Friday, May 2, 2008

Number 4 The Times They Are A-Changin'

Number 4 The Times They Are A-Changin'
Artist: Bob Dylan
Released: Feb. 10th 1964

Track Listing

The Times They Are A-Changin'
Hollis Brown
With God On Our Side
One Too Many Mornings
North Country Blues
Only a Pawn In Their Game
Boots of Spanish Leather
When The Ship Comes In
The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll
Restless Farewell

Oh, ev'ry thought that's strung a knot in my mind,I might go insane if it couldn't be sprung.But it's not to stand naked under unknowin' eyes,It's for myself and my friends my stories are sung.

At the time of this write up this album has been on the shelves for over 43 years. An incalculable career has followed for Bob Dylan since then. It is hard to put in to context the scope of his influence. Before his twenty third birthday with just his third release he separated himself from the rest with an album of such social magnitude that it literally DID change the world. The Times They Are A-Changin' is a fierce piece of American history and for my taste is the best representation of the power of one person with a guitar and a song.

While The Times certainly has political overtones it reaches out to much further horizons. While the tunes themselves are often simple in their format, folk based rhythms and high end harmonica solos, they are but a framework for a gathering of ten lyrical masterpieces. The sound seemed, like Bob Dylan, much older than it actually was. From the opening anthemic Times to the closing Restless Farewell the story of those times are told. Told with depth, sincerity, a grander sense of foreboding, a warning shot. I can't imagine a more intimidating album for anyone with the courage to sit down with an instrument to try and write a song.

In the excellent documentary No Direction Home there are a number of people who were in one way or the other associated with Bob Dylan at the time and to a person they are all at a loss to explain where songs of that magnitude came from (this included the song writer himself). Joan Baez in particular reflected this feeling. Romantically linked with Bob Dylan her reason as to her attraction even in a relationship that didn't work seemed to go like this..
"Well you know….ummm…I mean he wrote With God On Our Side, Only A Pawn In Their Game, The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll."

The explanation was good enough for me.

What elevates this work past Another Side and Freewheelin', albums from that same period, is the consistency. Every song is epic, there are no breathers, one song builds on the other until the end a listener is only left to think, "What the fuck just happened." The aftermath of this record effected America in much the same way. In the big scheme of things my personal feelings about music and this list don't seem that important except for this particular work. This album is important musically, politically, socially, and historically. The Times stands alongside great historical American writings like The Federalist Papers and Martin Luther King's I Have A Dream Speech. Forty plus years and it still leaves us shaking our heads………………………….

"Oh, but you who philosophize disgrace and criticize all fears, Bury the rag deep in your face. For now's the time for your tears."

Not even twenty-three years old. Hard to imagine.

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