John Wesley Harding

Bob Dylan

Columbia, 1967

REVIEW BY: Curtis Jones


In the same psychedelic year that produced the “Summer of Love,” the Beatles’ Sgt Pepper and Hendrix’s Are You Experienced?, Bob Dylan wandered off in the other direction with John Wesley Harding. After three albums with an electric rock band, Dylan made another shift in his career, moving back towards acoustic music and dropping his trademark nasal vocal for a more baritone croon. This shift also marks Dylan’s first album in his “country” period, including moving the recording sessions to Nashville.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Dylan has long been known for a poetic lyricism capable of weaving storytelling and humor together in often enigmatic ways.  On Harding, Dylan’s storytelling capacity is at its height for this point in his career, and makes this album one of the most interesting of his 1960s output.  Nearly every song is a story about an individual - John Wesley Harding, Tom Paine, a damsel, St. Augustine, the drifter, Judas Priest, Frankie Lee, etc. – and many, as some reviewers have pointed out, hold some sort of biblical or otherwise religious reference. Because of this, the album holds together extremely well, with one poetic story flowing gently into the next.

While the album comes off well as a package deal, with the exception of the “All Along The Watchtower” it does not contain any songs that truly stick. Instead, the power of the story and the simple melodies are what make the entire album enjoyable listening, even if some of the tunes are forgetful.

With John Wesley Harding, Dylan was entering an odd stage of his career. He had suffered a motorcycle accident after Blonde On Blonde, which seemed to have changed his thinking somewhat, and he was also tired of being perceived as this incredible poet of the world peace and harmony movement. He was evolving personally and as an artist, and the next few albums would see him leaving the “Times Are A Changin” Dylan behind.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


Geez, were you on a deadline? You mention one song title.
Well, I do mention a slew of Dylan's characters from the songs.

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