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75 of 78 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars All Across The Telegraph
Of all Bob Dylan albums, "John Wesley Harding" was the most eagerly awaited. It was his first record put out following his enforced temporary retirement brought about by the motorcycle accident which had occurred in July 1966 and it`s story is fascinating. His previous album, the historic double, "Blonde On Blonde" was a highly produced collection on which he was...
Published on 12 Feb 2007 by KMorris

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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars John Westley Harding Bob Dylan
What can you say you are a Dylan fan or you're not just updating got this on vynal many years ago good album that's why I got it again
Published 9 months ago by Kevin Southam


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75 of 78 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars All Across The Telegraph, 12 Feb 2007
By 
KMorris (Nottingham, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: John Wesley Harding (Audio CD)
Of all Bob Dylan albums, "John Wesley Harding" was the most eagerly awaited. It was his first record put out following his enforced temporary retirement brought about by the motorcycle accident which had occurred in July 1966 and it`s story is fascinating. His previous album, the historic double, "Blonde On Blonde" was a highly produced collection on which he was accompanied by a large electric ensemble of mostly top Nashville studio musicians perfecting what Dylan himself had dubbed his `wild mercury sound'. The songs were lyrically intricate affairs, often lengthy performances (five, seven minutes ; "Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands" clocking in at just under eleven!). The question was : what would his new work sound like ? The answer was, nothing like "Blonde On Blonde".

Just prior to his accident, Dylan had completed a physically and mentally exhausting world tour which had been full of controversy (acoustic versus electric battle, the infamous "Judas!" cry). He was at a peak of commercial and creative success, but his personal state is well-documented to have been less than perfect. "John Wesley Harding" turned out to be the sound of a man who had seemed to have saved himself from the brink of some kind of oblivion. A man who had regained some degree of control.

Dylan had not actually been inactive during the hiatus. Much `home' recording had been done with the musicians who would become The Band, and this work, the legendary "Basement Tapes" can now been seen as the obvious link between "Blonde On Blonde" and this new album. "The Basement Tapes" would not however be officially released until 1975. "John Wesley Harding" was the result of three studio sessions in Nashville with regular producer Bob Johnston and engineer Charlie Bragg. Along with Dylan (vocals, acoustic guitar, harmonica and piano) were two musicians from the "Blonde On Blonde" band : multi-instrumentalist Charles McCoy on electric bass and Kenny Buttrey on drums. They were joined on the last date by Pete Drake on pedal steel guitar, giving a distinctly country feel to the blues "Down Along The Cove" and, especially, the final track "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight".

This was very much an `album', rather than a collection of songs like "The Basement Tapes" or even a great record like "Bringing It All Back Home" was. The songs here seem to have common threads and feelings running through them. Not to be uncomplimentary, or to devalue the songs in anyway (some are amongst his finest) but they seem interconnected so that, in simple terms, it's tempting (although perhaps too facile) to think a writing genius such as Dylan could have produced them all in a mad concentration of creativity over a couple of days or so. "The Basement Tapes" songs, however could well have been written over a period of around one hundred years ! (and that is also meant as a complement!)

All this may be supposition. What we do know from Dylan himself is that he did something here he says he had never done before or since. The words for the majority of them were written first and kept until he `could find melodies for them'. Indeed, several have a strong traditional sounding tunes and one is certainly `borrowed' ("I Dreamed I Saw St Augustine"). None of this detracts from the fine quality of the material on offer. Dylan's explanation of the mode of their creation and the fact that no other versions of these songs turn up during "The Basement Tapes" sessions add to the uniqueness and special wholeness of this album and make us think that the man himself had similar high regard for this particular body of work.

Much has been made of the religious content of the lyrics, and with the mention of `saints', `messengers' and `judgement' that is clear, and Bob's mother Betty Zimmerman has said that around this time her son started reading The Bible more at this time. There are some dark corners and falling shadows in some of the texts, but most of all the feeling is of joy. Here is a man who has found some degree of peace, some quiet answers to some of his questions and put to rest at least some of his demons.

The songs are mostly deceptively simple with repeating cycles of three or four chords (or less, "Drifter's Escape" and "The Wicked Messenger" each have only two each !) "All Along The Watchtower" and "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight" are the best known and an ongoing survey tells us that they both feature in the top ten of most covered Dylan songs, at number seven and nine respectively. ("Blowin' In The Wind" is still at the top, by a considerable margin.)

Dylan restricts his guitar playing to mainly relatively simple strumming throughout and his frequent use of the capo up to the fifth fret gives a high ringing sound. He is effectively supported by Buttrey's solid percussion, McCoy's melodic riffing and, on the last two tracks, by Drake's innovative (in rock) pedal steel. Bob has said in interview that rarely have his best performances been captured on record, but on "John Wesley Harding" his singing and harmonica playing are both excellent. There's control and strength. Pace and passion. A certain cool clear knowingness.

"John Wesley Harding" is a significant record. With it, Dylan returned to us and there was a refocusing of awareness on what may be called 'roots' music. Much of what became the New Country or Americana movement can trace itself back to this collection.

All Bob Dylan's albums are worthy of interest.

Most of them are very good.

Many are great.

This is one of the best.
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lets go on a Bear Mountain Picnic!, 24 July 2002
By 
Tim Purcell (Lancaster, Lancashire United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: John Wesley Harding (Audio CD)
Written in that mysterious period after the motorcycle accident, this album can be classed as Dylans last great masterpiece until 'Blood on the Tracks' almost 7 years later. The sound is of a Dylan far more at ease with himself after the choas and confusion of the 'Blonde on Blonde' period. The quality of the album is often overshadowed by 'All along the watchtower' which grew out of the album after the famous (and phenomenaly brilliant) Hendrix cover.
However songs like 'Dear Landlord', As i went out one Morning' and the brilliant 'Ballad of Frankie lee and Judas Priest' are fine examples as to why there is no rating system that can do justice to Dylan at his best.
How many stars? All the ones in the sky mate!
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bob's Quiet Biblical Influenced Classic, 4 Mar 2007
By 
Jervis - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: John Wesley Harding (Audio CD)
It has taken me a number of years to fully appreciate 'John Wesley Harding' but i've finally come to the conclusion it's arguably Bob's finest album.
The album does not seem particuarly revolutionary particuarly when compared with its more extravagant prececessors 'Bring It All Back Home', 'Highway 61 Revisited' and 'Blonde On Blonde' but it was nonetheless a very brave release. Bob decided to swim against the tide somewhat as it must be remembered its release coincided with the excesses of the psychedelic era with 'Sergeant Pepper' leading the way in 1967.
'John Wesley Harding's relatively 'quiet' release and its folk/country contents being rather modestly recorded with minimum instumentation and Bob's rather muted vocal delivery has managed to forever cast it in the shadows of Bob's more celebrated work. However, the album's strong biblical and moral references delivered in a series of parables has perhaps made 'John Wesley Harding' Bob's most mysterious and impenetrable work to date. Within these songs he raises a series of questions but delivers no firm answers - it's up to the listeners to draw their own conclusions.
The album's title refers to the outlaw John Wesley Hardin although the details within the song's lyrics are inaccurate.

All 'John Wesley Harding's songs sink in over time although patience is a virtue. The strength of the songs are the questions they raise and the ambiguity within the use of the language Bob chooses. This is the reason the album is one of Bob's most enduring.

The final couple of songs 'Down Along The Cove' and 'I'll Be Your Baby Tonight' are a little more simplistic in tone pointing the way to Bob's follow up 'Nashville Skyline'.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stripped down, acoustic ,quality., 12 April 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: John Wesley Harding (Audio CD)
His first album for nearly two years has Bob going back to basics with some sparse backing that suits the album well. His guitar playing is fantastic and the lyrics are some of his best. Stand out tracks include the classic "All along the watchtower," the title track and the superb, menacing "As I went out one morning,". Not to mention the pedal steel influenced love song "I'll be your baby tonight," which opened the gate for his next album- the monumental classic "Nashville Skyline," Also worth a mention is Charlie McCoy's superb bass playing. Overall, a hugely enjoyable album that's up there with his best.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars JWH invokes an age and atmosphere never seen again on record, 2 Oct 2007
This review is from: John Wesley Harding (Audio CD)
In the middle of the psychedelic revolution of 1967, Dylan released one of the most shocking albums of his career. Rather than pursuing the whole Summer of Love atmosphere, Dylan turns in a country-rock album that explores enigmatic characters and sounds like nothing before it or released after it. Listening to JWH sounds like listening to songs and stories from the 19th century. The music is simple, and Dylan displays and economy of lyrics, streamlining them for maximum effect. No longer long winding songs, the words Dylan writes for JWH are both simple, to go with the music, but have multiple layers reaching far beyond the simple nature of the music itself, creating a rather beautiful dichotomy between word and music. Like most Dylan albums, JWH requires numerous listens to fully appreciate the art and craft that went into this masterful album. The lyrics are wonderfully complex, invoking the age and spirit of the 19th century, yet still very concise and to the point.

Dylan once again proved no one could touch him in the 1960s. Dylan creates a masterpiece based in rural folklore and a stunning cast of characters who become ineligibly imprinted in your mind. This album is so far away from 1967 it seems unreal, and would prove to be quite a shock for listeners following Dylan's every move. The music has a country flavour, but make no mistake: this is not country music.

What this music is, I can't really say, as nothing has really even come close to it. JOHN WESLEY HARDING became an important album in the country rock revolution, and that is perhaps the best way to describe it. However, to only call it Country Rock would be a disservice to this spectacular album. NASHVILLE SKYLINE is straight country and no mistake. This, however, is Dylan taking the atmosphere of the 19th century and recasting it in musical form. On no other album has Dylan, or anyone that I know of, so successfully captured an entirely "otherness" atmosphere that roots itself in the past so successfully that you would actually think it is an artifact of that which its music is about. This album transports you back into the 19th century.

One of Dylan's most revealing albums, JOHN WESLEY HARDING, as most of Dylan's albums, are more fully appreciated when taken in context of the time period in which it was recorded and its relationship to Dylan's other LPs.

To give a brief history recap, psychedelic songs were the major movement going on at the time. Dylan himself had been covering some wild material on his electric trilogy, creating some of the most memorable excursions into surreal territory that rock has ever produced. Bob Dylan was leading everybody else into a bold new place artistically. Then something happened.

To put it accurately, a motorcycle accident happened.

And something else happened.

Dylan, who had such a prominent place in this movement, was suddenly gone. No one really knew what happened. Dylan holed himself up with The Band at Big Pink and began jamming daily, forging the now legendary Basement Tape sessions, of which the majority still remains unreleased. Yet officially no word came from the Dylan camp, save in the form of a very skimpy "Greatest Hits" collection.

Then, in 1966 and 1967, the musical world and culture of the youth became enveloped in what is now referred to post mortem and the "psychedelic" era. Heavily influenced by drugs and mind bending circumstances, most rock bands moved away from blues and folk and instead turned out wild, celebratory music not easy to classify, with trippy album covers. Most people were in all likelihood expecting a similar musical direction from Dylan, as his three previous albums were surrealistic masterpieces themselves.

Then, Dec 27, 1967, this album quietly went out into the stores. Following BLONDE ON BLONDE, this album blew most people out of the water. Not only did Dylan not issue a psychedelic album, he issued something that sounded almost like country. It was almost reactionary, given the musical milieu of the era. Even the evil Rolling Stones did psychedelic material in 1967, and The Beatles, with their epochal SGT. PEPPER release, became the spokespersons for that has been termed as the "Summer of Love," although personally I think that is people mythologising that era.

Dylan is too grounded in the American folk tradition to really pursue any other musical path that is not, at least in someway, informed or influenced or at least acknowledges that tradition. Dylan proved himself ahead of his time, yet again. While BOB and HIGHWAY could easily have been 1967 releases, Dylan beat everyone to the punch by a good year and a half to two years. Likewise, rather than pursuing the psychedelic scene (a train Dylan was never really on to begin with), he issued the first record of the newly blooming country rock revolution that would dominate the late 1960s.

While Dylan has always been known for his lyrics, based on his seven previous albums when this was released, especially the last three (BIABH, HW 61, BOB), here the lyrics are a vast departure from anything he had done before. The lyrics hearken us back, as listeners, to a time before rock music, capturing the faith and spirituality of the 19th century settlers and conmen who founded much of the Western Expansion. Lyrically it's even different from the contemporary Basement Tapes sessions, though the closest BT song to JWH would be "Sign on the Cross" from a lyrical standpoint.

As for the music in relation to the lyrics, this is arguably the single most successful marriage of Dylan's lyrics and Dylan's music on any album. The sheer density of the lyrics and the woefully understated music helps us get into the universe Dylan is spinning around us in ways that other music could not. The lyrics and the music play off one another in ways no other album I've heard has, let alone a Dylan album. Because of this successful merger, the atmosphere becomes in sync and everything clicks.

Another important feature of JWH is the sheer amount of Biblical references contained in the lyrics. Predating his conversion by more than a decade, this album clearly demonstrates Dylan was not only familiar with the Bible, but relied heavily upon it when crafting his art. Over the span of the 38 minute running time there are over sixty Biblical allusions, and a staggering 15 in "Ballad of Frankee Lee and Judas Priest" alone. The language and morality of the King James Bible heavily informs the album's moral center and outlook on life.

As a result, the sum becomes greater than its parts. Taken out of historical context, this album loses much of its import. If you approach it just as music, then this sounds like it should come from a long ago past. If you approach it without understanding Dylan's history or what was happening at the time, you lose much of the historical importance of this LP. Dylan's back to the basics in instruments predates both The Stones' and The Beatles' return to less psychedelic music. If you take it as just a collection of music, the atmosphere that Dylan cultivates on this record loses its steam and becomes just another album. But if you fully enter into it, you discover that this record has single-handedly created its own genre of which it is the only example (that I know of). You have to take this album as a complete musical piece.

Album for album, this could very well be Dylan's most perfectly conceived work. Everything sounds like it belongs here, and there is a lyrical unity that ties the songs together thematically that even his famed 1960s electric trilogy cannot boast. While I listen to his other albums more, without a doubt JWH is the most album-as-an-album-oriented of all his releases.

Bottom line: one of rock's most mysterious albums, taking you to an entire other era that no one in living memory can begin to describe. You'll never find another album like it, as I fear there's too much distance between us and that time and musically this culture is devolving instead of evolving.

Mike London

P. S. Taken alone, I think "Knockin' On Heaven's Door," and "All Along the Watchtower," two songs I always think of as companion texts, are covered better elsewhere. Even though Dylan penned it, Hendrix made "All Along the Watchtower" a Hendrix song. Dylan has performed this song the most in concert of all his songs (even more than Like a Rollin Stone), and ever since Hendrix released his version, Dylan has been playing the song using Hendrix's arrangement, rather than the arrangement found on JWH.

Taken side by side, I still prefer Hendrix's. Taken in the context of the album, however, "All Along the Watchtower," is just as important as the rest of this collection because it adds to that dark, ragged, rough-n-tumble atmosphere Dylan is creating.

P. P. S. My personal favorite is "The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest," which is the longest track here. Another fact to note is this album started a trend that bottomed out on NASHVILLE SKYLINE and would only be abandoned at BLOOD ON THE TRACKS. Dylan's LPs, previously running about 50 minutes, would scale back to 35 to 39 minutes and would even go down to 27 minutes with NASHVILLE. The one exception during this period is the notorious SELF-PORTRAIT, but Dylan has a reason for that.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lonesome hobos and poor immigrants, 18 Dec 2011
By 
GlynLuke (York UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: John Wesley Harding (Audio CD)
After Bob`s notorious motorcycle nightmare, the exact details of which are still somewhat murky, the chameleon of `folk` returned to the musical fold with one of the
strangest and strongest albums not only of his career but of anybody`s career. It doesn`t sound particularly strange or unusual, at least in hindsight, but it sure did then. It was a breath of fresh air too, with a set of songs so confidently composed and played that it seemed, then as now, one of the key albums of the past fifty years.
I believe the period of Dylan`s career between the classic early & mid-60s records and the shatteringly superlative masterpiece that was Blood On The Tracks has too often been underrated. Not only did we get this almost unclassifiable album, but also the flawed yet fascinating Self Portrait, the optimistic, downright sunny New Morning, and the perennially overlooked, stunningly good Planet Waves.
One or two previous reviewers have given excellent blow-by-blow accounts of JWH,
so I won`t repeat what you can read there, and happily direct you to their fine reviews. This is a personal response to this most personal of records.
From the moment I first heard Dylan, it wasn`t only the words - such words! - that gripped me, or even the music itself. What I loved then and love still is the textures he finds in his recordings. Another Side Of...sounds nothing like New Morning. Desire is texturally rich, as is the denser, darker Street-Legal (another massively undervalued album). As for the more recent `Indian Summer` releases such as Time Out Of Mind and Love & Theft, both wonderful, they sound completely different from each other. It`s not simply down to production, but texture too.
JWH is a pared down record - it sounds like a field recording, in fact - but it too has texture. This is no bland `production`, nor merely another set of songs, indifferently recorded. (Interesting that Dylan has said how unhappy he is with the way many of his early records were made, but then Lennon said similar things about The Beatles` music, and I don`t have to agree with him either.)
One can hear the wind blowing through these songs, the few instruments have a campfire feel, Bob`s warm harmonica adds its welcome grain, as do the less assured,
`country-ish` vocals from the man himself. (Let`s not forget he really had had an accident and had endured the anxiety of a neck-brace.) However, he sings every song with a tender, if mildly detached, presence. On I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine, surely one of his most enigmatic songs, he is singing quite beautifully. It`s as if he wants to get it just right! He does.
All Along The Watchtower is legendary. It must be one of the few songs - another is With A Little Help From My Friends - that was arguably bettered by a cover version, in this case the mighty Hendrix single, which took the song (to Dylan`s delight, I`m glad to say) and wrung the living daylights out of it, much as Joe Cocker did to the rather morose Ringo/Beatles number.
Dear Landlord was and is a favourite, with its unexpected chord change (this not being an album of many chord changes) and slow-drawled vocal.
I Pity The Poor Immigrant suffered an over-reverent cover by the typically earnest Joan Baez, who made it sound like the Sermon on the Mount, which it most certainly isn`t. It`s been covered quite often, which is odd for such a conundrum of a song.
The final song, I`ll Be Your Baby Tonight - again, much-covered, and a hard song to do badly, though it`s been tried - is the late night campfire singalong, and a perfect ending for this most lovable of Dylan albums.
Greil Marcus`s now-famous phrase `that old weird America` can`t help but spring to mind when listening to JWH. Another phrase might be: `Thanks, Bob, that was just great!`
A unique set of timeless songs.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Are you Frankie Lee the Gambler....?", 3 Dec 2008
By 
Stephen Vallely (Middlesbrough, England.) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: John Wesley Harding (Audio CD)
This is one of Dylans finest albums of all time.
Coming off the back of the awesome trilogy of Bringing it all back home/Highway 61 revisited and Blonde on Blonde it seemed impossible that they could be topped.
What we have here is an altogether different album, with some of Dylans greatest writing. Paring down the surrealism and iconic Beat poetry of the albums before he goes back to the beginning to reinvent himself once again.
The vocals are simply awesome and with the group backing so spare it lends weight to the rootsy feel of country style music.
A great album which I would recommend to anyone!!!!!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars His greatest album?, 10 Mar 2009
By 
John Nygate (London) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: John Wesley Harding (Audio CD)
I am not much for writing music reviews, but I think this might be his greatest album, so smooth and surreal. I like to play it late at night. Sometimes I play his music and cannot believe how wonderful it is, after all this time, almost half a century since I first heard his name. Such a genius!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bob Does it Again, 27 Oct 2008
By 
Geoffrey Millar (Brunswick Australia) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: John Wesley Harding (Audio CD)
How do you follow a trio of the best rock albums in history, a ground-breaking world tour and a neck-breaking motorcycle accident? And how do deal with a music market which has, at the same time, Pet Sounds, Are You Experienced and Sgt Pepper......

Answer: you release an album of material so different, so low key and so laid-back that people have to really listen and think about it: John Wesley Harding.

The album has parables, stark tales, allusions to Bob's state of mind and his journey of self-discovery. It's fascinating, not just because it sounds nothing like Blonde on Blonde or the Basement Tapes, but because the music and lyrics are much tighter and simpler that most of Bob's previous work.

Instrumentation is sparse, just piano/guitar, bass and drums, with pedal steel on the last two tracks, but fits the music perfectly. My favourite track is All Along the Watchtower but Drifter's Escape runs a close second.

I you love Dylan's work you already have this. The CD reproduces the warm and friendly sound of the LP well.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bucking the trend, 17 May 2009
By 
Michael Nicholl (Derry. Ireland) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: John Wesley Harding (Audio CD)
The Beatles had released Sargent Pepper, The Stones had released Her Satanic Majesties Requests and the music world was waiting for something in a similar vein from Dylan. What the world got was a masterpiece which took us in an entirely different direction to that which we were expecting. Dylan had moved towards a country feel as was evidenced by the opening and title track of this album. Even the cover photograph harked back to an Old West image. There was one track here that was later covered (More successfully) by Jimi Hendrix, ie. the wonderful 'All Along The Watchtower' and it appears that Dylan was impressed enough by this version, that in future live concert releases, this song was performed in a style closer to that of Hendrix. This is a gentle album full of story telling as only Dylan knows how and worth inclusion in anyone's collection.
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