“John Wesley Harding is the eighth studio album by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, released on December 27, 1967, by Columbia Records. Produced by Bob Johnston, the album marked Dylan’s return to semi-acoustic instrumentation and folk-influenced songwriting after three albums of lyrically abstract, blues-indebted rock music. John Wesley Harding shares many stylistic threads with, and was recorded around the same time as, the prolific series of home recording sessions with The Band, partly released in 1975 as The Basement Tapes, and released in complete form in 2014 as The Bootleg Series Vol. 11: The Basement Tapes Complete. … ‘All Along the Watchtower‘ became one of his most popular songs after Jimi Hendrix‘s rendition was released in the autumn of 1968. … Dylan went to work on John Wesley Harding in the fall of 1967. During that time, he stockpiled a large number of recordings, including many new compositions. … Those sessions took place in the autumn of 1967, requiring less than twelve hours over three stints in the studio. Dylan was once again recording with a band, but the instrumentation was very sparse. … Most of the songs on John Wesley Harding have pared-down lyrics. Though the style remains evocative, continuing Dylan’s use of bold imagery and the extravagant surreality that seemed to flow in a stream-of-consciousness fashion has been tamed into something earthier and more to the point. … According to Allen Ginsberg, Dylan had talked to him about his new approach, telling him ‘he was writing shorter lines, with every line meaning something. He wasn’t just making up a line to go with a rhyme anymore; each line had to advance the story, bring the song forward. And from that time came some of his strong laconic ballads like ‘The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest.’ There was no wasted language, no wasted breath. All the imagery was to be functional rather than ornamental.’ This mirrors Dylan’s increased interest in painting at the time. Each song creates profound images i.e. ‘two riders were approaching’, and each song is concise, complete, yet leaving room for interpretation. Even the song structures are rigid as most of them adhere to a similar three-verse model, although much of the beat patterns throughout the measures were time-shifted, that is, units of three and five beats were employed over the four beat structure. The dark, religious tones that appeared during the Basement Tapes sessions also continue through these songs, manifesting in language from the King James Bible. In The Bible in the Lyrics of Bob Dylan, Bert Cartwright cites more than sixty biblical allusions over the course of the thirty-eight and a half minute album, with as many as fifteen in ‘The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest’ alone. An Old Testament morality also colors most of the songs’ characters. …”
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vimeo: John Wesley Harding 35:51
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