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5.0 out of 5 stars The Uncompromisin' Bob Dylan, 23 Sept. 2009
This review is from: The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan (Audio CD)
You've thrown the worst fear
That can ever be hurled
Fear to bring children
Into the world
For threatening my baby
Unborn and unnamed
You ain't worth the blood
That runs in your veins

And I hope that you die
And your death'll come soon
I will follow your casket
In the pale afternoon
And I'll watch while you're lowered
Down to your deathbed
And I'll stand o'er your grave
Till I'm sure that you're dead

Just two of the eight angry verses of 'Masters of War', perhaps Dylan's most bitter attack on the American establishment and its culture of sending young men to die in a war that no man among them would fight. It is arguably the most incisive and eloquent anti-war song ever written, it is certainly the standard by which all others are compared. The year was 1963 and Bob was a fresh faced kid trying to make the scene; unprepared and patently incapable of any known form of compromise.

It may be argued that folk music gave Dylan licence to condemn political leaders so fervently. But folk music had not spared Pete Seeger from the Un-American Activities Committee [not to be confused with the McCarthy trials] a few years earlier and though America had moved on it remained obsessed with the threat of communism and was still deeply suspicious of any anti American retoric. In any event Bob did not save his denouncements for the words of his music and was quite happy to criticise the same order in interviews and press conferences whenever he felt so inclined. For his own amusement he once ridiculed the 'old bald guys' that ran the country. When the holocaust obsessed media asked him if 'A Hard Rains A-Gonna Fall' was about nuclear fallout, like a father to a child, the 22 year old Dylan had to explain in the simplest possible terms that the song was about less specific consequences of bad decisions.

The Beatles, whose rise can be charted at more or less the same time as Dylan's, were still charming the establishment with dandy wit and songs like 'She Loves You' when Freewheelin' came out, and it would take the best part of a generation before Lennon was in a position to bite the hand that fed him. His first song that contained any real social comment was 'Revolution' but that was tentatively hidden on a the B side of 'Hey Jude' in 1968. Bob would become a legend and influence generations to come, but it would be on his own terms and he would not so much as throw the establishment a bone in the process. In fairness to John Lennon, he too would have great moments in the same theme with songs like 'Working Class Hero' and 'Give Me Some Truth', but that was long after Dylan had stirred up the revolution and moved on.

This was Dylan's second album but it may as well have been his first. In retrospect the self named debut, though very good in its own right, contained a vocal style that is unrecognisable to the familiar style that would emerge on this record. The first track, 'Blowin' In The Wind' would become a folk standard and turn Bob into a superstar, and if 'Like A Rolling Stone' from 'Highway 61 Revisited' would become the quintessential Dylan song, 'Blowin' In The Wind' probably remains his best known song.

Soon after this album's follow up 'The Times They Are A Changin'', Bob veered away from writing about social injustice and among other things, tended to write more specific protest songs. Some say he could never have been in the vanguard of anyone else's revolution, others have commented that he hated conforming to a stereotype. The fact is, to Bob Dylan, conforming to anything would be a fate worse than death.
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