and definetly worth checking out after listening to The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan.
1. The Times They Are A'-Changin' - The title track opens the album with a great strumming guitar that sets up the vocals and lyrics that describe the tide of change that was more than due in a torn America. The future of the country lay in the civil rights movement and an air of change was coming about, as folk icons like Dylan and Joan Baez were hailed as the leaders of this youth regime. This song is almost a call to arms to rise up against the tide of formality and looks to relieve the country of its passivity and desire to just sit back and watch the world slowly turn to dust.
2. Ballad Of Hollis Brown - I see this as one of the tracks that puts me off hailing this as some of his best work, as it is too dire and sought on the political. The song itself focuses on Hollis Brown, a poor man that appears to be going insane with his very existence, trapped in a rut with children that he has no desire to help, and as the song so abruptly puts, "There's seven people dead on a south dakota farm, someone in the distance there's seven new people born". This is a song taht looks to change the south and bring it more in line with the views and movements of the north.
3. God On Our Side - This is surely one of the biggest highlights of the album, a seven minute epic that describes the country's connection to god and hhis seeming desire for the country to progress and prosper. Despite the religious overtones, this is more of a song to trump the progression of the country, although i can't help feeling that there is an air of sarcasm in the lyrics with its almost musing quality when talking about wars of the past that make up rhe bulk of this song. For another look at this track, check out some of the live versions with Joan Baez from live sets, as the two differing vocal styles help to heighten the strength of this track.
4. One Too Many Mornings - The song that was a frequent highlight of Dylan's live set in 1966 is presented here in its original acoustic form, which is just as good and in some ways shows the strength of the lyrics and its ambling style as it slowing glides across the landscape of Dylan's soft vocals.
5. North Country Blues - A song that takes heavily from some Woodie Guthrie style pieces, looking at the trouble the miners in America were having with work and money, with communiity slowing fading away and separating. This is a very touching song, but again i feel that is not the strongest piece in his work and in some respects i feel that it is held back by its persistence in sticking to the political situation and not making it more genral.
6. Only A Pawn In The Game - Even though this is very specific, i like this song, as it does more for the words and looks to put the situation into a wider frame of reference and seems less condemning than some of the other tracks. This looks at the murder of Medgar Evers, a black civil rights activist, who was seen almost as an emblem for the movement to prove the cruelty and animosity of the 'other side'.
7. Boots Of Spanish Leather - A love song that splits the more political pieces and in doing so acts as agreat song, describing the dialogue between two lovers who become separated by the distances between them and eventually move on. It is one of Dylan's saddest tunes with vocals that make it so much more. It is likely a depiction of what Dylan was feeling with his separation from his long time girlfriend of the time, Suze Rotolo, as she had left to explore some of the art in Europe, and this perhaps explores Dylan's fears for the relationship.
8. When The Ship Comes In - This is a different song again and looks at political ideas in a more abstract style, with a nice openign line in a concert saying that this song was about the Goliaths that inhabit the world of the sixties, namely the large multinational companies that perhaps Dylan felt were going towards losing some of the local stores and merchants of today. But despite this, the song was apparently written following an incident in which Dylan was refused a room at a hotel when Baez was provided with one, as Dylan was still relatively small in comparison to Baez. He wrote this in one night in reaction to this reposte.
9. The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carol - This song has been given some media coverage of late, as the villian of the song, Williams Zantzinger recenltly died. This song describes the way in which the law appeared to be on the side of the rich when a woman had been killed. And although the woman is never described as being black, this is implied in the song and continues the civil rights movement style of songs. The song does exaggerate song of the detail of the case, but perhaps this is a degree of artistic license, which produces a very poignant song.
10. Restless Farewell - I have always felt that this is another big highlight of the album, but doesn't really continue in the same fashion as some of the other songs, as this is seen as Dylan's farewell to the civil rights movement, even though the rest of the album is filled with material that seems to wholly support it. Bu despite this, this track is on eof Dylan's best lyrically and provides a great farewell to anything that you could name.
Overall, this is a very politically orientated album and does build on some of the themes shown in Freewheelin', but in a way, the focus on the political makes this a worse album, as some of the humour that was prominent in the previous work is lost. But then this seems to be a more mature Dylan, which is shown in some of the longer more lyrically demanding pieces, which slowly wind their way through the music and create a rather startling piece of work.
Born into the world as Robert Allen Zimmerman on the 24th day of May 1941, to his parents, the world could not have been a lesser welcoming place. Their new son, despite the World War situation he started his life in, became the most influential songwriter of his generation and beyond. He has produced the most originally political anthems studying the thoughts and social issues predominately throughout the sixties. Embarking on a mission, he became a voice in the mist of social change.
Using folk and country genres of music. He adapted this style and used it as the fundamental basis of his astute and unique lyrics. Sturdy, yet sometimes challenged by his contempories, he a remained steadfast in his beliefs and has maintained his ability to surprise and shock his audience from the flower movement to politicians and heads of state, not just in America but around the world.
Legally changing his name in tribute to the obscure writer, Dylan Thomas in 1962, he created his persona in first, the small clubs, folk gatherings and coffee houses downtown. He released a single in March 1962, Mixed Up Confusion, and an album quickly followed in June the same year. Both failed to enter either chart on any score. Not enough for the young artist who continued to work towards the next accomplishment.
With the release of the cult, free thinking, full spirited Freewheelin in 1963, he made his mark instantly and by the following year, he had become the firm Bohemian voice then playing over two hundred concerts in his first year. Forever in demand, his followers adopted not just a belief in his lyrics but was touched by his plain, simple and unaffected way of life. Armed with just a guitar and a harmonica, he was a unique picture of everything free and peaceful.
The Times They Are A Changin was a mixed album of both personal and political speaking out, and set the pace off for a generation to question political strategies and their future. Dylan had ignited a flame that burnt heavily within the minds of the American youth. Within this album, he found his first U,K single in the release in March 1965 of the title track. Reaching number 9. A fairly reputable position for a singer treading new ground. It was a mark of personal history, a couple of years before the hippie movement and the infamous Summer Of Love, he was primarily ahead of his time. With his tuneful ear to the ground, he had connected immediately with the new born feeling of a soon to be changing world. With his finger on the pulse of the youngsters of that time. He had stepped up on a social platform, a position that was never challenged and always respected., no matter how much of a protest singer he was temporarily labelled.
Engaging in his career of anti establishment values, he was never to be a singles artist. Finding a flowing, creative voice through albums rather than 45s, he gathered the more serious and intelligent listener around him. With the release of this album in July 1964,he was not at all in a rush produce a single from it. The album has to be listened to as a whole product. Dylans mind, the restless public speaker.
Although not reached the chart topping standards as Freewheelin, the previous year, it still comfortably sat at number 4. In the 2005 edition of The Times They Are A Changin, it is complete with the original recordings of the 1964 album. Thankfully, there are no signs of tampering here. No extended remixes or bonus tracks (actually should be bogus tracks..). Dylan, isnt someone who can be brought into the twenty first century with a few funky beats and a kettle whistling in the background. It just couldnt be done, so gladly, what we hear is what was already there, and nothing else
The inside sleeve denotes the 11 Outlined Epitaphs By Bob Dylan. Dont be fooled into thinking that these are the controversial lyrics. What they appear to be, is an elongated prose of Dylans life. His thoughts on the world around him including conversations in passing that have stuck in his mind and influenced him. They are, I suppose, wishes, hopes and dreams of a man whose fears have haunted his mind. What we read here is the world viewed through eyes opened where other eyes have been blinkered.
Gather around people, where ever you roam opens this album in a rolling folk piece accompanied by a harmonica. A short piece in running length, it drifts and allows his voice to roam free over the flowing lyrics. A timeless piece very much a part of the world we live in today as much as it was a track picturing the times of then. Musically he knew how to adapt his untrained voice to his style and left his unique song writing abilities and wonderful collaboration of notes to others who had the vocal range to compliment it. A song that casts the mind back to a time of uncertainty and illusion. The world was seen as a different place and the bomb still a sobering thought. Idealism wasnt an issue. What Dylan speaks of is a cold reality, not perhaps bringing hope but presenting war as a tool to fix matters, speech limited and minds closeted. 1984, depicted the way in which George Orwell saw the future of mankind. In this album, we look at the way in which Dylan saw the world through his music.
The Ballad Of Hollis Brown, puts in mind a scene of a road rolling wagon train crossing the wide open baron south of the deep American country. A backdrop of southern life in the sixties. One can feel the heat of the burning sun pounding down hard on the lifeless country. The hard life, dirty and bleak is enhanced through his throw away voice; cold and defined, this track fills our ears with no emotion. His words denote a life with a shot gun in one hand and a single life or death thought in the mind. The flitting of his hand dropping to a low note and the quickly up again across the strings gives the song a flippancy about it, like this life he talks of, holds no importance. It fades with the same speed as a tossed apple core out of a moving car. No thought from its disillusioned theme.
The religious context of With God On Our Side, is a tribute to the history of American civilisation. Musically, it is a track that slows at points and picks up in moments like a freewheeling bicycle up and down a hilly path. He tells of the native American people and how they had been treated. An ironic track lyrically, it speaks of civil war and the people treading the new land with a gun and God on their side. It makes a mockery of this American history by saying, well, we did round up the Indians like cattle and we did take away their land and we have started wars with other races and other countries and we do kill each other, but its okay as because God says it is A statement like this, made by a folk singer, was an incredibly bold one and such freedom of speech would have led to all sorts of trouble if matched today. Dylan seemed to capture a certain power to sing such lyrics about his own country. I would suspect that, the Americans perhaps didnt actually get the full meaning of this track when it was first heard. I do believe that they had seen this song, initially as a defiant anthem to the greatness of the USA, but a tale of American fighting history, he picks out the poor and the meaningless political reasons behind it. A widely critical and controversial piece, it sparked the analysis of Dylans work from then and the rest of his life. Slowing graciously to a defiant end, it is solemn like a prayer. He adds a hint of disgust to his voice and by this, he is painting a picture of his dislike of the human race. In this piece, it could be easily said that it was this song that marked the beginning of the rebellion of the youth culture. Perhaps the generation of the peace movement would not have happened if it wasnt for Dylan?
The personal account of an over worked mind fills the theme of One Too Many Mornings. Perhaps a reflective and sobering thoughts of a man increasingly questioning himself as a person as opposed to his references to the American government that appears to be the anthem of most of his songs around that time. Perhaps many of us can retrospectively find a kin to the lyrics of this soft, mellowing track (another song on the same theme that springs to mind is the very well titled, Mellow, By Elton John from his 1972 album, Honky Tonk Chateaux.) There has been many a time for many people whove experienced too many mornings! Musically, a peaceful song to calm any hangover.
North Country Blues, reflects the same musical mood as Ballad Of Hollis Brown. One can start to imagine one man on a swamping stage with a single spot light and a silent crowd. With a guitar strap around his neck and a harmonica to his lip, his acoustic complement seems quite incidental as Dylan would have had just the same impact if he had stood and recited his lyrics in a normal voice. It has to be said that Dylan, single handedly and profoundly changed the world with his powerful and poignant songs. It appears that the voice of Dylan, (if you didnt see him as the very young man that he was,) the listener would think that this was a voice of an old, wise and well travelled man. He held an incredibly old head on his shoulders. Not just his voice; gravely and droning as it was, his wise, observant words were strangely unreal from such a tender aged young man.
Only The Pawn In Their Game. reminds the listener of a Don MacLean track lyrically. It tells an abstract story of Alice In Wonderland themes. He seems obsessed with rhyming a word several times or at least, as many times as he can. Anything rhyming with the word; game, name, same etc.. Dylan, here, feels a drive to explain to the world what it feels like to be caught between a decision of life and death. Cold lyrics are spat out like a bad taste. Dylans music was rather dull in sound, but it was lyrics alone that carried his finest work to millions of attentive ears.
Boots Of Spanish Leather, is a wonderful play on words title that pleases the listener. His rolling guitar looping the same handful for notes, reminds the listener of a Simon and Garfunkel track, years before Simon and Garfunkel came to the fore. With Dylans vocals cascading in and around and back to complete a full circle with each note, his words are fundamentally depressing and probably not an album to listen to when the listener is sorrowful. Although this is an album that presents the early, more widely known work of Dylan as a non conventional political songwriter, it is still categorised as folk. For those who cant stand folk music, then I would suggest that Dylans later work when electrical influences took hold and his sound became blues based. His lyrics, in the latter, where not so engaging or shocking. With this in mind, folk music had been the perfect genre for Dylan to speak and be heard clearly. Such lyrics can be found in this song, ..take heed of the western wind and its with these in our ears, that the longing forces us to pack the bags and travel and be free (well, some of us anyway ). To clear the head of all material woes and angst. This album will cleanse the soul and if it doesnt, it will leave you feeling more depressed than ever.
Moving on, we are delighted to hear an optimistic and future thinking song with its welcomed up tempo feel. We are entering the track titled, When The Ship Comes In. (sounds hopeful) The hand flickers fast across the strings and the re introduction of the piercing harmonica is heard (we hadnt missed it). This track is welcomed relief to this simple, but sometimes morbid folk album. This track will please the ears.
The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll, probably wont fill you with much happiness from the sound of the title. Fortunately it is written on a higher octave and requires Dylan to attempt to sing. Not a successful feat, but at this point in the album, we are now engrossed so much in the lyrics, we actually dont care any more about his untrained voice.
Restless Farewell, is the final track of an album that will leave you either wanting to don a caftan and opened toed sandals or shelving it for good to collect dust. Perhaps an album for the camp fire (no, not the bonfire) and appreciated by Scouts but a starry sky and the Australian outback are a necessity for the listener. It would certainly have more impact in such an atmospheric setting rather than perched over the coffee table with the six oclock news on mute. The powerfulness of this album will take you back to a time of home made banners on nuclear war and protest marches with fellow students. This last track is a closing note to this collection of songs. A slow farewell, by the singer, almost reflecting on his own life in his dying moments. A solemn presence in the album as it draws the curtain on a remarkable piece of political and social history as seen through the eyes of a great songwriter.
Bob Dylan. Famously enigmatic, his career faltered during the seventies when after the controversial Vietnam War, there seemed little left for Dylan to say. He returned to studio work after failing to have the major impact of his earlier recordings. Dated and mildly middle of the road, it appeared that Dylan had lost his touch. From once being a powerful presence when rowdy audiences suddenly listened intently as soon as he walked on stage, his voice became weak and unmentionable than in his thought provoking songs.
Indulging in a career of writing for other admired artists, he guested on other peoples albums, almost reluctantly wanting to record his own (he did still continue to release throughout the seventies) Perhaps it could be said that this had been a wise career move. Residing to a back seat place in the ever changing music industry, he still remained on sleeve notes and credits on a great number of inspiring albums. His influence still felt through a whole range of other music genres other than his own. Over all, Dylan has continued to work tireless from decade to decade, refusing to retire and rest on his laurels, he still grows from acclaim to acclaim.
So what was the concept of this album? Was it a ordinary folk album? A moment in political history? Or the ramblings of a outspoken young man?
However you see this album from beginning to end, it will still strike a chord in your mind and set off a train of thought. Either way, it is just as prominent today as it was then
Bought music zone 2006, nine pounds bobdylan.com
Disc #1 Tracklisting
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