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His one, real protest album.
on 26 April 2007
When Bob Dylan has a fire in his belly and is on top form, there are few things finer in this world. With two albums under his belt and a confidence that could only have come from rapturous applause, he embarked upon this most serious of collections.
Very few albums have what you'd call the perfect sleeve art, in the sense that it is a visual representation of the music within. On The Times They Are A Changin' it is perfect. Stark, moody, monochrome, almost archaic even in 1963. Bob looks 23 going on 53, a man with the world on his shoulders.
From the off, Bob has some serious things to say. Let not over-familiarity dilute the title track, a revolutionary and almost Marxist desire to see the old order crumble and for the young to take over. Its actually startling that he got away with it! The subject matter is largely grim; he sings about murders on The Ballad Of Hollis Brown, Only A Pawn In Their Game, and The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll. There's one about the horrors of a closing mining town (North Country Blues) and another couple that directly relate to his anger against the establishment (With God On Our Side and When The Ship Comes In).
Its predecessor, Freewheelin', was liberally sprinkled with his Chaplinesque humour, and he wouldn't be railing against anything except women on its follow up, Another Side Of... again doused with that silent movie farce as was his wont. The Times They Are A Changin' is pretty hardcore stuff; one man, a guitar, both as harsh as the words he was putting across.
For me, a special place in my heart is reserved for With God On Our Side and The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll. These are stunning pieces of poetry set to music that's so gorgeous as to make you want to weep. I personally prefer Freewheelin' for its greater scope, but like that album, this is purely timeless.