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Thursday, 15 December 2011

Bob Dylan - The Times they are A-Changin' LP 1964

I guess there comes a time in everyone's life when you've got to listen to a Bob Dylan album. I was convinced of this by Simon Armitage in his book 'Gig', so I decided to give 'The Times they are A-Changin'" a go, for no other reason than I heard the title track on the opening of the Watchmen film. Who knows if this is the optimum entry level LP?

Initially it takes a bit of getting used to. His voice is the kind of nasally, whining, finger in the ear warbling that spoils an awful lot of folk music and the regular bursts of harmonica do not add anything to the music but irritation. After a few listens however, you can begin to understand what all the fuss is about.
The lyrics were probably shocking and too close to communism for comfort in 1960's USA and even today they are relevant, profound and sometimes funny. The fact that these songs were picked up and used as peace anthems says it all really. I quite like the sparse strumming of his understated guitar work and the atmosphere the whole album creates is of a cultural importance that pop music can only dream about these days.

I particularly liked 'Boots of Spanish Leather', 'With God on Our Side' but my favourite by a country mile is the melancholy slow burning 'Ballad of Hollis Brown'.

I'm glad I've dipped my toe in the Dylan ocean, but I'm doubtful that I'll return soon. I can hear his influence in so much of today's music and respect his contribution, but I suppose you just had to be there to understand fully. Armitage's book is well worth a read though!

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