The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, Bob Dylan, Columbia, 1962
In reviewing Bob Dylan’s 1965 classic album “Bringing All Back Home” (you know, the one where he went electric) I mentioned that it seemed hard to believe now that both as to the performer as well as to what was being attempted that anyone would take umbrage at a performer using an electric guitar to tell a folk story (or any story for that matter). I further pointed out that it is not necessary to go into all the details of what or what did not happen with Pete Seeger at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965 to know that one should be glad, glad as hell, that Bob Dylan continued to listen to his own drummer and carry on a career based on electronic music.
Others have, endlessly, gone on about Bob Dylan’s role as the voice of his generation (and mine), his lyrics and what they do or do not mean and his place in the rock or folk pantheons, or both. Here we are going back to the early days when there was no dispute that he had earned a place in the folk pantheon. The only real difference between the early stuff and the later electric stuff though is- the electricity. Dylan’s extraordinary sense of words, language and word play has been a constant throughout his career. If much later ( in the 1990’s) he gets a bit repetitious and a little gimmicky in order to stay “relevant” that is only much later after he had done more than his share to add to the language of music.
In this selection we have some outright folk classics that will endure for the ages like those of his early hero Woody Guthrie have endured. Blowing in the Wind still sounds good and makes sense as an anthem of change - especially today when some serious social tasks remain to be accomplished. Yes, the answer my friend is blowing in the wind (and in other locales, as well). Also here showing Dylan’s, sometimes disavowed, country roots is a very nice although Johnny Cash-less "Girl From the North Country". No anti-war song is more powerful than "Masters of War"- none. Anyone can write the easy peace songs about "Where Have All The Flowers Gone?" and "Give Peace a Chance" but to really understand and really get mad about what we are up against you need to listen to this song. Pearl Jam covered it later for a reason- we still need to drive the warmongers from their marketplaces.
"Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall" hits right where you live, the lyrics could have come out of out of the front pages of today’s newspaper (or Internet updates). The cover of the old blues classic "Corrina, Corrina' is fine. Another Dylan classic "Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right", about the never-ending subject of lost love and longing is as well. There are a few topical songs from that time that might not make sense today- but topicals by footloose troubadours have always been a part of the folk tradition-as it is safe to say is Mr. Dylan.